Masks & Affectations

The other day I read a story, of a science fiction/fantasy persuasion, about a place wherein the citizens wore a different mask every day*. Depending on which mask they wore, which “oversoul” was infused within the fabric of the mask, on each day a citizen played a different role. One day they might be flayed alive. One day they might be a jilted lover. And so on. One day they might be a man. One day they might be a woman. They might die one day, but be resurrected the next. Wounds inflicted, mental or physical, were healed upon the coming of night, the “unmasking hour” and, the next day, the donning of a new mask.

Just before writing the above, while sitting in the car, while my baby slept and her mother sought carbootish bargains, I saw a young Asian lad walk by, in his slow slung jeans and what-have-you, doing that slight limp thing that lads who like certain types of music are wont to do. This is what got me thinking about Masks & Affectations

In the aforementioned story, the protagonist was challenged, by a barefaced rebel, to think about who he really was. Underneath the (slew of) mask(s). Not only did he not know; he found it almost impossible to conceive of the concept implicit in the question. (I’m sure I’ve also read/seen something else recently with this kind of theme – i.e. asking the question, who, really are we?). And then there was the young Asian lad with the slight limp.

Firstly, if anyone can enlighten me as to what the slight limp thing is all about – its meaning, its (cultural (or whatever)) significance – my curiosity-sating gratitude will be thusly expressed. Aside from the contextual specifics of such, however…

Who, really, are we?

Underneath the slew of masks. Underneath the affectations. Underneath the roles we play, the sub-cultural costumes we don.

Is there even such a thing as the real me (or you)?

Is the real me a complex amalgam of the Masks & Affectations which infuse me?


* Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast – Eugie Foster – Interzone #220: Feb 2009


8 comments on “Masks & Affectations

  1. flandrumhill says:

    Yes indeed there is such a thing as ‘the real me.’ It’s the parent of all children (once you’re a parent) and the child of all parents (once your parents are old and dependent on you). Although we’re all willing to compromise to a certain extent, the ‘real us’ exists in the realm of non-compromising. What do you hold most dear that cannot be compromised? Ever.

    As for men with limps… I’ve read that men who have physical limitations compensate for this in other ways. Would it then be logical to conclude that men with limps have strengths that men without limps do not?

  2. […] Are We? Following on from my last piece, an interesting point has been made in another story I have read in the same Interzone magazine*… […]

  3. pepsoid says:

    “non-compromising”… hmm, I’ll think on this one…

    Re limps… perhaps! Although re the *affectation* of limps… still none the wiser – think I may have to Google (or whatever) it!

  4. M says:


    I think there was a scene in Malcolm X where Denzel Washington explains it.

    Needless to say, any significance or meaning it had back then has, no doubt, been totally lost or ignored in favour of simply doing it to look ‘cool’ or ‘dangerous’ or whatever…

    Which is all very well, but I’ve seen guys doing it when there’s no-one around…like they’re practising. I guess they have to do it somewhere. It looks ike it takes such a lot of effort, too. And you never get anywhere on time. And not only that, but if you did it too much surely you’d end up with one leg more developed than the other.

    The whole thing is ridiculous.

    Or am I just getting old?

  5. M says:

    As you can probably tell, this is a particular gripe of mine. Living in south London, one tends to see a great many variations on the affected limp – all of them equally comical (totally the opposite effect than intended, I’m sure) and all equally likely to get you shot if you get it wrong.

  6. pepsoid says:

    Following the Malcolm X reference, I have just found this random Internet snippet…

    “Affectation is walking with an odd limp that suggests you have pooed in your pants, seemingly popular in ‘hard men’ who think it makes it look like they’re ‘packing a large concealed piece’, which I suppose is true, if ‘packing a large concealed piece’ is a euphemism for having poo in your pants.”

    (from – my apologies for the rather harshly worded title of such)

    That seems to make sense! You know, considering the particular “sub-culture” who adopts said affectation. (I mean the reference to concealed weaponry, not poo)

    I couldn’t be bothered to read the entire piece linked above, btw.

    Also, perhaps of interest, is the following…

    …which I also haven’t read in its entirety, but also mentions the limp/”piece” thing, in a slightly more “official” (perhaps) context…

    So there you have it!

  7. Kate says:

    I think the limp may be a purely functional thing – a way of not having one’s trousers fall down completely. I recently watched a young bloke whose pants were being held up by hope alone, and the strange claudicant way he walked. Quite a feat of physics.

  8. pepsoid says:

    Hi, Kate! 😉

    I am liking this image…

    “His pants were being held up by hope alone…”

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    I am, however, unfamiliar with this word, “claudicant”…

    … why of course! 🙂

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