Friday, December 22, 2006

Masks of Gold and Stone (Merry Christmas)

Many of you here use this place as a mask, using that intemperate interface to peek out through orange and blue glasses at personalities represented by letters on a screen. All those characters dashed about, turning people into characters, and, in the brains of the reader, back into people again, at least some of the time.

Even though this place (the Fray) is particularly well-suited to masquerade--there's an infinitude of off-screen changing rooms--there is no shortage of masks in walking life. We show ourselves to our family one way, represent to friends, coworkers another. We show toothy visages to our enemies, and roll our bellies at people we trust, sometimes on faith. Some few show fiery masks of passion: dangerous items, apt to consume the wearer (I also fear they're lonely down beneath--as for me, I prefer to smolder), but most others see only the armor we put before ourselves to protect from the inevitable spears and pricks that people lurk to jam into any chink.

I find them all ill-fitting and cumbersome.

Of course we mask ourselves to ourselves as well, to varying degrees. I'd find it nice to be free to open them all to reveal just me, whatever the hell that is. Even if I think it makes a silly quasi-quantitative modelI know that Keifus, whoever he is, is in truth a multitude of faces, and even if these are, by definition, also false--bullshit upon bullshit upon nothingness--then at least they are form-fitting to whatever it is I might be. As someone who wishes he could write, I find it a satisfying exercise to go spelunking through the wrinkled avenues of my gray matter* for avatars. I'm not too afraid of my darker corners (more disappointed in them, actually), but many of the weaker ones I'd rather not see. For all this, however, there's a small ensemble of legitimate Keifuses with which I identify as me.

Even though this is by nature a place of masks, it's also a place where I let the essential ones shine with their most unfiltered light. So many of you don the things to even walk in the door. I find it a relief to shuck the fucking things off.

Letting me out is all about projecting my reactions on things--my opinions, my thoughts. It's not the same as revealing the facts of my life. I find these a burden too, truth be told. As a rule, I don't talk about my marriage here (partly because doing so is inherently unfair, partly because it's sneaky, partly because I consider it low class, and partly because I'd love my wife to be part of any hypothetical hugfest I'm finally allowed to attend), even if it consumes a great deal of my mental energy. But I'm dying to tell you that it's the heaviest mask I wear: asexual and orthogonal to the grain of my humor. Bulletproof. It weighs a goddamn ton. That you folks tend to find me decent is a total riot.

It's exactly the wrong time to complain about this of course, in the middle of a seasonal lull in the long ice, a midwinter thaw that's as welcome as a desert oasis. But melting lets out all those frozen-in flaws and impurities, all at once. (It's how, incidentally, you purify silicon ingots.) Hopefully this post does makes these thoughts go away.

The masks I wear in front of my kids is are closer to my internal selves. But to the tykes, I can't, of course, show all of the inner Keifuses, only the ones they are ready to understand. My work mask is me to an even smaller extent. That me is mostly about business and intellectual thought (although I don't think anyone's fooled by my preferred distractions). I decline to wear my business mask here unless it informs a more universal or relevant experience. I think that posturing my work knowledge only to impress (sorry, Geoff) is pretty unclassy too--there's a fine line. (But on the other hand, those guys in explainer are getting checks for showing off, so maybe I'm a fool. I'll live.)

I've got some close friends too that only see my masks. These are the guys I grew up with and I positively cherish their continued company. But there's no denying we grew apart--these fellows have a spark of the intellectual married with a spark of the eternal childish (otherwise we'd never likely have found one another), but their minds all took different paths than mine over the years. More closed, less honest. Sorry guys.

I've said it before: you jokers, even if those of you who're faking it--most of you--are the closest thing I've got to real friends. What you see here is the closest thing to Keifus that I'll admit to, even to myself.

I won't lie to you. My Christmas is going to be wonderful. It's the closest time of the year when I can let it out at home and still be approved of. There will be fabulous food, good wine, terrible family jug-band music, and just a good--no, a great--loving time had by all. It's the best week of the year by a long shot.

I don't know why I find so much in common with you people. I'm hopelessly mundane. I've never done hard drugs, don’t suffer from alcoholism (probably) or other addictions, don't smoke, never had a tumultuous relationship, am boringly straight, never had soul-scrubbing sex, I've figured little of it out, no light shines beatifically from my forehead, don't know the right things to say, have no deviant preferences (but could probably find them if I tried), never been homeless, have no debilitating maladies (except bad knees), no psycological afflictions, I may be melancholy but I'm not clinically anything, never fought in a war, never sacrificed myself for others (except in wimpy moderation for my family), never cheated on my wife, never been divorced, never committed rhetorical sins, had no close loved ones suffer (not that close), never lied in a substantive way, wasn't abused as a child, and, I'm happy to say, have abused no one other than by being my pathetic self.

But just the same, you people are my brothers, and I love every crazy, fucked-up, lying one of you. Yup, even you. I'll be needing you for the other 51 weeks. Take care.

