In the movie Never Been Kissed, Drew Barrymore plays Josie, a journalist who goes undercover as a high school student. In her disguise as a student she is able to deal with her identity issues while falling in love with a teacher. This idea of being in disguise is paralleled by the story her class reads, Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It,’ where Rosalind was able, through her disguise, to express her love for Orlando. The teacher makes the point that there’s a freedom that comes from being in disguise.
What the teacher said resonated with me because I can relate to it. For example, when all my friends are tipsy or drunk, and I’m the only sober one, I am so much freer because I’m not worried about what anyone thinks of me; no-one’s thinking clearly, and they’ll probably forget anyway. The disguise in this case is alcohol, and I can say what I really think and be more open. I’m the definition of cool, calm and collected but in disguise I’m free to be anything I want to be.
The same kind of thing happens when I meet a stranger or am in an environment different to my normal day-to-day life. I feel I can be whoever I want to be because the stranger or the people in the new environment don’t know anything about me. That’s why sometimes I share things with a stranger that I wouldn’t normally share with anyone else, because I feel free to be me around them. They have no expectations of me, and I probably won’t ever see them again so I’m not worried about what they’ll think of me.
So while I understand this concept of freedom coming from being in disguise and wearing a mask, there’s another part of me that wonders if a disguise is really just a disguise and a mask is just a mask. What happens when you become the disguise and you start to live a lie? There’s no freedom, just a prison.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in a prison. Have I done such a good job at being the person everyone sees, that I’ve come to believe this is who I really am? How do you know who you are when the masks you wear never come off? The mask becomes real and you become the mask. Sometimes I don’t know the difference between the mask and me. It seems like the mask and I have been moulded together over the years, and they are so deeply entwined with each other that they’ve turned into something that has become who I am, leading me to question if there is even a mask at all.
Sometimes a mask gives me freedom to let my real self come out; other times it’s a prison and all I do is hide.