Eight months ago, for the first time in my life, I found out that I had to wear a mask in order to be able to go to Walmart or Target. I would never have guessed that I would have to don a mask to do something simple as picking up a jug of milk, depositing money at a bank, or shopping for clothes. Even today, eight months in, I am still in awe at the fact that we have to wear a mask to do some of these simple, and yet essential errands previously taken for granted.
And yet, now I have embraced this new norm. Now, grabbing a mask before walking out the door is just as normal to me as grabbing my phone and keys. Being equipped with a mask is now firmly ingrained into the very mechanism of society. It has now been a way of life, and so when the day comes when we can finally take off our mask, I’m afraid that that will seem very different and weird.
Why I Actually Like To Wear A Mask
In the beginning
In the beginning, I did not like wearing a mask. In the beginning, the few times I slipped my mask on, I immediately had to take it off again. I felt trapped and claustrophobic. It was hard to breathe, and I’ve never had any trouble with breathing before (knock on wood). I would talk and then I would feel my warm breath rising and then getting stuck in that small space between my mouth and the fabric mask. Feeling that warm air trapped with nowhere to go, it was not a comfortable feeling.
Besides the feeling of trapped air, I did not much like how the elastic loops fit around my ears. It was as if the loops were stretching across my face. It was as if the loops were trying to keep my ears together, even though that was totally not necessary. It was as if I was wearing a straitjacket, but for my face. I don’t even know what it’s like to wear a straitjacket, though I can probably guess it is not the most comfortable of sensations.
The adjustment period
A few weeks later, I found that it got easier to wear a mask. I soon noticed that I wasn’t bothered by the warm air rising and getting trapped in between face and cloth. I soon noticed that the ear loops didn’t hurt. Soon I realized that wearing a mask felt no different than not wearing one. The difference was a piece of cloth pressed up against my nose and mouth.
I suspect that one big reason that it got easier is because I wasn’t the only one wearing a mask. As with other things, peer pressure is such a huge factor in helping me to bridge the adjustment period. The fact that I saw other people wearing masks, but what’s more in a way that seemed comfortable, helped me to eventually feel comfortable wearing one. It’s like the common saying monkey see, monkey do. What we see tends to be what we become.
And now, I have decided that I do like wearing a mask. I like wearing a mask for many reasons. For one, even though it’s the south, it still gets pretty cold here. Therefore, it’s nice to wear something on my face that can keep my face warm. Everyday that I step outside in 40 or 50 degree weather, I count my lucky stars for having to wear a mask. I’ve always said, even since I was little, that there should be what we call cheek warmers, like earmuffs but designed to keep our cheeks warm. That would have saved me many frozen and pink cheeks.
For another, I like how I can wear a mask and not be automatically obligated to smile. Pre-covid, when someone smiles at you, then it’s expected that you smile back. Otherwise, they think that you are rude or grumpy. But these days, you really can’t smile back, because no one can see it. There is definitely I think less societal pressure to act a certain way, and I like that. I like the freedom that it gives us to be or do what we want. Covid may have taken from us the freedom to shop sans mask, but ultimately it has given us the freedom to express ourselves in more ways than one.
Covid has given us all the opportunity to nourish our creative sides. Whether that is by making and even selling masks for other people to wear, or by creating another way of acknowledgement to another human being. Instead of smiling, we can nod, or wink, or wave. There is more than one way that we can convey positivity to others. Despite the bleak outlook, I am glad that we have all found a way to see the light and not let the mask literally and figurately stop us from letting that light in.
I don’t know for how long we will continue to wear a mask. I suspect that it won’t be any time soon. After all, people are still getting and even dying from covid. The pandemic is still here, which means that we should all continue to take every precaution because it could come back stronger again.
I am sure that there will be a time when we can finally go to a store without a mask on. I wonder what that will be like. I wonder what it will be like to talk to someone without there being a barrier separating us. I wonder what it will be like to not have to worry about whether or not we’ve washed our mask, or whether we remembered to bring one. I wonder what it will be like to be able to talk to someone without sounding muffled or be able to hear someone clearly.
Just thinking about this makes me feel as if we are living in another world. To get to that place sans mask sounds unbelievable to me. I know we were in that place a year ago, but I can’t imagine anymore a world that was like that. That place a year ago sounds unbelievably foreign and alien.
And yet, I know that one day we will again live in a world in which we won’t have to wear a mask. We will one day live in a world in which we don’t have to wonder if that person could have covid. We don’t have to constantly wash our hands and put on hand sanitizer. We can just live and not worry about those things. But if we did, then what happens to us? Perhaps it would be for the best if we kept wearing masks. After all, wearing masks can help to stop the spread of colds and other ailments, not just covid. If one good thing can come out of all this, it is that we should continue to be vigilant and wear masks.