Masks: an unpopular opinion

 Here’s the thing: I’m fine with wearing a mask. As in, I’m genuinely fine with it. Not only does wearing one not bother me, but…I honestly kind of like it.

The discourse on masks has mainly centered on their use being a mutual-protection kind of thing, which is absolutely true, and I have a whole lot of things to say about the degree to which this particular pandemic crisis has really exposed the degree to which a deeply depressing percentage of Americans simply have no investment in being parts of a larger, functioning society. Many see masks as just one more battlefield on which they can fly their “Don’t tread on me!” freak flags, but even as full of shit as that is, I have to note that I don’t much like the usual response:

“Hey, I hate wearing this thing, too! It sucks! I hate breathing through it and it makes me all sweaty and gross but I grit my teeth and do it because I’m a part of society!”
And hey, if you really really really hate wearing the mask, that’s your opinion. Like anything, it gets uncomfortable after a long enough time. The most comfortable underwear in the world reaches a point after the twelve-hour mark that…well, let’s just let that thought finish itself, shall we?
But for me, I can honestly report that from the vantage point of having been wearing a mask for close to a year and a half, it doesn’t bother me much at all to wear it for a length of time, even for most of my work day. I can breathe just fine. I don’t find that I’m getting any sweatier than usual, except for maybe when I had to do work outside on the really hot days of summer, and in that case, I have to be honest, it’s not as if the mask is the major factor in my general discomfort. In truth, I get to the point now where I forget the thing is even on my face to begin with. There have been moments when I lift my coffee mug to my mouth only to forget that I have to lower the mask to sip the stuff.
And we’re coming out a hot summer, but with cooler weather coming, let me say: masks rule when it’s cold out! I don’t have to wrap the scarf around my face when it’s cold, if I’m wearing a mask. This is huge. I remember being outside on windy days last winter with my mask on, and I never had the dry, chapped, wind-burned lip thing going on.

The other anti-mask thing I hear a lot is some variant of “Now I can’t see if you’re smiling!” or “I can’t tell what facial expression people are making!” And I’m, well, meh on that. As a longtime sufferer of “Resting Bitch Face” (that term sucks, by the way), the last 18 months of masking has been a deeply refreshing break from hearing “Smile!” or “Wow, you look really angry!” (when I’m almost certainly thinking along the lines of “Do I want a turkey sub or pizza for lunch today?”), on an almost daily basis. Our society’s insistence on performative perma-grins has bothered me for years, and the fact that so many of us find ourselves completely unsure of what to do with a person who isn’t SMILING CONSTANTLY is illustrative of a pretty superficial culture. The mask has been something of a leveler in that regard: you have to look people in the eye and listen to their words, their tone, and actually think about your interactions. I love that, and I also love that we’re not beating poor exhausted retail clerks and restaurant workers over the heads if they’re not smiling like we’re their long-lost cousin from Sheboygan.

Now, it did take me a bit to solve a few issues related to masks. My glasses did tend to fog up, but that problem went away when I insisted on getting masks with wire in the upper seams, so I could form the mask to the bridge of my nose; now, my glasses almost never fog up. One issue that I haven’t quite stomped out is related to my progressive lenses: a mask will, at times, push my glasses up slightly on my nose, which means that the lenses don’t quite line up anymore with my normal way of looking through them. This results in some occasional blurriness and now I’m reaching up to adjust my glasses pretty frequently as a habit. Not a bothersome thing, but it’s there.

I also decided very early on that masks with ear loops just irritate the hell out of me. This is a “Your mileage may vary” kind of thing, but the flesh behind my ears gets downright sore after a short while of this. There are some workarounds: some folks sell extender things that you can hook the loops to instead of your ears, but I’ve switched entirely to masks with loops that go around the head. In terms of comfort, this is far superior. The only issue there is a bit of finagling to get the mask cord to not interfere with my earbuds on the rare occasion that I’m wearing them with the mask.

So, in conclusion Your Honor: No, I don’t hate masks and I rather hope that they don’t become another “Hey, remember when” thing once COVID is in the rear-view mirror. (Of course, it won’t be in the rear-view mirror in the way that, say, smallpox is, because of reasons.) Hooray for masks!

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1 Response to Masks: an unpopular opinion

  1. Annehueser says:

    I have significant sensory issues especially around my face and head. My brain is much happier if I wear the mask when I am out and about. None of this sometimes I do and sometimes I don't stuff for that part of my brain. Plus wearing makeup was a significant issue I can avoid entirely by wearing a mask.

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