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Two-Faced, New-Faced

When I first learned about sex, I was at my older cousin’s home. She gave me her ten-year-old version of where babies come from. I was confused, repulsed and rather skeptical. But not long after, I learned that she wasn’t far off when I got the whole version from my mother. After the initial surprise, came the realization that my parents must have done this a few more times, even as recently as a few months prior. (My mother was pregnant at the time.) Gross.

Regardless of whether or not you think parents should be completely open with their children about sex (some have a literal “open door” policy), as heirs of puritanical tradition, most people keep their sexual experiences behind closed doors, and that’s what society expect from adults. Unaccepted are hipster-nudists that express every sexual act and thought. The world would be a different place if everyone were an open book about all the intimate aspects of their lives. I am not advocating that they do this. It’s not the world in which we live. Couples who do this would be in the minority and risk losing relations. Most bosses are intolerant of witnessing your sadist suspension fetish. Most neighbors will decline to see your group pony play. So until standards change, most of us hide aspect of our sexual lives from purview, even from those closest to us—especially our own children.

A few months ago while touring a museum I came across a “two-faced” bust. The bearded man had a nearly identical face on the back of his head. (Actually there was no back of his head; either face could be the front.) The phrase “two-faced" came to mind along with its negative connotation of presenting one aspect of ourselves in one situation then presenting a contrasting version in a different situation. I googled the two-faced statue and learned that he’s a Roman god that has nothing to do with being deceptive or incongruous. Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions. He looks to both the past and the future. His two faces are an admirable attribute rather than a representative of deception.

Janus caused me to think of modern symbols of duality: almost every comic-book hero. Superman hides his mild-mannered persona to protect Lois and his parents. Spiderman hides Peter Parker to protect Aunt May. Batman hides Bruce Wayne because, well, because he’s a psychological train-wreck. Their creators know the dangers of sharing the atypical aspects of oneself, and these are just two-dimensional fictional characters. In contrast to comical characters, we real humans are multi-faceted individuals (more faces than just two), so aren’t easily individually classified. No one wants to be reduced to mere labels, and categorization doesn’t do justice to the variations that we each bring to relationships. However few people take the time to know any of us in our entirety, so we chose to display only a few congruent attributes depending on the situation: the demure den mother in khakis, the stern woman in gray pantsuit with her hair pulled taut, the rouged bombshell in stilettos and a skimpy sequined dress. In reality, they’re all the same woman comporting herself according to each environment, and hiding the incongruities.

And that’s absolutely great!

Not all bosses are tolerant of witnessing your sadist suspension fetish. Not all neighbors want to see your group pony play.

I too have a secret identity. Not many people get to meet Catwoman, and those who do rarely know that in real life she’s Selina Kyle. Maintaining separate identities is not only protective, it also allows a comfortable and intense expression of the intimate self. Such a release is a beneficial release for both egos.

My advice is to let loose at the masquerade ball, and warn the kids to stay out of your closet.

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