I'm 45. That's not really much of a secret; it is a fact that can be discovered through some basic research into readily accessible documents, or by asking me. I'm 45 and I have decided that maybe I'm just getting too old for secrets.
There is a major recurring theme in much art, that of the hidden truth. Billy Joel sang of the "face that we hide away for ever", our superheroes have secret identities and our breakfast cereals hide "a smooth chocolate center." Shakespeare wrote of the tension between what we show the world and what we are and Woody Allen asked many of the same questions about appearance and reality in plays like "Death." I just feel like I, squarely in very early middle age, am sick and tired of having to carry around the secrets and skeletons which make me who I am. I want to come to terms with my real identity, and stop harboring all the little confidences I keep with myself. I want to do away with the lies I have to tell to maintain the version of myself that any person sees and I want to be accepted for who I really am. I want to send out emails telling people what I really think and challenging them to accept me for who I am. I want to look at myself in the mirror and be OK with all the things I hide from even myself.
So why don't I? Is it because I know that there isn't a single context in which the real and raw me would fit in? It is because I understand that we all play this little game, showing what we want people to see about us in our public personas and adapting our facade to each context, subtly and silently shape shifting as the situation demands? Is it because the social contract requires that we adopt a code of rules and etiquette in order not to descend into sheer anarchy? Maybe it is because I'm afraid. Maybe I'm afraid that deep down inside, there is no deep down inside. Maybe I am like a parfait or an onion (h/t Shrek) but when you peel back all the layers, there is nothing there. So I would go around, being blunt and brutally honest with each and everyone, and then find that even that exercise was simply another artifice in order to create another false front of "me." And maybe I can't handle that any more than anyone can handle the absolute truth from anyone else.
One of the freakiest bits of TV I recall seeing during my childhood was in an episode of The Muppet Show. In it, Kermit has a conversation with Peter Sellers. Here is the clip -- the scary part is between 38 seconds and 1:15. Its not what I'm afraid I'll find, but that I won't find anything.
So I go on smiling and nodding, with thoughts swirling around my head and being kept inside. I walk around doing what I should, not always what I want. I say the right things (most of the time...the other times, I try but mess up) because that's what I am supposed to say. I play at this game of being human, protecting the world from what is beneath the surface and protecting myself from what might not be beneath that.