Being Vulnerable & Wearing Masks

I’ve become hyper aware that my writing life and real day-to-day life have hit a impasse that has never been apparent to me before. I love learning more about myself though writing and learning more about the world I inhabit.

In wiring memoir, the author, through her character self, is required to come across as a reliable narrator in the telling of her/his life. Of course, it’s a life the author picked apart so as to choose the parts that make for an interesting tale, yet still rings true for the reader. The narrative needs to both bare the soul to the reader and to tell a story that somehow shows the character changing in some significant way.

As Miss Mona, my pin-up name, I take on a whole other persona. When the winged eyeliner, the red lipstick, the tight sweater or swing dress go on, and the wet set gets brushed out of my temporary red hair I lose a large part of my daily anxiety, and a confidence pops up as soon as I catch a glimpse of the mask in the mirror.

As a teenager I was heavily into make up but it wasn’t until I started working after school and could afford the likes of hair dye and eyeliner that I found myself at home on a stage. Who would believe a periodic agoraphobic could suddenly perform in vaudeville shows, sing, dance, and generally become a person I have never known before. Now I wonder, where did she go? Perhaps she will only ever be seen on the papers of a memoir. For some reason I don’t want to write about that period in my life. It’s like if I pick it to pieces for a story I will kill the fairytale. What if I could find a way back to that place though? A place void of pills and panic attacks, a place where leaving the house was not a decision each day to worry about but rather a given, no thought to it whatsoever.

My mistake was in who I chose to associate with after school’s summer break over 1989/90. Teenagers can be caught up in dramas so much so that they don’t realise the impact they’re having on their friends. In this friendship I lost my identity and conformed to the standards of the group, which were set by the alpha-girl. I put the mask down and gave up on the me that felt good for the sake of acceptance. I put on a new mask, one to hide the pain, to blend in. I started writing. That was the only place it was safe to be me. Of course, no one read any of what I wrote.

To be vulnerable on the page do I have to take off all the masks, or to be vulnerable on the page do I need to find the mask that fits best for what I want to write?

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Ghost Cat

(In honour of one year without a dear furry friend.)

Last night ghost cat passed through the living room. My husband felt the air around his ankles alter just enough to accommodate the passing of a mid sized feline, just as he’d felt every night for fourteen years until a year ago.

I read an article on pet grief that classified animals as spiritual and claimed they stayed with us for a full year after death. I know better than to believe everything that I read on the Internet. He was not a particularly smart cat and I cannot see him possessing any exceptional powers other than those of love and loyalty.

Still, I see his white presence vanish around corners, like vapour, and I hear his noisy cry at times. The other night my husband heard it too. Is this a phenomenon of grief or is Ghost Cat staying for a year?

If you’re staying, I want to apologise for my annoyance on that last day when you tracked crap through the house, for making you spend those last few hours outside when you wanted to sit in a window inside, for crying in front of you as you drew your last.

I don’t know where you’re spending the afterlife, but I hope you’ve found your two friends and once again you’re the three musketeers. Most of all, I look at the cat that’s been left behind and realise how many times I’ve said goodbye, that I’ll have to do it one more time and I don’t think I can do it again, so Ghost Cat please jump upon my bed, vanish into cupboards, leave fur upon the curtains until I can face the days without you, just so I know when the years rush by and I say goodbye again I’ll know she’ll haunt me too until I face the world bravely on my own. Ghost Cat, you’ll never know how much life you took up when an agoraphobic’s world is so small. Thank you.

Just Me Here

Sometimes I get writing and don’t realise I’m home alone, that everyone else has places to be and jobs to go to but me. When I do work these days, it’s from home. And I write so that too is from home.

But even agoraphobics crave community. Perhaps I’ll find it through the life of Miss Mona, although she only exists online and to my family, close family. Although my daughter calls it a mid-life crisis I don’t think she understands how close I was to death and now I want to live every moment after three years of hell.

Do what makes you happy, not what others are happy to see you doing.

The Mona Mask

Since childhood I’ve had a fascination with Marilyn Monroe and everything classed as old Hollywood. I love the movies, the look, the storylines, the songs and the dancing.

And so it came to pass that I started wearing make up in primary school, and adding ‘doe’ eyes, as my mother called them.

As the years progressed I found the cover of a ‘look’ that wasn’t the frumpy stay-at-home me allowed me to venture out more often. I even did some acting in a local group and in the local eisteddfod.

One day, I don’t know when, I stopped doing my hair in the usual pompadour and stopped wearing eyeliner and bright lips. The colour in life kind of faded a bit too.

Now here I am, wearing red lipstick at home, doing a pompadour if there’s not been enough time for a wet set and dressing vintage once more. I must say it looks a lot different on my middle aged face than it did as a teenager.

This time I’ve given this alter ego a name, Miss Mona Maree. Maree is actually on my birth certificate and I use that to remind me that part of me is in this alter ego. Mona is a name Marilyn Monroe was said to sign when she was trying to be anonymous, and I’m trying to be a little bit anonymous in my playing with this character. It’s also a hat tip to Marilyn as she was the one that drew me into the 1950s, into old Hollywood and into what was my teenage look.

As of today Miss Mona Maree, (like how her initials are mmm?) is out of the closet and heading down the street to grocery shop in red lippy, bright red hair in a pompadour and wearing a half vintage ensemble.

 

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Hunting fashion

Being agoraphobic means online shopping is the best but being on disability means it’s just too expensive.

Op-shops win every time. They’re a quiet oasis to venture out of the house. That counts as therapy right?

And there’s plenty of clothes. And there’s the ever popular one dollar rack.

I’ve become a regular now I’ve put on weight which has basically necessitated a whole new wardrobe. So why not go retro, vintage, rockabilly, or whatever you’ve always wanted to do?

It’s getting me out of the house and I’m getting compliments from strangers. Way to boost the self-confidence!