This image has been posted all around Milan for the past weeks to promote M.I.N.T., an international show dedicated to both modern art and antiquities. Thus the metaphor of the older woman with the mask of the younger woman's face.
Never mind the fact that its purpose was clearly spelled out; it might as well have read: "Charlotte Moore. This is (for) you." Because every time I saw it—and I saw it everywhere—I felt like I was looking at a public unveiling of my own current psychological make-up. It perfectly illustrates the way I see myself, except that at times, the face and the mask are in reverse relationship.
It's like this: some days, I'm young inside (so young, so ten-years-old, so willing to dance naked, high kick, act silly just because it'll feel good) yet the face that I see in mirrors betrays me. Other days, my face has the miraculously youthful glow of a time traveler in reverse, but my heart and mind feel the weight of years. Things are hard in this "sandwich" time of life; truths come a-knocking that we were—once upon a time—mirthfully oblivious to. I don't think I'm old; I'm not. But I am getting older, and it's a bizarrely complicated dance. Things aren't in sync. The face says one thing. The mind behind it says something else. And then they get all tricky and trade places. Things aren't linear and orderly; they are liquid and inconsistent, and as Janet once wrote in her greatest (in my opinion) unproduced script of all time, messy. Life is messy.
I don't even know how to get dressed in the morning sometimes, because I don't know what me I'm going to be that day. What will I project? Anything? What will I try to convince the world? Will I be able to pull it off? What will be comfortable? What do I really feel like having against my ever more ornery skin? Who, exactly, am I these days?
When Janet and I were preparing to write RIPE, we conducted some informal research among our friends and I remember very clearly one of the respondents saying that she felt that people judged her based on her appearance and that it was horrifically unfair, because inside—inside—she was someone else. I know what she meant. At a certain stage in my life, I too was probably guilty of looking at older women and either making assumptions about them or sort of erasing them from my field of vision. I didn't dislike them or find them bothersome, I just wasn't interested. Now I study them all every chance I get, trying to find where the mask starts and stops, and who the woman really is. And I've noticed that these very same women look at me, and there is in their eyes a kindness I never would have expected. A complicity. They know about the mask-thing too. And they know about the layers, and about the difficulty of really being seen for who you are.
The M.I.N.T. show ended yesterday. But the streets are still full of masked women. It's just that now we are not in photographs. We are just our selves populating this city that sometimes sees us, but most often does not.