Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Which Mask To Wear Today?

If you rely on maintaining a facade in order to be accepted by people, what do you think will happen if you ever let your mask slip?

This came into my head as I was typing an email to Angie this morning. Not because of any criticism or complaint from her or issue there - it just happened that one thing I was responding to made me think about a series of different things in my life that happened ten years ago, and that was the thought that popped into my head. In fact, the only reason I'm saying that's what prompted it is because there are people who've made assumptions about why I've said things on my blog and who they're directed at. (So, sorry to drag you into this post Angie, but I almost typed this in the email to you. Of course, you might be able to figure out why, based on what I was saying about myself.)

I can come off as being pretty 'in your face' about myself. Some people don't like it. Which is cool.

Ten years ago, I had to worry about playing games with with people, making nice, putting on a facade. Not that I can't be a nice person and be genuine. But this was a specific kind of image, because I worked at a residential Bible school.

And over time, I watched as circumstances forced the masks to slip off of others. Things in their lives far beyond their control, like grief from death, trauma from rape... things you would expect people to have some emotion and shock processing.

You don't expect people to snap their fingers and just be okay. It was no real surprise when it happened to me. After all, I had always had my share of turmoil in my life.

And I'll never forget being told, I think you've had enough time to get over it.

I was dealing with a death, the end of an engagement and something else that not even I will talk about here. The person who said those words to me was having an affair, was the biggest gossip I'd ever met (and still I haven't seen her outdone) and was actually responsible for interfering in a criminal matter that would have reflected badly on the school.

But she was still smiling. And that's what mattered.

When I walked away from that world, it was with a vow that I was never going to be that. Ever. That I wouldn't be fake.

The up side is that I can live with myself. The down side is that there are a lot of people who don't feel comfortable with my candor. I can only say that the advantage to me is that the people I do become friends with end up being good friends. I don't have to worry about shoes dropping later when they suddenly realize I'm not the person they think I am.

I don't even put every aspect of my life on my blog. I do work out stuff here. It's always been that way. If you're looking for a regular dose of marketing advice, go see Joe Konrath. If you're looking for someone ultra cool, go read Cornelia.

This blog is about what's on my mind, what's going on in my life. Sometimes it's me venting my frustrations. Sometimes it's strictly me mocking myself. I haven't got a clue why anyone reads it, other than the 'watching a disaster in process' fascination factor. That's a real, definite possibility. But in the same way that I never intend to walk around giving off the 'fake' vibe to everyone I meet, this blog isn't going to become some pared down version of me. It's me, it's my life and what I feel comfortable expressing.

Oh, and I've been meaning to link to this post by Anne Frasier. It's fascinating, and a look back at 20 years ago in the business. My, how things have changed! For all the criticisms I read all the time about the publishing industry, I have to say I think things are much better now than this.


anne frasier said...

i think this is only remotely related to your post, but i think we play a lot of different roles in our lives, and the older we get the more confusing it is to look back on our past selves. and it's disorienting and confusing when we're thrown back into those old roles, because by that time it is no longer who we are.

example: last night was my son's birthday. he's an adult and i put the mom role aside long ago. but suddenly i find myself the mom with the cake. i'm no longer the mom with the cake, so now i have to pretend to be the mom with the cake. it's really almost too much for my brain to handle.

i guess maybe i'm saying that sometimes masks aren't always masks, but who we were at that moment. i know that's not what you were talking about, but your post kind of skimmed the corner of my mom with the cake experience.

Linda L. Richards said...

Listen, doll: this is a high traffic blog. You can tell from the number of comments alone. We don't visit your blog to get any kind of sunshine blown up our collective asses. We come to read you be you.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Anne, I know what you mean. There are aspects of ourselves that come out, some different parts of us that are more prominent when we're in certain roles.

For instance, I can be very quiet and serious.


Especially if I'm intimidated by someone.

Linda... I'm so glad to read that. Because I really don't understand the pressure from people to try to be something here I never have been.

anne frasier said...

i use my blog to bitch about the publishing business -- and i've been condemned for that by some pretty "high-profile" people. but i'm tired of keeping my mouth shut. i've been told i can only hurt myself by blogging about some of the stuff i blog about, but i'm really tired of the you'll never eating lunch in this town again attitude.

JamesO said...

You mean that was the real you I met in Harrogate?

Sandra Ruttan said...

Anne, the thing about that that concerns me is the mentality that you can only be in if you're a certain way. I don't know if that's real or presumed on some people's part, but the idea does bother me. What it actually does is strengthen the belief that some people have, that you can only be published if you have an 'in' or know the right ass to kiss and for how long.

All I can say with Spinetingler is, I don't give a shit. If the story is good, that's what matters. Now, if I have to sell something and need to make money off of it (like our anthology), I'd be more inclined to pick stories by people who will promote. But that's a business issue again, not a personal one.

It's like when politicians get down and dirty. I think, "do I really care?" And it makes me lack respect for politicians. Ultimately, it contributes to the belief many have that all politicians are backstabbing weasles that will jump in and out of bed with whomever it's to their advantage to screw. I'm actually not saying all politicians are like that, but you hear the jokes about the honest politicians. There's an accepted standard of belief in the their lack of credibility.

All I know is, I don't want Spinetingler to be that way. Without readers interested in the stories, we may as well shut it down, right? So it should be about publishing the best stories. The only stuff beyond that that influences my decisions are when writers pull stunts, like one did, trying to sell a story to us and to another publication for 'first publication rights' - you do stuff like that it doesn't matter how good the writing is. Nobody wants to risk legal problems. And with the reviewing. Anyone goes at one of my reviewers, I'll ban them. There are a lot of books out there, not all can be reviewed, and the reviewers job isn't to be buddy buddy with the authors. It's to give an honest assessment of the work. If authors don't like that, they have to find a way to deal with that outside of harassing reviewers, at least as far as Spinetingler is concerned.

James... you might have met my conference double.

Trace said...

I'm pretty much myself on my blog. I've gone through times where I was trying to work things out on it. I'm not into marketing myself a lot on the blog. I want people to visit because of me, not because of just what I write. You know?

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, my mask is not giving away much of myself (and the bits I tell are well chosen). I don't think there's anyone in this world who knows much about me, not even my father though I get along with him pretty well.

I feel safer that way.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

You just be who you are and let everyone that doesn't like it, kiss your...well you get my drift!

Evil Kev said...

We all need to wear masks sometimes. Whether it be to protect ourselves, to spare someone's feelings or, in some people's cases, to compensate for their lack of respect for themselves and others.

The issue is when we wear the same one so long, we forget who actually we are. Then the real person becomes a mask.

But I think too few people realize, it takes no courage to hide behind a mask. It takes courage to say to the world; "This is the real me. Deal with it."

As Shakespeare said:

"his above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

It is sad how few people are willing to take this advice...