FACADES: DON’T BE FOOLED

I don’t think people can ever see past my facade. I think this was the same for my father, who I either take after in this respect (among many others) or the facade is a way of being that I learned from my parent’s marriage. My father was gay and in the closet, married to my mother for 20 years. My mother was a naive sweet woman, who I think my father married for both her beauty and her naivety. He found a pretty, naive beard. Even after 20 years of marriage, my mother insists to me she had “no idea” that he was gay. That is either completely pathetic, or my father was a master of his facade, or both. The fact that this family unit was just the three of us, and all I have ever known, makes me question if the facade I have is really a normal thing that everyone does, or something I learned. My family was a hoax to fool the world.

People who know me well know whatever I’m going through or feeling, because I share it. It makes me feel connected to the world to be an open book (unlike what my family did). But I’ve noticed throughout the absolute worst times in my life, that I put my face on as if it is war paint. It’s a facade. The mask is on, the face is painted, and I can step outside wearing my shield. No one can see past it to the weakness or turmoil that lies beneath. Therefore, my public face and I are taken at literal face value. It is a defense mechanism, and a skill, both valuable and detrimental.

It’s a valuable skill when one needs to perform at work or in social situations, but it can also be isolating, cut one off from the world, and cause one to be constantly misperceived. Sometimes I am in pain, and I’m told I look beautiful. My running joke with close friends is, “well, that is all that matters right? It doesn’t matter how you feel as long as you look good!” Obviously that’s untrue… what’s inside is what matters, not what’s on the outside… yet somehow, even though I’m aware of it, and not sure it is a healthy way to really live, I can’t stop the facade.

This is not to say that I am a fake person. This is generally why I always share with all my close friends what is really happening with everything in life. I truly have no secrets. I really am an open book, and very real and down to earth. I feel like keeping it together in a pretty package makes everyone a lot more comfortable. If I showed the emotions I was feeling every time I felt them, people would be uncomfortable. If I didn’t put myself together in a presentable manner even when I felt terrible, people would see me weak, and it would make them uncomfortable, right?

I’ve been living this way for so long, I don’t know if everyone does it, or if this is good or bad. My father took his facade to a ridiculous, unhealthy level. First, by lying to my mother about his wealth to hook her into a marriage, then by pretending to be a straight family man for society and his parents. And after that, when he left my mom, he remained closeted to me for 10 years until I finally “outed” him, but the final saddest part to me was the last facade he left behind before he passed away. He bought a gay bar, and wanted to be perceived as wealthy and the life of the party. He drove a Jaguar, had fancy jewelry, parties, belongings and clothes, and threw money around like he had it to share. I think he had played the part of the wealthy generous man for so long, and at times it my have been somewhat true.

Unfortunately, at the very end of his life, he had sold his home, was living in a rented apartment, and owed over $90,000 in credit card debt. If he hadn’t passed away, he would have probably become destitute. I don’t know what he would have done, or how he would have lived. I can’t imagine that he would have told anyone around him that he had dug himself into a financial hole or been able to ask for help or downsize his lifestyle. Everyone around him was in his pockets, either employed by him, borrowing money, or letting him pick up the tab. When I uncovered all the financial truth, that there was no money, no one believed me. I actually think his friends and employees thought I was a crazy person making up stories. It was such a baffling mind fuck, as I always looked up to my father and thought he was rich too. I felt bad for letting him help me out financially, even though as his only child I think I deserved that more than all his hangers-on. I just wished he could have been honest about what his life really was. I would have loved him no matter what, as well as learned from him. Also, he would have known who his true friends were, and that they loved him for who he was, and not what he had or could do for them.

I ended up learning from it anyway. Although I learned how to have a public face and a facade, I also share my truth with my friends. Unfortunately, sometimes I think my façade is working so well that they don’t believe me when I confide certain things. The façade is a blessing and a curse, much like what people say about beauty or fame. I think it’s hard to understand from the outside looking in. It causes situations that people get blindsided by—like mine of realizing my father was broke and in debt, when he appeared to be so together. Like Robin Williams, who seemed so happy and successful, but had so much pain he couldn’t keep his head above water and chose to end his life. I never want to get so caught up in the act of seeming like everything is good, that I cut people out of knowing my true self.

What I’d like to impart on anyone reading this, is do not buy everyone’s facades, no matter how convincing they are. When you see your ex who broke your heart all over Facebook smiling with friends or a new significant other, don’t buy it. When your friend or co-worker seems to have it all and never has a complaint or problem, don’t buy it. Things just aren’t always as they seem. No one is perfect, and most of us are wearing a shield. Sometimes it may be necessary, but if anyone gets too caught up in it, they are cutting themselves off from having true deep relationships.

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