Merry Christmas.


*This phrase sounds familiar to me: will research to see if I accidentally cribbed it, I promise


august said...


I remember you once saying that you were glad that your wife didn't know exactly how much time you spend on fray. I could identify with that one.

(I didn't quite understand if the heavy mask was the one that keeps your marriage protected or the one that you show your wife. I hope the former, although I well know that the latter is a doozy. In Before Sunset, a movie I like much more than I should, there's a long discussion of marriage being the attempt to put forth and act out your highest expectations of yourself. How easy it is to fall short, and how difficult to cover up the flaws. )

I've always told myself that one of the nice things about being fairly ordinary is that you don't really need so many masks. If somebody figured out the real me, it doesn't seem like it would be terribly devastating, just banal.

I don't think I would call y'all my best friends. But you do help me unloose words in myself that I didn't know were there, and I'm very grateful for it.

Best wishes for the holiday. Love to the family (but please don't mention that I said so. Hope The Big Lembowski is in your stocking.

bite said...

hmmm, maybe I should have read this first.

Ah well, class is not a mask that I wear.

I do think that you seeing friends here more in real-life is gender-related. I could be wrong, but I don't see a female poster feeling that way. Maybe because we are more willing to be emotionally open with our friends in Real Life (tm) than men are.

Keifus said...

august: shall we say "filling the role of," then? That would be accurate enough, esp. since I spend too little company with 3-D people. Would the whole gang graduate easily to meat-based relationships? Some sure would, and easily I'd think (well, provided we aren't annoyed by one another's mannerisms), but I admit that some others are safer on the screen. What can I say? I was really feeling the love yesterday.

A little of the former, a little more of the latter. The worst part being, of course, that it hides nothing, or, worse still, tends to hide the wrong things. Actually, what I hate most is how tired it's made me. But we'll get by: we started in a far worse place emotionally than we're in now, and we've always gotten better so far...

Oh, and I just bought the damn thing two weeks ago.

bite: class is also a tiring a thing to fake in my opinion. A little is all anyone really needs. I like it that you say what you feel.

As for your theory, tough call. I'd have to ask some more women.

(And the resemblence stands. Not a bad or a good thing, just an observation. And thanks for sharing your story.)


rundeep said...

Here's the thing you captured perfectly: the Fray is one of those few venues where the mask you wear is not a responsibility, it's a choice. In every other assigned role you have (spouse, dad, employee, boss) you need to clothe yourself with certain attributes. On the Fray, you can be who you want to be, which includes trying on masks to see if they fit. It's what we all do there, and here, and I'm delighted you do it so well.

Also, since you married so young, it's good to have a safe place to try the other roles out. It makes sense. We'll listen to you and help you refine who and what you are.

And in the respects I've identified above, bite, the Fray is different from RL friendships, and has special value.

I gotta go calm a whiner now, and assume the responsible mask, so see ya. happy holidays.

bite said...

I agree

There are friendships on the fray, and real affection.
And as I have said before, there is stuff I have divulged here that I would never say to people in real life.

I think the distance makes it safer, in a way. Also makes it easier on us. We don't have the obligation to stay in touch here. We can come and go guilt-free, pick up exactly where we left off without feeling neglectful.

So the relationships are much less intrusive.

Anonymous said...

"never committed rhetorical sins"

Don't be so sure. You couldn't sustain your central metaphor past the first sentence--

Many of you here use this place as a mask, using that intemperate interface to peek out through orange and blue glasses . . .

Even though this place (the Fray) is particularly well-suited to masquerade--there's an infinitude of off-screen changing rooms . . .

Even though this is by nature a place of masks, . . .

--and as for the secondary metaphors, well, let's just say that if a holiday weren't imminent, you could expect a visit from the Mixed Metaphor Police.

I wouldn't bother to check your "gray matter" phrase for prior use. The central "mask" metaphor, and, in truth, all of your mutations thereof, is about as far from new or original as one could get.

Your writing style is felicitous; you could find original things to say and original ways of saying them if you put your mind to it.

MsZilla said...

It's an interesting concept to bat around.

I am not particularly good at the "mask" part of this. I don't have the time or the energy it takes to build and maintain that sort of facade.

It may sound kind of weird, but outside of the fact that I am considerably more shy in real life, MsZilla is pretty much a WYSIWYG interface on the real me.

It probably makes me boring; anyone who's known me electronically for any length of time knows what little I have to say on any subject (and how much too much I have to say on others).

Keifus said...

Hiya anon, that's a classy entrance! Have I hurt your feelings sometime in the past?

I'm thinking of the blues here. Nothing original there either, just twelve bars and three chords, but it's great fun to hear someone riffing on them. I could listen to it all day.

