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Masks

March 4, 2009

Masks are something that have long fascinated me as both a graphical element and as a metaphorical concept.  I was early to notice my capacity to alter my “face” to suit the context in which I found myself, and almost as quick to note how donning a particular pseudo-identity affected the real, inside, me.

The capacity for assumed roles and masks to take on dominance and influence within the core personality is a well documented Sociological/Psychological concept.  We are able, as social entities, to take on roles that may not naturally match our internal personality, but within the capacity to assume these roles, those roles are able to assume us, in that if we play a certain act for long enough, we begin to become the character we play, to such a degree that our initial identity can in fact becomes subsumed within the new pseudo-identity.

I think the best way I have of illustrating this concept is that of anecdote; I was a fairly shy kid in school while at The Wall, the quintessential oddball wallflower.  Oh, I was charming enough, we were a fairly tight-knit group and I was known and liked allright, but I wasn’t a social force like some of the others.  I never had power or influence over the group or was particularly popular.

I left the school for a number of reasons, but with my departure I decided that at my new locale, Little Perfect, I wasn’t going to fuck about on the fringes.  I planned on diving into the core of the group and staying there, just pretending that I wasn’t shy and that I really was the social force I wasn’t.  It worked.  They bought it, and I managed to coast on my New Kid glory to the position in the school that I wanted.  And held it.  Sure, it was all a sham, I had to pay pretty close attention and force myself out of my shell at almost every turn, but over the course of the year, it got easier.  It stopped being a nerve-wracking challenge and more like a game.  Eventually, it stopped being even that.  The confident outgoing person I’d pretended to be at the start of the year had … taken over.  The assumed identity had become the real identity, and it was all smooth sailing from there.

This isn’t so much a “And that was how I became king of the hill” story as it is an attempt to convey the capacity for an assumed identity to become the real thing.  I’ve seen it any number of times in blokes who take on an asshole persona to get the girl (’cause, for whatever reason, they seem to like that) and then are stuck being a dick ’cause the role stayed in place longer than the girl did.  Social confines help enforce this spectacularly.  If a particular face is presented to a group, they’ll expect that face every time.  The role becomes imposed, because their expectations subtly, invisibly, reinforce the assumed role while our desire for conformity assures we live up to their expectations.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2009 2:53 pm

    so are you saying you’re an asshole? hot.

    • March 5, 2009 7:37 pm

      I’d hesitate to say so; I do try not to be.

      I probably am, though, being a dick is a great way of hiding insecurities.

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