M is for Mask: Desperately Seeking Authenticity (#atozchallenge)

If you have ever been to Venice, you would have seen the amazing Venetian masks on display. The masks originated in Medieval times in Italy due to the religious oppression that then existed. Behind their masks people in Venice used to feel free to indulge in certain activities frowned upon by the religious authorities. They were made of paper- mâché and decorated in gold, feathers, gems, ribbons and fur. Today they are used in street carnivals. They look ornate and distinctive, but pick them up and they feel fragile. You will find them everywhere in Venice.

Many people wear masks, even when it is not carnival time. These masks are not decorated or colourful like the Venetian masks, in fact they are almost invisible. However, the principle behind them is the same, namely they make the wearer feel free to indulge in certain activities or engage in certain ways.

When I was in my early thirties, a highly ambitious thing and knee-deep in my career, I would put on my career woman’s mask. Back then I felt uncomfortable talking about motherhood, parenting, really any out of office life at all for fear of being judged not committed or dedicated in what was a male dominated environment. I would wait until either a male colleague or client would raise the subject of family or children first and then I would be comfortable in contributing. Talk about golf, rugby union and beer was highly accepted, sadly I was not into any of those.

I am happy to say that times appear to have moved on, both in the industry and in society in general. The other facet to this of course is that I have reached middle age, am comfortable with my skills and ability to deal with professional issues and have less need to hide my authentic personal self from my professional self. My intuition and bull sh*t detector also seem to have been honed over the years to the point where I am happy to rely on them in real life. I am going to leave the digital world out of this discussion as that world is a whole other ball of wax.

Apart from my professional mask, I’ve never really felt the need to have any others. However, I have known people who are not this way, some have more masks than Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have children. Just when you think you’ve managed to peel one off, another one is revealed. It must take an astronomical amount of energy to maintain these masks and then do they show different masks to different people, or have a different order in which they are removed for each person?

The vibe of an interaction between two authentic selves is totally different to one where one of the protagonists is wearing a mask. There is usually a real energy to such an interaction, which may not always be positive if you are disagreeing and I’m ok with that. I’d rather have an authentic interaction than one muted by a mask. It’s why I seek out people who are themselves authentic.

I am done with masks, masks represent fear. The next one I don will be at carnival time hopefully either in Rio, Venice or New Orleans and be covered in jewels, feathers and a whole lot of colour.

What’s your experience with mask wearers?

[Photo credit: picture of taking off the mask by frostmaster on deviantart.com]