“The smiles of the unhappiest are often the widest.” – Mokokoma Mokhonoana
In Jerry Stahl’s memoir, Permanent Midnight, he shares his story of being a successful television writer by day and going into the bowels of Los Angeles at night to score heroin. It is a common trope in addiction memoirs — the double life. But if you scratch the surface of many memoirs, you will discover that on some level the protagonist is frequently pretending.
Masks come in many different shapes and styles. There is often a disconnect or a dissonance between the external and internal world in a memoir.
Do you see where this experience may live in your story? Do you see where you are keeping secrets, from others, or even from yourself? What are you not admitting to yourself? Where in the story are you allowing yourself to be taken advantage of? Or perhaps are you the one taking advantage? Notice where you might be unwilling to speak your truth, to stand up for yourself, or to let go of some form of vice. Nobody is all good or all bad.
The journey of memoir often involves the integration of our public and private selves by relinquishing our mask. Do you see your protagonist’s impulse to pretend? Where are they withholding the truth from themselves or others?
Notice where this impulse may live in the opening of your story. Explore deep into your story to find a context for how this impulse is shed by the end.