“This week has been about the Brave Face and the power of female friendship”.
I have worn the metaphorical mask that is the Brave Face, full frontal this week following some recurring bad news (which is deliberately generic because we have all been there – we all have ordinary problems). Concerned relatives, female friends and colleagues have been out in full force forming a steady stream of visitors as my house became a revolving door. I’ve been overwhelmed by their support but still felt the need to maintain some control by keeping up the pretence that “I’m fine”. But why do we feel need to wear the Brave Face when we know it’s ok to cry?
Like many modern women, I’m accustomed to the British expectation, that crumbling emotions are not only undesirable but off limits. At times, we don’t want to make our sympathisers uncomfortable when we talk about what happened and sometimes we get tired of repeating details to different people so it’s easier to repeat that “everything is ok”. Where we work my also have an impact on us; professionalism may become an automatic reaction and therefore we require the Brave Face in a bid to avoid weakness.
Naturally, I have worn the Brave Face as protection and armour against being ‘caught off guard’. It can fight against the pity looks and sympathetic head tilts which, however well meaning, can remind you that something sad happened to you. The Face can also help us to heal; if you look like you’re coping, you might morph into actual coping and that’s ultimately where we want to be.
No doubt you’ve worn the Brave Face yourself and you probably found that it needs some adjusting. Sometimes you wear it and you’re not sure if it suits you. Other times, you might decide to take it off temporarily, if you’re feeling that all the constant bravery is too much. After all, you’re not a soldier, despite feeling like you’re in the wars. And sometimes, the mask simply betrays you. It leaves you to bare all your secrets when you least expect it.
Decidedly, I dealt with things in this seemingly courageous way, only to then cry buckets when the Brave Face abandoned me and I was left with the old faithful ‘heart on my sleeve’ in its place. The two of them can’t bloody sort themselves out to find a happy medium.
My honest, uncompromising reflection looked back at me. I tested out the smile to see what my supporters would be seeing. I was transparent. I’d thought that the Brave Face would show my strength like a true female superhero (Catwoman or Batwoman? I couldn’t find any other female superheroes who wear masks…please will some clever woman create one?) but it turns out it’s just my ordinary face. My ‘heart on my sleeve’ face has never been able to disguise my true feelings. The face that wears every emotion even when it’s annoyed, proud or just simply drunk. It was all there and no masquerade was hiding it. Is that so bad?
During bouts of tea and sympathy, the mask eventually fell off completely (perhaps my face was too sweaty?) Nevertheless, my team of Ordinaries have been on hand with tea and bags of edible sugary things. Armed with tissues to mop up tears, they’ve nodded knowingly, cuddled me and cried in unison as I’ve smiled through details reliving the sadness, all in the name of ‘sharing is caring’. It did feel better to talk it through after finding myself repeating “I’m fine” when asked how I felt. Still, I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed the flowers, treats and their company.
This week, I’ve been reminded of the power of sympathy, tea and togetherness. Sharing similar stories with friends who have relived their own sadness in a show of empathy. Or having friends and family reach out over the phone and texting to take your mind off “it”. We’ve moved onto memories and reminiscing about old times which have all helped me through. This week has been a reminder that there’s nothing quite like the power of female friendship to lift your spirits.