Just to be clear: I think wearing face masks in public and when around strangers is good, responsible, and important (even while maintaining six feet of distance). There is nothing I want more right now than for this virus to die out and for life to return to a semblance of normal. Not the normal we were used to (I think that normal is long gone), but something more akin to it than what we have now. If wearing a face mask gets us closer to that point, and helps prevent the spread of the virus to those who are particularly vulnerable, then I am all for it and will wear them as long as the models and trends indicate we should.
AT THE SAME TIME… holy moly does wearing them give me the thoughts.
- Face masks make me feel extremely claustrophobic. When wearing them, I get short of breath and my anxiety starts to rise. I do not like having my face covered. I feel stifled and a bit smothered. I don’t normally think of myself as claustrophobic, but wearing face masks is making me reconsider that. I would definitely not be chill if I were accidentally buried alive.
- I LOVE that people can’t see my face. Hot dang is this anonymity freeing! I normally feel so much internal (and social) pressure to be nice to people, to make everyone around me “feel good”, to feel seen. Well, with sunglasses and face mask on, there is no point in smiling at passersby because they wouldn’t see the dang smile anyway. It’s like serving homemade gnocchi to a cat — no ability to appreciate. Wearing a pass allows me to stay within myself and be a dispassionate, apathetic passerby. I LOVE IT.
- I HATE that I can’t see other people’s faces. So much of how I navigate my social surroundings is by reading the micro expressions on peoples’ faces. It’s amazing how little twitches in someone’s eyebrows or a slight movement of the lips can reveal nuances of emotion and state of mind. Seeing all these masked faces around me makes me feel unmoored, or rather untethered in public now. So many of my Highly Sensitive Person tools are useless, what with the ubiquity of PPE and Zoom in every facet of our interpersonal lives. Cut off at the proverbial Highly Sensitive knees, I am.
- I hate having a hot, sweaty face. Well, I hate having a hot, sweaty face when I’m not working out. With all this close me-breathing my face is constantly …. damp. I can feel my pores filling up with blech.
- I kind of feel part of a small subculture of Hawaii while wearing them. A lot of older, Asian women wear face masks all the time here. They were doing this way before COVID. (They are the REAL hipsters.) I feel oddly, very very slightly participatory in their world while wearing a mask. Now I just need to start taking our cats out on walks in an enclosed stroller and I’ll be fully immersed.