I am not often moved by poems.  Sometimes I find them entertaining or consider them well-written, but this is a poem that really struck me in a way I didn’t expect.  I actually found it in my Nonviolent Communication textbook for school, but I could relate it to my experience as a Third Culture Kid.  Can you?


retrieved from

“The Mask”- author unknown

Always a mask
Held in slim hand whitely
Always she had a mask before her face-

Truly the wrist  
Holding it lightly  
Fitted the task:
Sometimes however
Was there a shiver,
Fingertip quiver,
Ever so slightly-
Holding the mask?

For years and years and years
I wondered
But dared not ask
And then-
I blundered,
Looked behind the mask,
To find
She had no face.

She had become
Merely a hand
Holding a mask
With grace

Cool poem, right?!

When we first moved back to the States (age 8), I felt desperate to talk with people about Thailand… but I felt like I wasn’t allowed to.  As I have heard other Third Culture Kids confirm, there is a fear that talking about the last country you lived in will be perceived as attention-seeking, selfish, or just a way to show-off.  I had that same fear.  So even when I was desperate, I saved my Thailand-conversations for need-to-know moments.

Everyone around me couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just be happy to be living in the “land of freedom and opportunity”.  But how could I possibly be patriotic or proud to be in a country that I had just moved to for the first time?  Thailand was still home to me at that time.  It’s true that I still had an identity as an American by both citizenship and blood, but I didn’t want my American identity to hide my Thai identity.  This poem so well explains one of the biggest fears I had as a kid… that if I put on my American mask, Thailand would slowly disappear, and my real identity (whatever that was) would no longer exist.


Is it just me? or have you ever feared that you would become faceless if you accepted a new culture? Is this the source of prejudice?

1 thought on “Masks”

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