We Wear the Mask

I could use a lower facelift, maybe a couple of Juvederm injections. I’ve got my father’s prominent sagging jowls, and look a lot his older sister from a certain angle. Let’s face it: heredity and gravity are powerful when working in tandem. And although I am pleased to still have all of my teeth at my age, I can’t help but fixate on the gap that might have made me popular in Chaucer’s day, but now, just means I lacked orthodontia in my younger years. I readily admit that I can be my own worst critic, but I am not alone. Isn’t it funny that men rarely concern themselves about looks the way women do? Sadly, we are programmed to be self-critical from our teens when we start to commiserate with each other about hair that won’t cooperate or those last ten pounds that we can’t lose. I never did outgrow it.

So wearing a face mask has been an interesting experience for me. It has been kind of nice to worry only about eye make-up as I slip one on and head to the grocery store. I no longer wear foundation and blush, and after a particularly messy experience with smeared lipstick, I now skip that, too. But oddly enough, that bit of face covering has boosted my confidence. With a mask on, nobody notices the parts of my face which cause me insecurities. As far as the world can tell, I am flawless under there. Some days, I even fancy myself to be a woman of mystery, a covert spy, whose identify is hidden by a thin piece of cloth. like in those old black and white movies. What can I say? I have a rather vivid imagination.



At the beginning of the Covid pandemic, I was one of those people who kicked and screamed about wearing one. I didn’t see it as a political issue or an infringement on my civil liberties; I just thought it was terribly uncomfortable. It bothered my ears and challenged my breathing. But as the virus became more threatening, I came to understand that it was a way to protect myself and others, and my attitude changed. I saw too many who became sick through casual encounters.


For me, it also became a necessity. Certainly, without one, I would not have been allowed into the many various medical facilities to meet with doctors or to receive treatment. It also got me into my favorite shopping haunts for some retail therapy. A proper mask became the golden ticket into the land of Willy Wonka without the chocolate river and lollipop lane. After a while, it even became my fashion accessory, like earrings or a scarf. I went so far as to branch out from the generic paper variety to fancy cloth ones, color coordinated with my clothes, of course. In time, I no longer minded wearing one; in fact, I kind of enjoyed it.


But what else is it hiding? Quite a bit, I think.


I like seeing people laughing, watching the goofy expressions on their faces as they tell a story or imitate their spouse or children. I like to read lips and study the whole face of people I meet. The nonverbal part of conversation can be as important as the verbal. Somehow, in a masked society, I feel like I am missing something, the chance to truly connect.


The talking heads project that by mid-summer, the Corona veil will be lifted, and we will be able to collectively exhale after holding our breath for over a year. Locked doors will open. Families will reunite and the parties will commence. Classrooms will be back to capacity. Soon, the waiting and watching will be over Life will be as it once was. And when that happens, we will all have a new appreciation for normal, the simple moments we took for granted. That includes looking into the faces of strangers.


As for me, I am still searching for a quick fix for those jowls. Facial exercises, perhaps? A better skincare routine? I have noticed that if I smile, they seem to disappear. Maybe I’ll try that. And in a few months, folks will even be able to see it!



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