“Sweetie if you’re gonna be two-faced at least make one of them pretty.” Marilyn Monroe

2 facedimagesThe Roman god Janus as the god of beginnings and transitions has two faces, allowing him to look both to the future and to the past. This unique talent meant he presided over the beginning and ending of any conflict, and  by extension,  over times of war and peace. The Romans named the first month in their calender, January, after him and on the first day of January they exchanged dates, figs and honey and made cakes from spelt and salt which were offered up to Janus as gifts. He was considered a very important god, if not one of the most important, especially since he is associated with all things of a changing nature. In our less lofty world however, the idea of being two- faced  is far less holy and divine. We vilify such a trait, perfectly executed by Othello‘s infamous Maciavellian schemer and manipulator Iago, perhaps the most evil and treacherous of all Shakespeare’s villains. “Honest Iago” who so expertly dupes everyone that none suspect him or anything he says despite how malicious or false his accusations and whispers may be. Now I am not saying that all two-faced people are quite as vile as Iago but what I am saying is just how pervasive and destructive such people can be. Obviously that such a person exists is not a modern concept and this saddens me a little, but then I wave goodbye to the fairies at the end of my garden and swallow a healthy dollop of reality. Of course such people exist, and not only exist, but thrive , so what we must learn is how to deal with them. How not to end up like Othello and co. falling for the lies and  you know killing those we love. I think we all experience a little bit of two-faced behaviour on a weekly basis – gossip, aspersions cast our way-  but most of it is probably quite harmless. Not that I’m condoning it but I think we all dabble in a little Janusness , if even just to keep our sanity as we let off steam with one friend/family member about another friend or family member. But I see these as momentary lapses and not hardcore manipulation. However recently I had the unpleasant experience of encountering the latter, whereby an acquaintance presented herself to me and others as one thing when in reality, I discovered after she was quite the opposite. She had fooled me and others and had done such a good job of it that when early in our relationship she passed some observations about yours truly I was thrown and  was only after a few choice words from someone else was then able to process them and put them in the bin where they belonged. However hers was such a pretty face that I never for one second doubted her intentions or her judgments ; I doubted myself, but never her. And then by chance I heard something about her and then like the proverbial dominoes her reputation fell. Other pieces of information came to light and I realised just how wrong I had been and how easily I had fallen under her spell. Now no one died because of her duplicitous nature, her schemes, for me anyway ,have had no lasting impact other than I’m kicking myself for allowing her words  to cause me to doubt myself. But with each kick my defenses get stronger so in the long run she did me no harm; but there are others who can and do cause harm with their multiple faces. And when we are younger we are less able to recognise someone for what they are which can cause permanent damage and hurt. Like the god himself, the two-faced person thrives on conflict.The temple of Janus opened during  time of wars and only closed during the occasional and very rare times of peace. So keep that in mind as you encounter those folks who ” …smile, and smile,and be a villain-.” (And yes I know that’s from Hamlet but it is from one of my favourite Shakespeare speeches. )

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