According to Webster’s Dictionary a mask is: 1. A covering or partial cover for the face used for disguise. 2. A figure of a head worn on the stage in antiquity to identify the character and project the voice. 3. A grotesque false face worn at carnivals or in rituals. 4. Something that serves to conceal or disguise. 5…
You get the picture.
Why do we find masks so fascinating? They can titillate, entertain, frighten, or deceive. They can be part of elaborate rituals of marriage and death in many cultures, helping to celebrate rites of passage. Holy people have used them to facilitate communication between humans and the gods. Masks can be real, made from precious metals, clay, bones, animal skins, plastic, feathers and jewels. Or they can be social, but just as real.
Most of us have our first real encounter with masks as children. We dress up for school plays—I remember wearing a paper mask in the shape of a flower, along with my green sweater. I was the dropping daisy in the garden. It was all very dramatic. Or we don masks at Halloween, running from door to door as we filled our pumpkins with candy—I had a princess mask that I was particularly fond of. It’s make-believe and fun.
Ladies, as we grow older, we sometimes use makeup as a mask. Many women won’t step foot outside the front door without having their “face” on. Painting our faces helps us feel more confident, hiding our more vulnerable self from the world at large.
Social masks are something that many of us wear in our day-to-day lives. We are different at work then we are at home with our family. How we act with our friends is miles apart from how we act when we meet our boss in a social setting. With one group, we are ourselves. With the other, we wear our social mask, doing what is socially acceptable.
Masks can be great works of art, shown in museums, or they can be simpler pieces, hung on our walls to decorate our home. They are props in movies and theatre that can make us laugh until tears fill our eyes or scream in terror. Or they can have religious or spiritual significance.
But they also give us a sense of freedom—for good or bad.
The act of donning a mask changes us internally, shifting our psyche. Suddenly, we are someone else; able to do things we might not otherwise dream about doing. Some people feel braver, some sexier, others able to perpetrate acts of great violence.
Just flash a simple white goalie mask on the television screen and we all think about Jason, the killer from the Friday the 13th movie franchise. Then there is the blank mask of Mike Meyers, the all-too-real monster from the Halloween movies. Both take simple masks and, through their actions, turn them into something that terrifies us all.
Perhaps one of the most famous masks of all is the one worn in The Phantom of the Opera. What is the phantom really hiding behind the mask—his disfigured face or his flawed soul? What happens when the mask is removed and only the man remains?
As an author, that’s just something too juicy and fascinating about masks to resist.
Stick a sexy feather mask on a woman for a Halloween party and she suddenly feels sultry, sensual and seductive. That was the premise for my Ellora’s Cave Quickie, Unmasking Kelly. The heroine, Kelly Allen, is able to act on her deepest sexual fantasies with the aid of a mask and costume, along with the cooperation of her handsome boss. But the very nature of a mask means that it has to be removed at some point in time, and Kelly is left to deal with the consequences of her actions.
Villains sometimes wear masks—either real or social. The smiling face hides the sociopath killer, making true the saying that evil doesn’t always come with an ugly face. The “best friend” mask hides a seething well of jealousy. The possibilities are limited only by our imagination.
Whether elaborate or simple, molded of gold or cut out of a paper bag, they conceal. Sometimes they bring out our true nature—for better or worse. Either way, masks have fascinated us since the beginning of time, and will continue to do so until the very end.
N.J. Walters Emotional~Sensual~Satisfying Reads!
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