As the CDC and local governments begin to take steps in returning the world back to “normal” not everyone is ready to hit the ground running.
As a bit of an introvert, I have enjoyed the reprieve that the pandemic has allowed. The slower pace, the lack of demands, and even the face coverings was a nice break in societal obligations. Though I am excited about the prospect of traveling again, and having certain traditions restored, there are some things that I wouldn’t mind holding off on a bit longer – such as overcrowded restaurants and a packed calendar. As co-workers and neighbors express joy in finally being freed of their mask, I find myself feeling anxious and unwilling to surrender my face covering. This fact causes me a certain measure of anxiety as I attempt to understand why.
I like wearing a mask. Even in the beginning, I rather enjoyed it. Yes, It can be hot. Yes, it causes my glasses to fog up. Yes, some days it makes my ears hurt and my chin to breakout. But those are just temporary issues that eventually balanced out the longer you wore the mask (and let me just say that I have to wear it all day for both my jobs). Wearing a mask, however, has become an extension of my personality, a fun accessory, much like shoes. I have customized ones that gave a clue of my interests and likes, adding a bit of fun to the mundane outfit. They make me feel pretty, accentuating one of my better features – my eyes. They helped hide yawns, pouts, and wrinkles. When I wear a mask I feel empowered, confident, and bold while simultaneously being incognito.
I also liked other people wearing a mask because if I couldn’t remember a person’s name I simply said, “I didn’t recognize you with the mask on.” It was a great scapegoat. Working with the public and especially in a retail pharmacy, it also gave me a certain level of protection . I didn’t worry about flu or strep quite as much as I have in years past. I also enjoyed how masks forced people to make eye contact and listen. It was a reminder to give people space instead of standing on top of one another at the checkout line. I worry that some of these basic courtesies will be lost as the mask mandates are lifted.
So why do I say all of this? Because when so many are excited and ready to be liberated, there are others who are feeling a good deal of distress. It can be overwhelming and shocking to the system to suddenly see faces where once there had only been eyes. Restaurants and stores that were quiet due to being at only half-capacity and less are suddenly noisy and crowded, this can feel alarming and an attack on the senses. So when you see someone, still wearing their mask, even after this has all quieted down, don’t judge, mock, or attack them, but be empathetic, understanding, and respectful that they may be dealing with other issues that extend beyond Covid-19.
In time, I know that I will return to not wearing my mask. I will adjust to seeing faces and being in crowds and even having a full calendar, but this is not something society can determine for me. I have to go at my own pace, and comfort level. There is no right or wrong in this. Just as an individual may choose to wear a jacket or jeans in the summer, so might one chose to wear their mask after the requirement is lifted. Let us be supportive and kind to one another as this crazy wold continues to change and evolve. Nobody shames Batman for wearing his mask after all ;P