Everyone has something to say about masks. Why should I be any different? I shall begin by relating some of my (unique?) experiences with these encumbrances. I have no pulmonary problems that I am aware of, but when wearing a relatively soft mask, its sides collapse in and out with my every breath. This resembles a bellows. I have found a device that is worn under the mask to keep it from collapsing. This plastic support/frame also keeps the mask away from your mouth—lipstick remains intact, if that is a concern to you (see photo above). There are anecdotal reports that such frames help with ‘mask acne.’ If one removes the mask and the support piece is still in place, one is reminded of Hannibal Lecter. Yikes.
Most mask straps get a choke hold on my ears and I look like Shrek. And I am very uncomfortable to boot. There is a risk that one of these stupid straps will hook on to the back of an earring and fling it into kingdom come when the mask is removed. Some first edition masks had two separate straps, one stretching across the crown of the head (would have messed up hairdos, but no one cares anymore), and the other lower on the hairline. Glasses on croakies, or necklaces, if taken off over this type of mask, can result in terrible tangles, even strangulation.
Early in my mask-wearing days I thought I was losing my hearing. I had to ask everyone that said anything to me repeat themselves. Or, trying to hold on to some semblance of pride, I would nod pleasantly and agree to heaven only knows what. A new syndrome—masks causing deafness in women of senior years, emerged. Then it became apparent that others, all ages and genders, were having this problem as well. I was a pioneer of an ENT condition rather than a laughing stock. Apparently, we rely on more than just hearing spoken words to figure out what someone is saying. Facial expressions, now excluding lip-reading, are very important in conveying meaning. Raised eyebrows mean disbelief, frowning eyebrows (lowered, scrunched) signify anger, crinkles in crow’s feet areas indicate a smile, on and on.
Two additional topics remain. Selecting a mask, and wearing a mask. Both of these are fraught with controversy. In my area of Atlanta, everyone is masked indoors in public spaces. These include grocery stores, pharmacies, service entities that are still open (hair salons, manicure businesses). Restaurants with outside seating or carefully spaced inside tables are still open and one can remove one’s mask to eat and drink. Shops in large malls require patrons to be masked. Outdoor masking is governed by how crowded the space is. One can still use one’s own judgement; what’s left of it, that is.
I have no idea why I am so incredibly annoyed at people that don’t cover their noses, only their mouths, with their masks. Should I accost these miscreants or exercise a skill that has taken me 30-40 years to master—minding my own business? The horns of a dilemma. Educating mask-wearers as to the proper position of their mask is, in a way, a public service. I could be saving countless lives. But how would my well intentioned interventions be received? Previous experience trying to convince shoppers, particularly in grocery stores, that the arrows on the floor indicated the correct direction for traffic flow to minimize exposure to the corona virus, were not well received. Still undecided about this.
Finally, for selection of a mask. Initially masks believed to be the most effective, safest, were sought. Those marked ‘KN95’ were favorites. Sidebar—who is marking these with a ‘KN95’ emblem? Prisoners who no longer make license plates? I’ve always been a wee bit suspicious of such labels. Now two competing factors are in place. Technology; masks with vents that puff out germ-laden air in the least harmful direction, and seal tightly around the face; or fashion statements. An entire cottage industry and beyond has evolved around producing designer, or funny, or startling, or political masks. Re designer masks, I’m not sure their advertisements include safety information. I might have overlooked that.
But don’t despair about having wasted money on a rhinestone-encrusted mask. The first vaccines are being loaded onto refrigerated trucks at warp speed(!) even as I type this. Ha. We must not let our guard down, continue to wear masks for weeks and probably months. A small price to pay when one thinks of it.
I pray for all of us.