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.
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?