When you think about your personality, it’s tempting to think about it as a series of masks suited for a series of groups. You’re quiet and subservient around those you admire. You’re boisterous and vulgar with friends. When you meet new people, you are stone-faced until you pick the perfect mask for them. One of multitudes you wear, you tell yourself.
The problem with masks as metaphor is that masks are worn on top of your face. They’re additive. But every case of personality morphing I’ve witnessed has been purely subtractive.
The quiet, thoughtful man subtracts his first reactions from his speech. The vulgarian subtracts her first judgment. The lover subtracts doubt. In this status update, I’m subtracting something that I will never tell you about.
I feel like we are far more likely to suppress things about ourselves than add. Rather than a mask layering on top of our face, we slice whole chunks of flesh off as if with an exacto blade. What’s shown to the world is not a construction but a curation.
I use humor to subtract weight, and this is how most people I know know me. I feel tension rising in the middle of a room like a floating beating heart, and with a few words at a time I strike it down, waiting for it to rise again so I can deflate it again. This doesn’t always go well. Tension can linger for years.