I’m writing this at 6:15 on All Hallow’s Eve. Very soon princesses, pirates, witches and werewolves will be upon my doorstep. I can’t wait to oooh and aww over each costume, feigning shock and amazement that such exotic creatures have suddenly, inexplicably materialized right here in my sedate suburban cul de sac. Halloween is one of the few times when we are actually encouraged to conceal our true identities. We purposely don disguises and hide behind masks and make-up to mislead others about who we are. On Halloween, we strive to present ourselves to the world as just about anyone but our authentic selves.
That certainly flies in the face of the prevailing wisdom about how to achieve success on the other days of the year. In the buzz-wordy parlance of self-help gurus, relationship experts and career strategists, finding genuine fulfillment in life comes down to exactly just that—authenticity. We’re urged to drop our masks, to be our true authentic selves and speak our true authentic message in our true authentic voice. In the quest for the ideal self-image, life partner or client, real is in and fake is out (with eyelashes, boobs and hair color being apparent exceptions.)
Now, far be it from me to advocate leading a life of complete hypocrisy, but I think being inauthentic is getting the short shrift here. There have been more times than I can count when being less than genuine has saved everything from my pride to my employment. The judicious use of masks is what makes it possible for us to endure certain people and certain circumstances without leaving a trail of casualties in our wake. Can you really imagine surviving holiday dinners with some of your once-removed-but-unfortunately-they-grew-back relatives without your fake smile mask? Or how about listening to a five year old recount her flying monkey dream—and, um, it was like a monkey, but it wasn’t a real monkey, but it still looked like a monkey—without your fake fascination mask? And I know for a fact that I would never have survived my term of indentured servitude—eight years of teaching middle school—without my “it’s-an-absolute-joy-to-have-your-child-in-my-class-despite-the-fact-that-he-chews-with-his-mouth-open-and-once-threw-a-chair-at-me” mask.
So, on this holiday when we celebrate being who we’re not, let’s remember that a little inauthenticity now and then isn’t such a bad thing any time of year. Grab a mask and repeat after me, “You look like you’ve lost weight, I love your new haircut and velour is definitely making a comeback.”
And, of course, I meant almost every word of that.
Happy Inauthentic Halloween!