We are an adaptive bunch. When the proverbial sh-t hit the fan 5 months ago and we learned that mask wearing was going to be a thing, there was an initial, very brief, concern about being able to find any. But unlike the great toilet paper apocalypse, masks seemed to appear out of thin air. Pleas went out to reserve the medical-grade masks for essential workers, so virtually within moments there were paper-ish disposables available and Facebook videos about how to fold bandanas into masks. People like my sister, a crafty person and skilled seamstress, jumped in right away and started cranking out fabric masks with filter inserts. And since those early days, masks have become a daily wardrobe accessory – dare I say it – even a fashion statement.
I am well aware that there are those of you out there who have decided, for various reasons, to not wear a protective mask. Those who feel that way can stop reading this now. And NO, I do not need to hear from you. On the opposite end of the spectrum are all of the essential workers who I have been in awe of from the very beginning of this scariness, who have been wearing masks for 12+ hours every day or night. There are no words for the respect I have for those who have had to become pro’s at wearing protective gear with no break.
My focus here however is on the rest of us who are still kind of new to this whole thing. We are the ones who in the early days only put on a mask on the rare occasions we stepped out of our homes. It was a learning experience that went along with swimming in hand sanitizer, disinfecting everything around us, learning how to recognize a 6’ distance in a glance, and figuring out new songs to sing instead of Happy Birthday while washing our hands.
These days, depending on where you live, and your comfort level, some are venturing out more. Some are returning to work. That means that a lot of us are wearing masks a whole lot more. Instead of putting one on for a 15 minute trip to the pharmacy, we are learning what it is like to wear them for several hours. And if you are like me, that means that just a handful of dull and boring blue and white disposables won’t do. Oh, no, I gotta have a plethora to choose from to match my outfit, or my mood, or the heat and humidity level. I have installed a basket on the kitchen counter that holds sanitizer and masks. Who knew that would be a home décor item.
I worked at home for many weeks, and have now returned to the office, with all of those swell new routines and guidelines to be followed – including, of course, mask wearing. And I’ve learned a number of things. First, I always have a couple spare disposable masks in my car, along with my hand sanitizer. Because it only takes one time of going somewhere and realizing you have to turn around and go home because you forgot your face covering, to no longer be unprepared. Yet every morning, without fail, I will go out to my car, put my work stuff in, get ready to get in to drive, and have to get back out and go back inside to get my preferred mask du jour. I think my dog has learned she’ll see me again 10 seconds after I leave the first time.
There are other things I’ve learned that until now I could have happily lived without ever knowing. Like the fact that I apparently have a small face. If a mask doesn’t have one of those nifty wire grippy things to pinch around my nose, I will continually have to re-adjust and pull it up into place. And where others have masks that fit snugly, mine is always droopy and covers the entire lower half of my face. Yeah, I know, I could try a kid’s mask. But I just don’t necessarily think Hello Kitty or a Disney Princess looks good on this over 50 puss.
I have also learned that it’s not bad enough to already have combination skin and deal with menopausal blemishes. Because nose acne is a thing now. Great. Speaking of menopause, hot flashes have reached a whole new level of fun with cloth wrapped around one’s face.
Wearing this new wardrobe accessory has also meant I now say things I never dreamt I would utter. Things like “oooh, I love your mask, where did you get it?” “Ugh, I need a breath mint for myself.” “Is the leopard print too much?” “I’ve been practicing smizing, is it working?” “We should totally bedazzle these things.” And to my son: “ok, be careful, do you have your mask?” Of course there are also the now common discussions around ye ol’ 6-foot water cooler about how to keep eye glasses from fogging up, and how to take a drink of water during a meeting.
I do appreciate the creativity we are seeing, and the styles that are emerging. While I understand the frustration of not being able to see people’s mouths to be able to read lips or see smiles, some of the new designs I’ve seen sporting a clear panel are just a wee bit too creepy – although masks with funny sayings can give us chuckles we all need. I enjoy the creativity of the overall formats too. There’s the wild-west-outlaw look of the scarf/bandana that I see on some men… they look like they just got off their horse and are looking for the nearest saloon, or want to go rob a bank. Then there are the new moisture-wicking stretchy materials that loop around the neck and up over the face that make you look like you are about to go downhill skiing. If you have a larger head apparently than I do, there are knit mask extenders so you don’t have to suffer from sore ears. And I recently saw some masks for sale that were full of sequins. I suppose you just may have a formal event where a paisley cotton wouldn’t be sufficient.
Yes, masks are part of our wacky lives now. No one enjoys wearing them, but like it or not, they are a required necessity if we ever have a prayer of one day being able to emerge from our cocoons comfortably able to go free-faced. Until then, I will be one of the RW’s who continue to develop a collection of “pretty” masks. The past few months have given us all a lack of variety in so many aspects of our lives, we may as well try to add some color and fun and put our best face forward. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
You can’t tell, but I’m smirking.