Much is made these days about masks. They are deemed essential by many - a way to ward off an unseeable danger.
Much is also made about masks this time of year. They are seen as essential by nearly all - a key element of a macabre celebration that promises giddy rewards.
Here's the problem. There is a crucial conversation about masks that we are avoiding. I am not referring to the face coverings that experts have determined are a primary defense against the coronavirus, nor am I referring to Halloween costumes.
I'm talking about the masks that men wear to hide from the world.
Most men that I've known throughout my half-century on the planet are hiding, right in plain sight. Most of them have had a mask on for so long that they may not even realize they are wearing it. But they are.
So what does this mask look like? Here are a few examples:
These masks, and many others, that men are encouraged to wear - by their role models, by their peers, by society - are designed to hide behind. They are a front, one that is "accepted" and "respected".
What are men hiding, you ask? Our emotional reality.
The ugly truth of real emotions is that they represent weakness. Or at least that's the bullshit story that men get fed in our culture.
You have some fear going on, Mr. Man? Put on this Tough Guy mask.
Feeling insecure? Try on the Boss model - it'll pump you right up.
Dealing with some sadness? Check out this Ladies Man get-up; it'll help you kick that weak shit to the curb.
Tell you what, though. Masks don't work. Sure you can hide for a while, fool people into thinking you're some superhuman who doesn't suffer from the actual human reality of feelings.
But get real. You know what it's like after awhile. Think back to your days celebrating Halloween. Those first few hours wearing the gorilla mask were fun - people laughed, you had a good time, maybe scored some good candy. How was it after a few hours? Hot. Sweaty. Kinda disgusting. Hard to breathe.
Now imagine going through your adult life wearing the emotional equivalent of that gorilla mask. Fuck! Right?!?
So many men in our society refuse to take off their emotional mask because we have shamed men into denying their emotions. Can we stop? Please!?!
Here's an idea:
Men - Acknowledge that you just might be wearing a mask. Then take it off. Channel your favorite persona - Tough Guy, Boss, Bro', whatever - and turn it against your emotional masking. Let it be your entry pass into dealing with all of that pain you've been suppressing - all that sweat and held-back-breath and heat that's built up inside your mask.
And don't forget to let your fellow men know that you've still got their backs when they do the same thing. Yeah, go on. Support each other in being real.
I'm telling you - if we don't do this, we become the gorilla. I'm serious. Look around you at all the shit men are doing - abusing alcohol, being workaholics, engaging in violence, mistreating women, or just generally being a dick.
Where does that behavior come from??? C'mon, you know it. It's all of that emotional baggage that's being held back behind the mask. It has to come out - you can't possibly keep it all in.
So please. Please. Please. Take off the masks, guys. Because it's not at all strong to wear the mask. The strong men are the ones who take off the mask and let the world know who they really are.
Jim Young is a coach, a Dad, and an unmasked man who lives in Western Massachusetts. When he's not spending time with his three hilarious teenagers, he might be performing improv comedy (bare-faced) on a stage - at least in non-pandemic times.
Jim focuses on helping men discover their true essence, dropping the defenses they have been holding onto for too long, and rediscovering what it is that makes them feel both successful AND happy.
Jim's 3-D Men program is designed to help men unmask themselves within the supportive container of a group of brave peers. The next session is always either open or he's accepting spots on the waiting list. As one recent participant wrote about his experience, "I feel like I got a better grip on the long climb that is life."