Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Going Incognito

Something wonderful happens when people hide behind masks. Or bridal wear. Or large, furry suits.

On the night before the now infamous wedding party, I volunteered my services for a celebrity scavenger night planned by my daughter's youth group. For nearly two hours, I perused the hallways of a well-populated mall in a pink panther suit designed for a person roughly one hundred and seven pounds heavier than I. I scanned the crowds through coin sized spaces that richoted randomly between my lips and eyebrows. I waved and nodded. I crouched and cuddled. I swished my big pink tail. I hugged beautiful children. And I learned a thing or two.

We all hide behind masks. Now that's not a big headline shocker, but what was interesting to me was that an obvious mask actually seemed to lift more subtle disguises on others. A Holdemon man, whisking his gowned and head-covered wife and baby through the wide and sinful hallways of the mall towards the more godly diapers and dishcloths of Walmart let go of his fear of worldliness for just a moment, and as they passed by me, he let out a loud "MEOW!" Children, sensibly told by their parents to avoid strangers, were now being photographed in my arms. Teenagers ran up for free hugs. A young boy who started off with a hug, ended off punching in pinky's nose and reaching round for a spiteful tail yank. Three skateboarders peppered me with questions about my identity, just before adding; "I'd really like to hit you, but I want to know what I'm hitting."
I found it easy to engage the kids from the youth group as not-my-self. I noticed that my daughter completely avoided eye contact, until her more observant friend noticed pinky's shoes and suggested that quite possibly the kitty in pink was actually Arianna's mother. As she gave chase and lifted a corner of my mask we suddenly went from zero eye contact to mommy and baby in a nano second. The awkwardly confident young men who tried desparately to guess my identity quickly looked away when I made my great reveal. (GASP! Somebody's MOTHER! How uncomfortable!)

"I have feelings too!", I shouted, three quarters pink, one part mother.

But that's how it is. I too preferred the mask. We speak different languages, live in different worlds. Without the mask, social norms would have guarded against interacting with the angry, the religious, the young, the playful. I'd like to relearn the language of my daughter's world, but the role of mommy always takes over. But for two hours as the pink panther, I was no one's wallet, kleenex, band-aid, or old has-been. Through my pin-hole vantage point the openness and potential in all those half kids/half adults was completely obvious to me.

And maybe my potential was more obvious to them too.


gloria said...

Lyss told me about that night, and a lot of your experiences. Sounds like it was fun for everyone. Way to go.

Heather Plett said...

I once spent a summer dressed as a panda at the panda photo booth at the zoo (when the pandas were visiting Winnipeg). It was an odd experience having all of these people let down their guard for a few moments and giggle as they sat on my lap for a picture. The strangest was the two gay men who were doing some serious flirting while perched on my lap.

Bobita said...

Wow. Beautiful, inspired insights.

Roo said...


and i would LOVE to see this pink cat... don't you got a pic to post?

Anonymous said...

I agree...a posted photo would be much appreciated for those of us who are visual learners ;)....I enjoyed the insight in your last paragraph...I too wish I could "relearn the language of my daughter's world"...and the final line about your potential through their eyes...very thought provoking!!..I still want to see that photo though ;)

Anonymous said...

Very Lord of the Flies. Except in a good way.
It always amazes (and humbles) me to realize how outraged I can become behind the wheel. Vehicles are masks too.
Thx for the party. How about an SNL talent show for all the Zib expats? You and Carol could emcee.
It would rawk.

lettuce said...

how wonderful and weird joyce.