One of the most divisive and political issues that has come out of the pandemic has been the wearing of masks. For some reason, the mask mandate was seen by many as an infringement of their freedom which always confused me. In my mind, the freedom to stay healthy by not catching a virulent virus fully outweighed the request to cover my face when I was out in public. I wasn’t sure why wearing a mask during a deadly pandemic was such a radical concept. If we looked at photos from the Spanish flu pandemic, everyone was wearing a mask. And even then, as now, hundreds of thousands of people died.
To say it became, and still is, an emotional issue is an understatement. Entire states have scoffed at the idea that we are even in a pandemic, accusing the media of making stuff up, and inflating the numbers of dead. Why? Why would anyone do that? In any case, with all of the noise around the issue, it was necessary to bring the whole thing down to my own little microcosm of life, and I am here to say, I, and my entire family, have worn a mask since the beginning, and even fully vaccinated, I plan to continue wearing one especially in large crowds.
However, some interesting observations have come out of this event. Communicating with a mask on is an exercise in good enunciation. It also means I find myself leaning forward to listen or speak at times which of course violates the other piece of advice during this pandemic; staying 6 feet apart. What’s a person to do? I have found myself speaking louder and sometimes repeating myself before the person I am speaking to gets my drift. At other times if a person has tried to repeat something to me multiple times and I can’t grasp what they are saying, I just nod, which is not the best way to communicate. Goodness knows what I have agreed to!
There are definite advantages to keeping your face covered, of course. As a woman of Italian descent, I have spent my whole life trying to keep the facial hair off of my face or at least at bay. Wearing a mask allows me to go longer without the dreaded waxing and plucking although my husband has complained on more than one occasion. However, he has grown a full beard during our quarantine days so I have to say he doesn’t quite have a decent argument. Also, I have saved some serious money on lipstick this past year, so again, he’ll have to deal with my fuzzy upper lip a bit longer.
What has really become evident to me in the past few months is the behavior of people I meet when I am out. Oh, definitely, there are those who look at me strangely and one lady told me I looked stupid wearing a mask. Since, in an effort to promote more kindness in the world, I try to say nothing if not nice, I only thought that she looked stupid for not wearing one. But generally I have found people to be…courteous! Polite! We actually greet each other. We smile more with our eyes. We have become creative with the pieces of cloth that cover us; pretty prints, colors, social messages, company logos. The First Lady wears masks that match her outfits. Masks have become fashion statements and has spawned numerous small businesses who provide masks for sale or for fund raisers. The lowly mask’s time has come.
The most significant outcome I have found in all of this is that we are actually listening to each other. Okay, maybe not the times I have agreed to something just so the person would not have to repeat what they said for the 100th time, but overall. In order to hear someone speaking with a mask on, you have to give them your attention. You have to look at them, and really listen. And suddenly, we all feel heard! Not only that, if a person is wearing a mask while trying to speak to me, I feel respected! And despite those who continue to deny we have ever been in a pandemic, even as many of those deniers are getting sick with the virus, and some actually dying of it (see my thought regarding the careless woman’s stupidity above), the tide is turning. Many of us who complied with wearing a mask are also getting the vaccine. Even with that I will wear my mask but I am now comfortable going out for drinks, listening to outdoor live music, meeting up with friends (also vaccinated) or just having life return to some normalcy. Isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that what we all stayed sheltered for for over a year? Can I hear it from the person in the back?
Let’s face it, it’s been a long 14 months and we are all so tired. But a snazzy piece of cloth over my nose and mouth doesn’t stop me from living my life. In fact, it may have saved my life. And that says more than anything.