Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Of Masks and Bras

“Who was that masked man?” I remember the Lone Ranger and his mystique. He could do good deeds without sullying them with self-aggrandizement. His mask kept him humble. Other commonly appearing masks hid identity for bad guys robbing banks or protected farmers or Bedouins from sandstorms. As kids, we liked wearing masks to enhance the drama of our play, and masks at Halloween were practically mandatory. (No one complained they were being persecuted when they wore a rubber facsimile of a zombie.) But what about today…aside from virus concerns, of course. What are the side benefits of wearing masks?

Face warmer: First, I’ve been impressed with the power of my mask to warm my face as I walk outdoors in bitter cold that turns the rest of my body into a lumpy popsicle. Unfortunately, the warm, moist air inside the mask also makes me sneeze—a fact that warns fearful people away from me—which may or may not be a good thing when I’ve already spent countless hours separated from human contact. I think I’m beginning to devolve into a lesser human form, capable of bursts of mental sarcasm in response to what’s happening around me—which makes the next advantage essential. 

Privacy: At last I’m not only difficult to identify, but the telltale facial expressions that once got me in trouble are mine alone. I can grimace all I like, and no one knows. I can even stick out my tongue or mouth expletives if I do it discreetly. I’m free to be me in my rawest form as long as I don’t use too much of my face or my eyes. I am contained in my own little world. 

Sadly, that also means I can’t smile greetings at people, a practice I often cultivated in bare face days. But the other day I was required to spend time in an eye care facility that’s embracing mass production lines with enforced cheer. (One day soon I’m certain patients will be locked into chairs that zoom along like Disney rides from one examination station to another in record time.) The Stepford Wives-style automatic niceness of the employees was so plastic and impersonal that I began to feel afraid. What were my eye drops REALLY going to do to me? Would I emerge grinning stupidly at everyone and reciting social niceties in a script loop as they did? It was terrifying.

Personal grooming options: I’m not the only woman who once paid untold dollars to modify and enhance the attractiveness of my lower face who is now at liberty to opt out. Lipstick is more of a hazard than a necessity as it smears onto the mask. Women whose faces betray creeping years or too many hours in the sun don’t have to fret over those weird lines that fold around their lips like closed umbrellas, telltale frown/jowl lines, or stray hairs or pimples that suddenly appear overnight like defiant weeds in a tidy garden. Blush is optional. Men can decide how well they want to shave…but I suppose they’ve had that choice for a while now even without masks.

Finally, the filtering aspect of masks serves many purposes. For me, I welcome being rescued from particulates, pollen, or pollutants in the air as I walk or wipe dust from treasures left in my basement. I don’t have to spend the remainder of my day wiping my nose—which, happily, no one can see if it’s red or swollen. And the world has been given a reprieve from the flu. It’s practically gone because we aren’t infecting one another as we were, and those who suffered annually have to be glad, even if they do feel imprisoned by a face covering. Be honest: isn’t it great to be free of flu? Who misses vomiting? Remember how COVID-19 belittlers used to tell us about the thousands of people who die each year from flu—as though those deaths approach the half-million (and climbing) victims of COVID-19 in the United States alone.

I hate wearing double masks. I’ll admit it. I need to stay away from the heavy cloth masks that restrict breathing dramatically, and I’ve discarded adorable homemade masks constructed by well-meaning sewers because the short elastic ear loops make them pop off my ears at inopportune moments. But, overall, I’m resigned to wearing a mask or two indefinitely until I know I won’t be a carrier and infect people who haven’t yet received vaccination. I understand the need to halt the spread of the original virus so it doesn’t have the leisure to percolate in unprotected people until it can transform into a variant that’s deadlier yet. I get it. It’s time to think beyond the self for the good of us all. So I accept masks as I once accepted bras, which I also hated and still do. Mom made me wear one.

One comment on “Of Masks and Bras

  1. Frances Sullivan
    February 28, 2021

    SO good. … fold around their lips like closed umbrellas… is a superb word-picture. And for sure, I don’t like brad but they, like masks, serve a purpose definitely. x

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