When did this become normal?
This weekend, I suddenly realized something very odd about myself:
I have a favorite mask.
It’s black and silver and comfortable and goes with almost all my clothes. I realized it was my favorite when I thought I lost in during a recent trip. Fortunately, I found it in my bag.
But it’s a mask. When did masks become so normalized that I now have a favorite one?
Favorite shoes. Check. Favorite jeans. Check. Favorite sweater. Check. Favorite earrings. Check. Favorite mask. WHAT?
While pondering this, I realized something else. I have a second favorite mask. It’s a lot like the favorite, but it’s two shades of teal. It’s bright and pretty, so I like it. It’s comfortable, too.
And then this: I have a third favorite mask. It’s a burgundy-brown with velvety texture. It matches my purse.
All of these preferences have developed on a subconscious level. I wasn’t fully conscious of them until #1 mask appeared to go missing.
That’s just so weird, no?
In the beginning
I remember when the CDC first began advising us to wear masks. Just before that, federal officials were saying healthy people probably didn’t need to wear them, but news reports were coming in suggesting we might actually need them. It was a gray area.
I was more concerned about toilet paper at the moment. I had decided to go stand in line outside Sam’s a half hour before opening on the off-chance I could score some of the precious TP. There was a woman in line just before me, struggling to keep a bandana on her face. She seemed nervous and agitated. I finally suggested she fold her bandana like a triangle, and that seemed to help.
She looked around at the others in line and then at me again. “Do I look stupid wearing this mask?”
I told her she should do whatever made her feel safe and not worry about it.
She was so scared, though, and that’s why I remember her vividly. She left her cart in front of me (six feet away, of course, even then) and went to sit in her car. It was pretty cold. My fingers were frozen. When she saw people asking me about the cart, she came running back. A friend of hers walked by, and she called out to her. The friend turned, and Bandana Lady threw her hands up, calling out, “Not too close, please!”
I did get some toilet paper that day, and I do remember the CDC recommending masks shortly after that. I’m sure that eased Bandana Lady’s anxiety somewhat. I hope so, anyway.
And then this happened
One night, I was going into Walgreens. We’d all been wearing masks about a year at that point. As I was walking in, I saw a man and woman coming across the parking lot. Suddenly, the woman cried out, “We forgot our masks,” and both turned to jog back to their truck.
We forgot our masks.
There was a time when I would have whipped out my cell phone and called the police. “Um, yeah, I think these people are going to rob the store. They just said they forgot their masks….”
Then I would have expected them to come back wearing Ronald Reagan or Richard Nixon masks, maybe Lyndon Johnson. (But not Jimmy Carter because he would never rob a Walgreens. Duh.)
And remember all those signs around Halloween on all the stores back in the day? “No Masks Allowed.” Now all the signs say “Masks Required.” And the people NOT wearing masks are the ones looking for trouble.
After the COVID era is over, are those anti-maskers going to assert their right to wear masks into stores?
I feel like we are in the “Upside Down.”
And what is this about?
I have written before about walking more during the pandemic. Those of us out walking for exercise or walking dogs don’t wear masks in my area but will take turns yielding the sidewalk by stepping temporarily into the street to maintain a safe distance.
The strangest thing I have seen while out walking is people riding around in their cars wearing masks. I mean, riding around ALONE in their cars wearing masks. Alone.
Oh, and the bling. Some people are starting to adorn their masks with bling. I do see how the mask necklaces or chains could be useful when people need to have the mask handy (like when ALONE in the car but headed to a public place) but want to let it hang around their necks for quick retrieval. Sometimes the bling doesn’t seem to serve a functional purpose and is just decoration.
The best things about wearing a mask
The most interesting change for the better in my case is that I rarely wear makeup anymore. What is the point? Maybe slap on a little concealer around the eyes and go, but that’s about it. I recently wore some makeup multiple days in a row, and not only did my skin protest by breaking out, but I felt greasy and uncomfortable the whole time.
I haven’t had a cold all winter. Nada. Zilch. I do wish all of us would continue the practice of wearing masks when we’re sick but need to go out or go to work or school. This year, though, the only issues I have had are the inevitable allergies that come with spring. And cat hair. Anyone who lives with cats knows the annoyance of trying to make a mask completely cat hairless.
When it was really cold outside, the mask was nice, too.
And no strange man has told me to smile all year long! Ah, the freedom of wearing a mask when one has Resting Bitch Face and can’t help it.
. . .
Additional editing and feedback provided by Susan Honea.