From the time we’re children, we’re taught by society that we aren’t good enough. By the time we reach young adulthood, we try to paint over the people we are with the brushes society suggests for us. We ignore who we’re meant to be by wearing the hats of the people we believe we’re supposed to be. We eventually forget who we are.
The modern culture of romance, or “dating culture”, is the result of the complete lack of importance placed on the vast substance inherent in our own humanity. We spend our days painting beautiful masks of ourselves and spend our nights wearing them out to down town masquerades.
Every weekend is our carnival, every club is our Venice. With all of us dressed in the height of fashion and wearing the dreamiest of disguises, we’re content to dance our youthful years away.
We paint our masks with the simple stripes of the surface. We think of ourselves, and others, as white or black, male or female, gay or straight, Christian or Muslim. We continue to identify with our surface and mistake it for who we are, when the two are not exclusively connected.
We’ve traded complexity for simplicity. With all of us exchanging our identity for identical illusions, we have slowly rendered ourselves interchangeable. All of our masks look the same.
We build sand castles in the path of crashing waves. We find beautiful partners and we dance the nights away. Sometimes our dance partners stay the night and maybe even for breakfast. Sometimes, we share a second dance. On extremely rare occasions, we find their outer shells so shiny and sparkly that they capture our attention for an entire handful of dances.
These dances last long enough to facilitate relationship status changes on our Facebook and inspire overwhelmingly cute Instagram photos of our morning snuggle and romantic gestures. We do everything and go everywhere with this person. We’ve found the one we want to save our last dance for. We’re totally and completely in love.
And then our surfaces begin to erode. They become difficult to maintain. We struggle to keep up the act. Our polished smiles and filtered personalities begin to crack. The weeds from our overgrown interiors begin to force their way through those cracks. We’re confused, and so are they.
We thought we had already shown one another our true selves when we let them see us in sweat pants or without make-up on. They smelled our morning breath. They caught us with food stuck in our teeth. One time, we even farted in front of them.
Our own shallow notions of ourselves had us equating who we are as people with what our natural surfaces used to look like, before we painted them with water colours and doused them in exotic smelling oils.
But there’s an entire other world inside of us. It’s full of scars, dreams, mistakes, passions, light, and darkness. It’s a place we’ve ignored while we focused on our appearance, on the character we’re acting as. That place of substance deep inside of us – that place which makes us different and beautiful – provides a journey that would never truly end if our loved ones were to explore it.
But that place scares us. It scares us because we’ve never explored it ourselves. It scares us because we have no idea who we are.
It becomes a terrifying prospect to open this place up to the person we think we love. It’s our own little house of horrors. Even if we did muster the courage to ask them to come inside, how can we expect someone to want to see us for who we are when we can’t even stand the thought of it ourselves? The fact that our significant other is also probably feeling the same personal insecurities only exasperates the situation. The situation becomes unstable because both partners have awoken a deep-seeded self-hatred.
We begin to miss someone loving us for the surface appearance that we’ve spent so much time perfecting. We long to feel that superficial attention and shallow admiration again. We return to the masquerades.
We prefer to spend our time there, hiding behind our masks and having them admired by similarly veiled strangers. We begin to look a little too long at new potential dance partners, with shiny new faces that haven’t eroded like those belonging to our significant others.
We’re bored with what we have at home, because surfaces are simple. There is no journey for us to go on.
That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is. Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing. You get to love your pretence….the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks. They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are.”― Jim Morrison, 1981 Creem Magazine interview with Lizzie James.
Eventually one (or both) of the partners will realize how difficult it will be to excavate our identities with the appropriate teams of spiritual archaeologists. The road toward self-love has become long and treacherous. We decide a quick reset is much easier.
Being with another person is no place to hide from ourselves, after all. It becomes a race to see who can come up with the perfect wording for whatever arbitrary excuse we’ll use to break up. We’ll call it “losing our spark”, “growing apart”, or “not being happy”.
We’ll break up, get a gym membership, and work on painting over the tiny cracks left from the waltz that lasted a tad too long. We’ll return to the carnival and, thus, the cycle is born anew. We’ll swear off the opposite sex, and then love itself – as though they were the core issues rather than our festering self-loathing.
Eventually that human desire to share ourselves with another will overwhelm us again, at which point we’ll put on our glass slippers, head to the ball, and once again spiral out of control toward midnight.
I’m not saying to ignore your surface, or that it’s not important. I believe the maintenance and development of your body is just as important as your mind and your soul. I believe in balance. Try to indulge in an ignored inner passion.
It makes no difference if that includes cooking, playing an instrument you suck at, or listening to old Led Zeppelin records, as long as it fuels your soul. Read a chapter or two of an old, classic novel while you’re on the stationary bike doing fasted cardio instead of reading your texts. Work a little bit every day on that part of you that we can’t see, that part of you we’ll never be capable of fully exploring. Work on remembering who you really are.
Show me your beautiful and meticulous surface, and I’ll admire it. It might even lure me close enough to share a dance. But if that’s all you have to offer, it’s a dead end. It’s boring, and I’m out. Show me that endless inner garden that you’ve grown, maintained, and explored for yourself, and I’m in.
Take me by the hand and let’s explore one other. Like two children on a magical adventure, I don’t care how much time we spend in there. You’ll have my interest and wonderment forever.
Be good to each other,
Photos Courtesy of:
Venetian Mask: 7-themes.com