They say people started wearing masks on Halloween to hide from ghosts, which makes sense if you’re afraid of ghosts. In fact, we wear masks all the time, not just surgical ones or N95s.
We wear masks to try on new personae, to pretend we’re people we wish to be, or to take a break from ourselves. We wear masks to conceal thoughts and feelings we wish to hide, or to project images we prefer others to see.
Some masks are essential. In the MICU, when my patients turn blue, I wear a mask of calm, which persuades me—and others—that I’m in control, even when my heart pounds within.
Masks can also sow confusion and misunderstanding. Do we really know what hides behind another’s façade? What’s the real story, good or bad? What’s the real emotion, serene or anxious? What do we miss?
Mostly, I avoid masks. It’s too hard to maintain a fiction, to pretend to be someone I’m not, or to hide my true feelings. I’m lucky to have that privilege, and to be embraced by friends and family who love me for who I am, and vice versa.
I probably won’t be wearing a mask when the goblins, ghosts, and Disney princesses ring our bell tonight. I don’t want to scare the kids and, besides, I’ll be too busy eating candy. Regardless, if a ghost appears at our front door, I know who to call.
Happy Halloween, everyone,
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