Malachi’s Monday Musings

I’m excited to share another guest blog post from Malachi Kelly.


The use of masks and disguises by humans goes back millennia. 

Originally used for rituals and to distinguish hierarchy or power, masks have been on the go from 7000BC.

Made from leather or wood, not many of these have survived the ravages of time. A false face was never meant to last.

Moving to Georgian times, we see a preponderance of paper masks used at balls and galas to cover the upper part of the face in a grotesque, frightening way or to mystify a lady’s identity. 

This type of mask proved cumbersome, being held on a stick. A lady was forced to be a one-armed bandit for the evening if she didn’t want her ‘face to slip’.

So powders and paints replaced the mask. Edwardian beauties had pale complexions and rosy cheeks. To whiten their faces, enamel paint was used with white lead (which we now know is toxic). Rice powder or pearl powder was applied as a finishing touch, and in some cases, it was the ‘finishing touch’. 

As open fires were the main source of heat ladies gathered around the hearth to chat and gossip (all the rage years ago). It was soon evident that too long at the fire gave you a sagging face as the paint melted; not the look desired. The fire was now masked with a guard which stopped the heat getting to the ladies picturesque faces – and also the room – a minor sacrifice to Vanity.

Gentlemen were left in the cold physically so quickly organised “The Club” as their favoured escape. In time a new industry was born to service the insatiable  desire to mask one’s natural looks with, well shall we say “Muck!”

I remember my own mother chastising her daughters with, “You’re not going out with your face painted with that muck on!”

But I digress.

The fashion in the 1900s was still a pale complexion. A tan look was working-class or inferior as a lady did not go out in the sun. 

The look had to be youthful and vibrant, yet the make-up itself unseen. 

And so the art of deception, the dark skills of deceit were practised daily sometimes to the point were husbands asked to be introduced to their own wife, the change being so dramatic.

On we go to the present day. Multi-billion dollar empires have influenced and encouraged people of the necessity to alter, to conform to ‘The Look’, ‘The Shape’ and ‘The Fashion’ of our time.

The mask has morphed to a MONSTER.

The thought that strikes real fear into a modern populous is not a lack of toilet rolls or beans, not losing your job, or pubs and hotels closed. Not the grounding of airlines and road transport. Not even death! 

It is the realisation that this social distancing means beauty salons are shut. Nail bars and hairdressers cut off. Massage parlours rubbed out. Designer fashion and shoe shops get the boot… and nature’s cruel truth reappears.

Roots shoot. Fifty shades of grey make a comeback. Crow’s feet and turkey-necks; Blackheads and double chins; Hairy eyebrows and haggard nails reappear overnight.

Husbands stare in shock across the breakfast bar. Children call you “Granny?”

But don’t be disheartened. Our present crisis is working somewhat in your favour. The mask is making a return to our lives ­– the perfect reason to be up with today’s latest world fashion and still hide the real you!

Malachi Kelly, poet, playwright and opinionist.