When I arrived in the US in 1999 the Holiday that fascinated me most was Halloween. Growing up in Holland I had seen a variety of movies featuring screaming kids in costumes running through tree-lined neighborhoods. Excited to now experience this trick and treating deal in real life I went shopping at Costco. Being the pragmatic mom, I chose warm dress up suits for my young children. A cow suit for my son and a dinosaur suit - which I later discovered was a Barney suit - for my daughter. I delighted in the decorated homes with lights, ghosts and skeletons.
One year I was invited to an adult Halloween party. “Do people wear a costume?” I asked my co-worker friend. “Oh yes,” she smiled “people get really creative.” Seeing my concerned look she added “but you don’t have to.” I decided on something simple; some devil horns and a red cape. The party was in full swing when we arrived. An 80-s cover band was playing and I spotted two other devil girls making their way towards the makeshift dance floor of the house. My friend had been right; people did get creative. Some couples represented famous couples from the movies, history or literature. Some had been so creative they were unrecognizable. There were several superheroes, angels and cops.
They whispered, “who are you though?”
I noticed something else: People acted differently than at the other parties I occasionally attended. People got into their role, or into a role. It seemed easier to strike up a conversation with someone pretending to be someone else. Suddenly, I wasn’t the shy introverted observer anymore. No, I was the devil girl! The mask I was wearing allowed my other side to come out and play.
It can become a habit to hide behind a well-worn image of yourself. But I realized people grow and change. Some people, including myself, labeled me shy at some point. This gave me permission to play the part. Did that label still really fit me though? Maybe, maybe not always. Perhaps I was outgrowing this label and the accompanying mask.
Last year I wore a black curly haired wig and a Day-of-the-Dead mask. As I hugged friends at a party they whispered, “who are you though?” That night I was dancing – something I was not allowed to do while growing up.
What side of you wants to show itself? Let’s find out – masks on!
Pietje - say Peach-a!