The mask metaphor came, at least in part, from an old exchange I had with another poster (appropriately called Makbara), who was interested for awhile in it's expression on the Fray. (It's what caused me to ever look up and read the Yeats poem). No doubt he could have turned it into an aria instead of a sloppy I-IV-V progression, but what the hell, he does his thing, I do mine. And this is a good place to jam in any case.

MsZ: Me either, not really. I mean, I admit that I try to seem smarter and more outgoing (and possessed of better timing--not that I imagine anyone's convinced), but this is pretty close to me as well. Depends on what you come here for. Probably both are needed for the whole dynamic.

rundeep: young by today's standards (certainly not by my parents' standards) and in certain parts of the country. But it's all good--helps to get it all out of my system, in incriminating writing.


rundeep said...


I'm guessing Anon is misterioso, who should be renamed miserioso, a kossack who shows up here and on the Fray from time to time to correct grammar and spelling with as obnoxious an attitude as he or she can muster. You actually received a lefthanded compliment. Most unusual.

Interesting that I never see such corrections on kos (where, sugar plum, I still post. Yep, I EVADED THE RULES!). They could use some help, as a very large number of the posters there couldn't string two sentences together coherently, much less engage in anything like "analysis." Yes, there's less navel-gazing, but that's due more to a lack of self-awareness than to focus on the world at large.

On the whole, barf (to borrow from fluffy).

JohnMcG said...

Impossible! Banning from dKos is permanent! Those who are banned cannot come back and post under another name.

rundeep said...

Oh yes, I'm well on the way to Trusted User. Lots of positive ratings. Apparently, contrary to popular belief, Markos does not "see all." I've also heard the rumors that he parted Lake Erie and turned water into White Wine Spritzers are false.

LentenStuffe said...

Jahesius, Keith,

That third paragraph kinda smarted a bit. What's up?

Since "Makbara" = "Zeus-Boy", and my pastiche of the Yeatsian prosodic structure was an effort to co-opt the blueprint but not the facade, I don't know why you didn't share that insight at the time.

Yes. I do my thing.

And I should be delighted to discuss the topic with you anytime.

Anon wasn't me, in case you think otherwise. I've been mostly incommunicado for the last six days, or so ...

... but, whatthefuck, dude?

Keifus said...

Hi LS/Z-B/M. Really a pleasure to see you around again. I'm amazed that it has only been six days. If every six days could seem to live so long...

That insight took me about three months to eat, digest, and turn into...well, into what you see above. I love the thing you do. I wish I were faster on my feet, so's I could keep up with it.

To you and rundeep: nope, my guess was definitely not Makbara. That site was to suggest that the theme doesn't suck by definition (and, if I'm being completely honest, to spread the blame). No idea how I lost the metaphor, however. I thought I mixed it and banged on it, even if I didn't keep to a tight theme sentence. But whatever, it doesn't seem like an opinion to get so very overwrought about.

I had Rita/mysterioso as second or third. Thought it was possibly one of the self-important Fray posters that I mocked a year or so ago (whom I've alarmingly come to resemble with such talk as this...), or even less likely, the editor I've mocked on these pages. (Guess I felt snubbed. You want to talk unclassy! I shame myself regularly.)


Keifus said...


Anonymous said...

rundeep: "I'm guessing Anon is misterioso, who should be renamed miserioso, a kossack who shows up here and on the Fray from time to time to correct grammar and spelling with as obnoxious an attitude as he or she can muster."

But I, your poor Anon (and not the only Anon running around here, I might add; "hahahahaha" isn't my style), did not in fact correct grammar and spelling. Had I wished to do so, I would have pointed out these typos that I noticed as I read:

"The masks I wear in front of my kids is are closer to my internal selves."

"no psycological afflictions"

A spell-check program would have caught the latter. A grammar-check program might have caught the former, but the only sure-fire method is a better-than-average manual proofreading.

(In addition, the word spacing is messed up here and there, but few would find that objectionable.)

Anonymous said...

Keith (apparently),

If one posts in a public forum, one ought to anticipate feedback from the public. However, I decided that my first comment was too harsh, and I looked in vain for a little "garbage can" icon (such as I've sometimes encountered) signaling that I could delete it. At any rate, I believe that even when one deletes a comment, it remains in the comments feed.

Take what's helpful--as you already seem to be doing--and leave the rest. After all, who the hell am I?

Dawn Coyote said...

I often feel like I take off all my clothes before I come in the door. Occaisonally I’ll wear a costume, though I’m not looking to hide anything here, but rather to find something. Like the characters in Short Bus, I’m looking to get a more complete picture of myself, and I’m looking for you (all) to help me put it together. I don’t know if I’d say I feel close friendship to you folks, but certainly a kinship, a connection.

I'm really glad you're here, K. New Year smooches to you.

twiffer said...

keif: we're all rather mundane. really, everyone is at core (particularly if you stick to the heavenly/earthly definition).

the interesting thing about cyper-personas is, as run notes, they are choices. what we choose not to reveal is often as telling (if not moreso) as what we choose to reveal.