Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

The TV program “To Tell the Truth” originally ran from 1956 to 1968. A four-person panel of celebrities tried to determine, by a series of questions, which of three guests (two were impostors) was the true person. At the end of questioning, the celebrities revealed their guesses and host Bud Collyer (also the voice of Superman in the 1940s radio drama and cartoons) would say, “Will the real ______ please stand up?”

In effect, two of the three guests were lying. But another way to think about it is that they wore masks.

Bud Collyer reads an affidavid about a true guest character.

Bud Collyer reads an affidavid about a true guest character.

Ilona Fried in a recent blog post  (Lessons from a Purim Mask),  wondered, “what would happen if I were to wear a mask around town. How much bolder would I be? Would I risk more vulnerability as well as unfiltered honesty?” Her remark set me to think about the memoir I’m writing, Security Bound, and of the countless masks I’ve put on since birth. Some of those masks no doubt protected me from negative family issues that churned up our house like tornadoes, and I don’t doubt I learned that a mask could provide protection. A mask of courage or surrender might get me through another day absent of my father’s drunken, invective rants.

In my ongoing quest to complete my memoir, I seek to uncover truth with each thrust of the shovel into the earth of my life. More often than not, I discover particles of truth that ultimately help heal wounds, but I’ve come to accept that some things will never be known–numerous leads wind up at deadends, or fragments are too vague for meaning, like dreams upon waking. How deep are the layers hiding the absolute truth about who I really am? Some masks have been worn for so long that I fear they will never come off. Because what lies beneath is too deep-rooted and attempts to extricate merely snap off root stems before I can get them out, I’m left to deduction.

William Congreve, in The Double Dealer, 1694, says, “To go naked is the best disguise.” I see his point, but a mask can allow me to hide in plain sight, as well. The questions are: since birth, how many masks have I donned but never removed? I search for my authentic self, but how much am I truly willing to share? Do I want people to see me for who I really am, or is my life made safer by keeping my true self under wraps? Will I tell all in my memoir? How much will be selective?

When the announcer says, “Will the real Ken Lutes please stand up?” will I stand or stay glued to my seat and let an imposter take my place?

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About Ken Lutes

Ken Lutes brings his background in memoir and fiction writing to his work at the North Denver Tribune (northdenvertribune.com). He enjoys interviewing his neighbors in Northwest Denver, where he has lived since 1999. After hours you will find him playing hot gypsy guitar with the Paris Swing Set band.
This entry was posted in Creative Non-fiction, Memoir, Security Bound, Why we write and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

  1. ilona fried says:

    Maybe the authentic self can’t be searched for….and what if it’s not even ours to experience, but exists for the benefit others? Sometimes people have “seen” the real me in moments when I felt the most discouraged and awful.

    • Ken Lutes says:

      Great insight!

      Maybe the desire to find my authentic self is like wanting a direct experience of seeing the back of my head. I know it’s there; I can touch it, sense it, others can tell me about it, but I’ll never see it without some kind of mirror.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • ilona fried says:

        And a challenge with being an introvert is that I often feel most “myself” when I’m alone, with no one to witness how I am experiencing myself, which immediately changes in the presence of others. Yet, I do need other people to bring out or mirror aspects of my authenticity that would otherwise lie dormant. It’s all rather mind blowing…

  2. Jennifer Erickson says:

    Wow, you’ve got me thinking, guys! Maybe identity is one of those things that, as soon as we try to pin it down, evades us. If so, maybe that’s okay, because maybe we are more multifaceted than that.

    Jennifer Erickson 1855 South Nucla Street Aurora, Colorado 80017 (720)278-8025 jenniferericksonauthor.blogspot.com

  3. Ray Kemble says:

    Hello, Ken

    I see you’re back “at it.”  Great!  I was wondering if I’d lost my “following” to your site.

    I’m sorry Mell and I haven’t been up to hear you and Laurie play.  It seems things just fall on our Thursday evenings, if not something I have to attend, then it’s something Mell’s involved in.  And now we leave for a month’s travel.  We’ll be back in town for the summer, however, in time to help out at Lit Fest.

    I do hope we see each other soon.

    Best wishes, Ray   ___________________ Ray Kemble 2990 S. Franklin St. Denver, CO 80210-6312 h: 303-691-3385 c: 303-476-0674

    >________________________________ > From: Ken Lutes >To: raykemble@ymail.com >Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2014 1:21 PM >Subject: [New post] Will the Real Me Please Stand Up? > > > > WordPress.com >Ken Lutes posted: “The TV program “To Tell the Truth” originally ran from 1956 to 1968. A four-person panel of celebrities tried to determine, by a series of questions, which of three guests (two were impostors) was the true person. At the end of questioning, the celebritie” >

  4. Ray Kemble says:

    Ken, Ilona, Jennifer,

    I apologize! I hadn’t realized that my reply to your heads-up email, Ken, would appear as an “official” Response on your blog. Hereafter, I’ll be more careful. But, since I’m here . . .

    So much has been written over the centuries about masks and identity, it’s obviously a pressing topic. As I review my own life, I see a pattern that may be somewhat of a universal pattern. As a very young child, I didn’t fret much about identity, my own or anyone else’s: we were all who we were, pure and simple. As I grew into adolescence and sailed into the white-water of perplexing selfhood, I did what I saw everyone else doing: I tried on different masks. I wasn’t looking so much for authenticity as I was looking for peer-acceptance. If there was such a thing as an “authentic me,” someone who had once frolicked in the playgrounds, I was now moving away from that person. As a teen, I discovered I could wear these masks comfortably. They were still masks of peer-acceptance. I continued to wear my assortment of adolescent masks into young adulthood, when I began to exchange them for masks of one-up-man-ship (“I have a better job than you.” “I’m more talented than you.” “I’ve traveled more places than you.” Ad nauseam.). I was now into masks of true falsehood. I’d now left that kid in the playground far behind. Sad to said, I continued to wear these masks – these so-called “adult” masks – until only a few years ago. Then the taking-off began. The shedding. I’d grown tired of living every day with apprehension, looking over my shoulder to see if someone was about to point at me and say, “Hey, you! You’re not what you pretend to be.” I entered this latest phase of my identity/mask journey only a few years ago, about the time of my retirement. You might say I’m now looking for my long-lost authenticity. You might – but I’m not sure that’s what it is. I think it’s more likely I’m merely looking to live in a more relaxed way, to no longer feel the urge to have to check over my shoulder. I want to live as simply as I possibly can, and goes equally for the matter of who I am. In other words, when Bud Collyer asks his question, I don’t want to hesitate. I want to stand right up. “Me,” I want to say, “It’s me.”

    Merry Saturday, all!

    Ray

    • Ken Lutes says:

      Thank you, Ray. I believe it’s important to recognize my “selves” through the layers amassed over a lifetime (so much to learn about who we are), but I’m not sure it’s possible to experience the primary one, if such a thing even exists. I identify with so much of what you say.

  5. Denise says:

    Great post, Ken! Makes me think of Alan Watts, my favorite philosopher, who said something like “Trying to know yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.” Meaning that Self remains elusive, even while we are continuously pushed to define ourselves… Food for thought.

    • Ken Lutes says:

      Thanks, Denise, for your tasty thought food. I read The Way of Zen when I studied philosophy at UCD. I liked it very much, but at the time I was immersed and (too) grounded in the teachings of Alfred North Whitehead. Just now, I opened my old copy of Watts’ work and my eyes fell to the words, “like trying to make the hand shake itself.”

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