Tennessee Williams: On The Masks We Wear

Photograph by Sam Shaw/1955

None of us--not one of us--lives without a myth or two and a mask or two. It is impossible to face the world and the life we make within it on our own. This is the artistic gift we all bring to our lives and to others everyday: The creation of the mask we present and share and depend upon. This is why we have religion and art and anything at which we can succeed, because to succeed gives one an identity, however temporary. And so we move on. Another day, another mask, another identity.

My mask is one crafted of words. I can live and function in and around words. I like their placement; I like to throw them in the air; I like to see where they land; I like to present them--as gifts--to characters I've grown to love. Mine is a mask of words.

Marilyn [Monroe], to use one example, had a literal mask. A lot of people do. Their armor is beauty or strength. Hers was beauty--an almost supernal, lunar beauty. And it took hours--if not days--to create, to manufacture, to maintain. Creams and lotions and unguents and powders and sticks and colorful oils--and then you had Marilyn, the one we all wanted and felt we needed. And she had an identity. An identity of creamy skin and vulnerability. She could face the world with some degree of comfort.

It is best to define the mask you're wearing, and to keep it in good shape.

© 2014  James Grissom


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