This week an essay was published in O magazine by the mother of Dylan Kiebold, one of the boys responsible for the Columbine shootings. I took particular interest in this article for several reasons. Mainly the book that I'm currently writing revolves around a school shooting similar to Columbine and one of the characters whose head I attempt to get inside of is the mother of the culprit. So obviously I'm curious to read the thoughts of a true-life example.
Another reason, a more personal one, is that I've always wanted to know how a monster like Dylan Kiebold could live in a home, do chores, eat dinner, make small talk about lifes up and downs, and the parent(s) not have a clue about the malevolence simmering just below the surface. The simple answer is that the darkness within him was obscured by the mask he'd adopted to hide his true emotions. And if someone like him could exist and completely fool his parents, how can you really trust anyone?
We all wear one, you know. Masks. For some of us it's almost translucent. What you see is literally what you get. Those are the people who were born without a mental filter. They say exactly what comes to their mind, regardless of any feelings that might be stepped on ("Are you really going to wear that?" . . . "Wow, looks like you've gained twenty pounds."). And you always know what they're thinking because you can see it on their faces, or in their mannerisms. But the people with masks that thin are a rare breed indeed. It's a good thing too, because those type of people really irritate me. Isn't it ironic how people like that seem so shallow also? There's a certain amount of mystery and attributable substance (albeit assumed) to things we can't see.
I'm on the other end of the spectrum. I'm very hard to read, just ask my wife, and most of the time I like it that way. I shield my feelings, remain detached, and usually avoid circumstances where raw, open emotions are the norm. That's the mask I've fitted for myself, but its also the one I've learned to cope with. I believe the type of person we are, at least the one we project for everyone to see, the mask we wear, is a combination of a genetic make-up and common choice.
Throughout my life I've been asked countless times, by all kinds of people, what I was angry at. But I wasn't angry. Or even upset. I just looked that way to them. I've come to learn that's just happens to be the default look for my face. It's not a conscious choice. I think a good portion of the mask we put on for everybody is that way. We don't control it, it's just the way we are. But there is an element we do have influence over, choice, and that's the scary part. It's that choice that allow the 'Dylan Kiebolds' to hide from the world.
So . . . who has seen underneath your mask? I would postulate that for most people the answer would be no one. Sure, plenty of people have peeked a look or glimpsed a good portion of your actual being, but I doubt that anybody has seen everything that we keep bottled up inside us. I'm talking about the stuff that's deep . . . deep down. Primal. Of course the more time you spend with a person, the easier it becomes to see through the mask. It makes a strong case for lengthy romances and really getting to know your partner before getting married, or more importantly, having a child together. Then again, that could just be me making assumptions because that's the way I am.
Blogs such as this, Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, all are tools to provide people such as myself, ones with crippled social skills, an opportunity to re-shape our mask. They are also an opportunity to identify the 'Dylan Kiebolds' amongst us and get them the help they so desperately need before people are hurt. The depression and struggles Dylan was enduring prior to Columbine was reflected in the journals he kept. Who's to say that if Facebook was popular back then that some of his thoughts, feelings, angst, would have been evident there? Maybe . . . maybe not. If his own mother was clueless, could a facebook friend have any better insight?
While I was wrinting this I realized that Halloween was just around the corner. A night when kids and grown-ups alike dawn masks in celebration. Is it weird to think that some of them will pick a mask that better reflects their personality then the one they wear everyday?