Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Many Masks...

Thursday, 2 April 2009 @ 11.37am

I wear many masks. We all do. It only occurred to me when I was online last night while watching Season 7 of Charmed. I was going through Facebook, while attempting to update my blog, and was at the same time emailing a client. That was when I realised that there are many sides of me.


I’ve always been a little withdrawn, yet at the same time, outspoken. It’s hard to explain. Being the youngest, it was difficult being heard (I know…hard to imagine since the youngest is supposed to be getting all the attention right?). I’ve always felt the need to prove myself as a daughter. And in all honesty, I’ve felt that I needed to prove that just because I’m a girl, I had to work even harder to prove that I can do better.

The mask that I wear as a daughter means that I am quite, and only speak out when I feel absolutely necessary. It also means doing anything and everything necessary to keep my parents off my back (meaning that if I don’t do anything wrong, then they can’t come after me for it right?)


This is a little trickier. Each sibling is different. And each sibling wants and deserves a different kind of respect. My sister doesn’t demand it, she’s just simply her. Growing up, I’ve always been told that that is my ‘kakak’, and ‘kakak’ deserves full respect. Since I was about four (or at least that’s the youngest age that I could remember), I always literally looked up to my sister. And as I got older, she somehow became sort of a mentor. She was the only other girl in the family and she had to fight hard as hell to get what she wanted too. I sort of see her as my guide – the do’s and don’ts of what you can and cannot do as the girl. It’s like…whatever I’m going through, she’s already been there, so I can count on her to understand how I’m feeling.

My two brothers vary in many ways. And I treat them and behave around them very differently too. It’s harder to define the ‘sister’ mask. I could have the ‘please tell me what to do’ mask on when I’m around my sister, or the ‘annoyed little sister’ mask with both my brothers.


I admit it. I’m a horrible granddaughter. I don’t spend as much time as I should with Nenek. The mask I wear with Nenek includes being aloof and around long enough so she knows that I’m around and that she won’t forget me. Being with her, I realize that I can be impatient and unfriendly too. And writing this just made me realize that this is a mask I should re-think wearing.


I think this is probably my favourite mask to wear. Being an Aunty to three beautiful, smart, funny and sometimes a pain in the ass kids has been more rewarding than it has been frustrating. Of course there are days where you want to smack them, but on most days, all you want to do is love them.

Wearing the Aunty mask is fun. You have to be somewhat responsible, but you can also be fun and carefree. There are times you still have to keep them in line. But most of the time, all they want to do is be around you, and all you want to do is be around them too.


This mask is not really a mask. Because I’m not wearing a mask when I’m with Eddie. In the beginning, yeah of course, there was the, I’m a girl, I like you, do I look pretty, what are you thinking? mask. But over time, and over experiences both good and bad with Eddie, I learnt to shed that mask and let him see me for me. Good, bad, beautiful, ugly… He’s seen me happy, he’s seen me sad and he’s seen me angry. He’s also seen me lose it and he’s seen the ugly PMS 24/7 side of me. He knows when I’m not being myself, and he knows when I’m not being honest. He knows when I’ve put on a mask – which I sometimes do when I feel I need to protect him from the truth. But he’s proven to me time and time again that no matter what I look like – metaphorically and physically – he will always be there for me.


Ok. So I'm not legally married yet. But to Ayah, Umie, Maklong, Paklong, Pak Ngah, Mak Ngah, P.usu and M.usu, we're as good as tied. They refer to me as 'menantu Eddie'. The mask I wear around them includes being polite and respectful, and it also means that I have to be 'Malay'.

From the very start of our relationship, Eddie always calls himself as the 'orang kampung' and me as 'mat salleh'. When I go back to Teluk Intan with him, I'm not so mat salleh, although there are still elements of me there. I'm more Malay - or as Malay as I can be. I'm also more demure - no swearing, no bad words, no cursing. This is the 'good girl' mask :)


This is the 'Kaklong' mask. The first couple of times I went to Teluk Intan, everyone wasn't really sure about me. They weren't really sure who I was, what my story was or how come their Abanglong actually listens to me (and I'm very proud (and a little smug too) to say that while everyone else - being siblings and cousins - listen to Eddie, the only person Eddie listens to is me). The other issue was I was only 24 (at the time). His younger sister, Ijah, is two years older than me. I never classified myself as anything and I didn't mind what I was being called.

It took a couple of visits for them to accept me as Kaklong or Kakak / Akak, which all of them (even Ijah) call me. Now, this mask also entails being the 'motherly' figure to the younger ones. Or a more 'older sister' figure to the ones nearer my age. His sisters come to me for advice now, or just to chat and express concern or thoughts to me about their brother. Eddie has had a problem with his temper and most of his family know that they cannot get through to him on certain matters. With the kaklong mask (or even daughter-in-law mask for that matter), his family have gone through me to get the message across to him.


This is one of my favourite masks to wear. I have many different groups of friends, and each one requires a different mask. There’s the ‘good listener’ mask. The ‘purely fun’ mask. The ‘emo’ mask. The ‘loud, funny, joker’ mask. And there’s the ‘genuine, caring, protective’ mask.

