Please don’t be fooled by me. Don’t be fooled by the face I wear, for I wear a mask. I wear a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off and none of them are me. Pretending is an art that is second nature to me, but don’t be fooled, for God’s sake don’t be fooled.
I give you the impression I’m secure and that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without, that confidence is my name, coolness my game, that water is calm and I’m in command and that I need no one, but don’t believe me, please don’t believe me.
My surface may be smooth, but my surface is a mask–my every varying and ever concealing mask. Beneath it dwells the real confusion, fear and aloneness. Beneath lies my smugness, my complacency but I hide this–I don’t want anyone to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness and fear being exposed. That’s why I frantically created a mask to hide behind– nonchalant sophisticated facades to help me pretend– to shield me from the glance that knows– but such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only salvation and I know it. That is if it’s followed by acceptance. If it’s followed by love, it’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself, from my own self built prison walls and from the barriers that I so painstakingly erect. It’s the only thing that will assure me of what I cannot assure myself, that I’m really worth while, but I don’t tell you this, I don’t dare–I’m afraid to.
I’m afraid that your glance will not be followed by acceptance and love. I’m afraid you’ll think less of me and you’ll laugh and your laugh will kill me. I’m afraid that deep down, I’m nothing and that I’m just no good and that you’ll see this and reject me.
So I play my game; my desperate pretending; with the facade of assurance without and a trembling child within. And so begins the parade of masks, the glittering, but empty parade of masks and my life becomes a front. I idle chatter to you in suave tones of surface talk. I tell you everything that’s really nothing and nothing of what’s everything and what’s crying within me.
So when I’m through going through my routine, do not be fooled by what I’m saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying–what I’d like to be able to say, but for survival I need to say, but what I can’t say.
I dislike hiding, honestly, I dislike the superficial game I’m playing, the superficial phony game. I’d really like to be genuine, spontaneous and me, but you’ve got to help me, you’ve got to hold out your hand, even when it’s the last thing I seem to want or need.
You can help wipe away from my eyes–the blank stare of grieving dead. You can help call me into aliveness each time you’re kind, gentle and encouraging. Each time you try to understand because you really care, my heart begins to grow wings, very small wings, very feeble wings, but wings.
If you choose to, please choose to. You can help break down the wall behind which I tremble. You can encourage me to remove my mask. You can help release me from my shadowed world of panic and uncertainty. From my lonely prison.
So do not pass me by– please don’t pass me by. It will not be easy for you. A lone conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls. The nearer you approach me, the blinder I may strike back.
It’s irrational, but despite what books say about man, I am irrational, I fight against the very things that I cry out for, but I am told love is stronger than strong walls. In this lies my hope, my only hope, please help beat down those walls with firm hands, but with gentle hands–for a child is very sensitive.
Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well. For I am every man you meet and I am every women you meet.
-by Charles C. Finn