Mask/unmask

I came upon this angelic form outside the Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing in Los Angeles. Awash in patina, she stood regally on the deserted streetscape. The flowing locks, the wings, the open arms beckoned me to approach. As I got closer I noticed the angel was wearing a mask.

I thought about why this shocked me just a little.

I am a keeper of secrets. A wearer of masks.

This comes from a lifetime of practice.

Having an alcoholic parent, I learned to clean up/cover up/divert attention/lie/gloss over the facts/rewrite history for public consumption.

It goes on from there. A bad first marriage made it  easy to slip back into the habit of  clean up/cover up/divert attention/lie/gloss over the facts/rewrite history for family consumption.

Having sprouted from a family tree whose limbs are heavy with the weight of secrets/lies/cover ups is another big part of it.

It gets to the point where I cannot buy a pair of shoes without wondering if I should say anything to anyone.

I’m trying to unmask a little more. But it’s not easy. Sometimes I don’t know how to defend my own truth. I put something out there and the consequences seem endless. It’s easier to keep it tucked away.

Sometimes, when in the right company, I can just be me. Later, always later, I cringe. I went too far, I think.

Then there are those times when candor  is nothing more than handing ammunition to the enemy. Years ago I revealed to a partner — one to whom I thought I could go maskless —  that I am an abuse survivor. He couldn’t handle this truth. Ultimately, it destroyed our relationship.

I want this to end. I’m aware that every mask I strap on my psyche further clouds who I really am. Not only to others who have nothing other to go on than what they see and hear and read, but also to myself. How can I live an authentic life and interact with others when I am not presenting to the world who I am?

This is one of the many goals I’ve set for myself. I want to unmask a little more and live with the consequences. If someone can’t deal with my truth, I need to let it go.

Tale of two

yellowwhite

bluewhite

What is it with the library?
 
It seems like every time I go there, I leave with a blog post. I suppose I should be grateful one institution offers so much for so little in return.

On my latest visit I walked away with two books for me, four for my girl, and a life lesson tucked in my pocket. When I arrived home, I fished it out, turned it over in my mind and decided to save it for further examination. 

So, here’s how it happened: I was hoping to find a room full of children to occupy Girl from the East so I could do some research. Instead, I found one woman and one child in a children’s department roaring with silence. 

First thought: Oh, look at the cute little blond girl with the Asian woman. She must be the nanny. 

Second thought: Shame. Shame. Bad. Bad. As a Caucasian mother of an Asian child, where do I get off jumping to conclusions?  I hate it when strangers give us the once-over and draw conclusions about our family dynamic. Why judge at all? Yet, there it was, a judgment. Plain as the nosy nose on my face.

Third Thought: Truth is, I live in an area where it is fairly common to find nannies and au pairs taking their charges to the library for story time. Many a time I’ve started talking to who I thought was the mother only to have her  wave off my questions explaining: “I’m the nanny.” Sometimes that means: No further questions.

Fourth thought (after I learned they were in fact mother and daughter): We are the exact opposite, yet we are exactly the same.  Although I didn’t ask, I’ll bet she gets a fair share of nosy questions and double-takes about her family dynamic.

Then I stopped thinking and started talking.

“Is your  daughter from China?” the woman asked from across the room.

“Yes,” I said.

“I am from China,” she said, pulling up a chair.

This opened the gates to a flood of questions and answers: What province in China? What city? How long have you been in America? Does your daughter speak Chinese? What is your name in Chinese? What did you do for Chinese New Year?

Before long, we were engaged in stories of China, raising multi-cultural children, the best Chinese markets in the neighborhood, and other moms-of-preschoolers related stuff.

At one point, our girls mistook the library for a playground and began running and shrieking between the stacks. The librarian on duty quickly stepped in. I’m sure she had an awkward moment when she attempted to match girl to mother. At first she directed my Girl from the East to the Chinese mother and the blond girl to me, then quickly switched the girls again.

There was a time when that move would have bothered me deeply. But today I just shared a good laugh with this wonderful woman from Beijing.

Then the two of us mothers gathered our things,  slipped into our jackets, and headed our separate ways. She, a dark- haired woman with almond eyes and a blond-haired child, and I, an American woman with a Chinese daughter.

Two books who cannot be judged by our covers.