There are certain friends who I think can take care of themselves and end up being just social, friendly friends. No emotional ties. There are friends who call upon me when they need advice, a shoulder to cry on, someone to share their joy with, or just a friend. There are friends who you know hide deep emotional scars and make joke after joke after joke to hide the truth. As a good friend, you joke with them, because you know that laughter is the best medicine for them and tapping into those scars is not something they want or need at the moment. And then there is an elite group of friends who I genuinely care for, whose families I’ve made an effort to get to know, and whom I’ve become deeply protective over. These are the friends who you share everything with. Good times with endless laughter, bad times with endless tears, and days when days just go by.

As a friend, I’ve learnt that you can’t wear an emotional mask with the joker, and that you can’t put on the genuine mask with the social friends. At times, it took painful lessons to learn that not everyone is your friend. But if you look back and see that you have even one behind you, that’s more than enough you need in a lifetime.

Account Executive

This mask requires make-up, heels, ‘proper’ outfits, a fixed smile, bargains, negotiation, manipulation, thick skin and a heart made of steel. In other words, the corporate mask. I know I’ve complained many times being an AE, but somewhere inside, I actually enjoy it. The ‘servicing’ of clients (this will always make me sound like a whore), the manipulation of the situation, the bargains and negotiation with Art Directors and designers…it sort of hardens you. It also allows you to meet a whole range of people – young and old. And a lot of the time, you tend to see the ugly side of clients. Very rarely do you meet a client who is understanding, reasonable, on time, does not have ridiculous demands and holds out her side of the bargain. Unfortunately, she was my client when I was at Trix. There are only two clients here now who are somewhat reasonable, but we’re already wrapping up their Annual Report…won’t be seeing them till next year.

Art Teacher

Another mask I enjoy wearing. I love working with children. You get to tap into your younger side and play and be nurturing. Having worked with children for a total of around two and a half years, I’ve seen so many different kinds of children. There are those you adore and get excited and delight each time they come. There are those who you cannot stand and snarl at whenever they’re there. And there are those who you have to pay extra attention to – some who are autistic, some have learning difficulties, some don’t have limbs, and some are just going through a tough time.

This mask requires a genuine smile, a warm heart, lots of hugs and lots of love. You can never be fake with a child – they’ll see right through you. This mask is also a true testament to what sort of a person you really are. Because parents will see right through you too.

There have been other teachers who just work for pocket money – they never lasted long. And the teachers who are still babies themselves – they either learnt a lot or left because they just saw themselves in the children. And there are the rest of us who have been melted by their smiles, their laughter and their tears. And have felt the protective need to continue being there, making sure that they’re ok.


I am ruthless when I sell. I know my product and I sell. I’m merciless. But…seeing that my target audience are parents to the children whom we teach, I also have to be somewhat manipulative to get what I want.

Each time I’m working as CSR, I set a target of how much I want to make that day and most of the time, I reach it or get more. I’ve only learnt that I had this skill when I became CSR a couple of months ago at Get Crafty. And I’ve never looked back since. It’s because of this mask that I put on with my customers that my boss has classified me as ‘Business Development’. Hahahahahaha…


anita r said...

Thank you....sob sob

I must say, though, which ever mask you put on, at any one time, you MUST NEVER forget who you really are. NEVER. Don't ever feel you have to compromise or change yourself to suit people - no matter how close they are to you. Even, if he's your husband. I remember the days I had to act like I was lesser - less intelligent etc, I went along with him on whatever he said/suggested -just so my oh-so-lovely ex wouldn't feel like he didn't match up to me. It's OK for a while. But for a lifetime?
It can be pretty tiring, and trying.

This is my experience, OK. The gist of the story is, put on any mask, but make sure you are still you. You just don't want to wake up one day and wonder what the hell smells so bad, when what you're used to is the fresh aroma of coffee.

That said, I wish you all the best in what's to come - engagement, marriage and motherhood.


LeSScAkAp said...

yup masks are something that like it or we wear, just that like kakak said never compromise who u are for the sake of others (sounds selfish but hey.. so what)

you are great which ever mask you wear and i love u in any mask sistah!


anna r said...

Kakak: yes, funnily enough, i learnt never to compromise who I am by watching your relationship with your oh so lovely ex. No offence, but during those times, I made a promise to myself to never ever let a man make me feel unworthy. And thankfully, Eddie has never allowed me to feel less than what I am. He knows our standing is different. But the good thing is...he's doing everything that he can to be on the 'same level' as me. And just to be clear, I never said or indicated anything to's just an open secret that he decided to address. And in a way, his family are quite grateful that he's taking that turn too.

Less Cakap, Mr Wordless: you of all people should know that I will not let ANYONE compromise my beliefs. You were there with me on New Year's Eve. You witnessed what happened my friend.

And thank you :) You are definitely one of those friends I feel incredibly protective over, and laugh and cry with too. And I'm glad you've allowed me to get to know your family :)