25 September 2012

The Mask of Dooooooom

When last we saw our plucky heroine, she was living in her mother's basement, dreaming of creating a webcomic of her own. A lot of things have changed since then, in unexpected ways. I'm living in my own apartment now, in a completely different city. I'm working full time, and best of all, I'm in love with an amazing woman.

My partner is astounding. She is smart, a bibliophile, has a sharp and wicked sense of humor. She's physically beautiful, but spiritually and mentally even more so. None of that should surprise those who have known any of my past girlfriends. But there is one aspect of her life which might be a surprise... she's chronically ill.

The details of her illness aren't relevant to what I want to say here. Let's just note what is relevant: my darling wears a mask in public to protect herself. She needs the mask, and the protection it provides. It's not an affectation, or an exaggeration. Recently, she wrote a blog post about living behind the mask, and asked what her friends thought about it. I didn't respond on her blog, because she likes to keep our relationship quiet. (She has good and sufficient reasons for that; let's not get bogged down here in that).

I met my partner on the internet. I first knew her through her eloquent writing. I first knew the life of her mind. And so my image of who she was had already formed when I met her body. The things she wears to funtion in daily life, the braces, the cane, the gloves, the mask... none of those things detract in the least from the beauty that I see when I look at her. The light that is inside of her glows so brightly... it illuminates all the aspects of her life with grace and beauty.

To me, the mask is just clothing. She wears trousers, and shirts, and masks, and each of these covers and protects part of her body. The mask is not a common article of clothing in our society, but I'm a Nihonophile, and in Japan, health masks are not uncommon. And just as I enjoy when she wears a pretty brassier, I like that the mask she wears is feminine and pretty.

There are two things about the mask I do not like.

The first is that it's a limitation for her, and I don't like that the world has imposed that kind of limitation. For her sake, I wish that she didn't have to remember where she put it down when she came in the house. I wish that I didn't have to remember to get a last kiss before we left the safety of the house. I wish that she could walk around bare faced.

Of course, I also wish that she could walk around bare breasted, but that's a different discussion.

The second thing I don't like about the mask is the way it changes how people deal with her. The mask makes people behave like asshats to her. I don't mind the stares from little kids... they're still learning about the world, and they're curious when something doesn't fit in the pattern they're developing to understand.

I hate the things that ostensible adults do. The uneasy shuffling away, the fear, the outright rudeness. The accusations that she's not really sick, but just faking because she's lazy, or wants attention.

The mask is, of course, not the cause of those actions, any more than the brassier is the cause of rape. The mask is just the visible trigger. The invisible mechanic of society causes the behavior.

If I could, I would fix the things which have gone wrong with my partner's body. I would take away the need for the many medications and the external devices. I would create a world where we could walk around together, wearing whatever we wished to wear, leaving off whatever we wished to leave off, and neither a mask nor a bare breast would garner the least change in the respectful way that people treat each other.

But I can't. So I walk with my partner, and I give her all the support and love I can, and I enjoy her clothes, and her amazing sense of fashion, and I hope that my love and support make a difference.


montuos said...

I'm sorry you had to write this, but I'm glad you did. I think that a lot of "[t]he uneasy shuffling away, the fear" is simply fear of the unknown. Most of us aren't actually taught how to handle that gracefully — I know I wasn't! — so seeing essays like this brings awareness of the problem, allowing one to contamplate and school oneself in advance with more appropriate (or at least less inappropriate) reactions.

Anonymous said...

Nicely put. Society is always uneasy in the presence of anything outside their ken. Education changes things, but so, so slowly!