Monday, 26 July 2010

Elements of Self; The Mask

I am continuing with Shakti Mama's Self Portrait challenge suggestion of 'The Mask'.

I have been thinking about this a lot, about the masks we wear. I feel that I wear a mask most of the time. Not make up, as I have almost completely given up wearing make up altogether, but other masks. I think I hide behind the mask of Parenthood a lot now, but I think I have had other masks as well. And all these masks have been part of what I do, or what I think or where I'm at, but still, not quite me.

In a previous incarnation as a road protester and body piercer I have worn masks of body jewelery and pink hair. I loved those masks, they were fun, but not quite all of me. I like that if you look hard at my face you can still see the marks left by that mask!
I have worn the masks of nice clothes and make up when I worked in fashion retail. They were also fun, but more like playing at being someone else than any kind of reflection of me.
I have worn other, less pretty, not so admirable masks, but they were nothing like me and I shook them off rather than carry them with me
And I wear my sensible country-life middle class earth-mother mask now. This one definitely fits better than others I have worn, but still conceals as much as it advertises.

I had a conversation with the Chair of Governors at my eldests old school last year some time. I had written a letter of complaint about an awful sports coach at the school, I'm good at letter writing, and she was impressed with the letter and trying to persuade me to stand as a Parent Governor. I explained that there was no way I could do that as I just wasn't Governor material. We got into a fairly in depth conversation about what I meant by this, and it sort of boiled down to the fact that I felt I was still playing at being a grown up, like I was still just trying to justify my right to parenthood, just as I had been doing as a teenage mum. I explained, rather sheepishly, that I didn't really feel any different to how I did at 15!

She said she didn't either! And in fact was always waiting for someone to point a finger at her and yell 'fraud, you're not a real, sensible, mature adult at all!'

She went to work (she's a physiotherapist) and told her colleagues about our conversation, and they all felt the same!

Maybe we just gather different masks as we go, fitting one to our needs at every stage of life, so that actually the only time we don't have our mask is as a baby.

When I talk to couples in my birth preparation workshops I always teach them about the sacredness of the moments following birth. The incredibly powerful biological bonding period that occurs straight after the baby is born. I implore them to protect this period and make sure that it is them who get to see their baby's 'original face'. And maybe that is what we see at that moment, maybe that is part of what is so profound about the face of a new born baby. It is completely, utterly and entirely maskless.

So, in honour of the masklessness of tiny children, and as I feel I almost consciously use my children as my mask most of the time, I decided to let them make my mask for this challenge.

Jack ( 5 yrs old, eccentric genius, love his world and wish I could see it through his eyes) went first

Fin (11yrs old, going on 15, Guitar God, catapult maker, kitchen explosives expert, no lover of house work)was next. I let him do this about a year ago and the result was beautiful but he's a very different young man now!

Then Fred ( 2yrs old, loves strawberries, waves, insects and saying 'beautiful' and 'delicious' as often as possible) had his turn. He was slower and more careful than both his brothers, and I truly enjoyed the process!


  1. Oh, what a lovely concept, that we are maskless at birth! I had the lovely experience of holding my daughter when she was born (I had a home waterbirth) and it was unlike anything, holding her and hearing her little cry, watching her face as it tried to register the world around her.

    I think we are all young at heart and, as I read on another blog, we stay young and only our bodies age. I love this idea. My soul or my spirit doesn't age but simply grows more aware and a deeper understanding of myself and the world.

    This is beautiful, though, absolutely beautiful. How lovely to let your sons paint your face like this! And your face is gorgeous. You remind me ... just a little ... of Kate Winslet.

    Thank you for participating in the mask challenge, and I hope to see you the next time around :).

  2. so true all the masks we wear. i have worn some of the same that you have too. i was a punky teenager with a pierced nose and green hair (i think that was the only color the girl had that dyed my hair), then later worked as a make up artist and wore a very made up face to sell cosmetics to my customers. now, i also like you rarely ever wear make up and just rough around with my boy. i love my newest look, but also feel a lot of the time that it's not all of me. like for example the fact that i've never let my skin go this long without waxing, facials, etc. pedicures, etc. since having him. it's all about him and not about me. in a way very refreshing and glad not to be so image conscious anymore. although, this challenge is really opening up my eyes to my flaws, sun spots, moustache! haha!
    well.. this is a long comment. but, i always like to write back to someone who has posted on my blog. fun this little challenge is, isn't it! cheers! anushka

  3. oh and i meant to tell you how i liked the way you went about this challenge - using your boys' help. the descriptions of each were precious too!

  4. What a thoughtful post. I too feel like a fraud at times. Thanks for validating my thoughts.

  5. Thank you all for your beautiful and insightful comments. Funny, I seem to go through phases of looking Winslet-esque! It has been pointed out before but how funny that you should see it from these photos. I can't wait to see everyone elses photos.

  6. Great idea letting your boys help create your mask!


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