The vaccination is coming.
Aside from obviously looking forward to keeping everyone safe from illness and getting our lives back, I personally am hoping to never wear a mask again.
I hate them.
I hate the feeling of not being able to breathe and the accompanying feeling of panic. I hate how hot I feel and that breathing in my own damp breath makes me cough earning me looks of terror from passersby, and I hate the pointlessness of wearing makeup or lipstick.
But my distaste of masks runs deeper.
George Orwell once wrote, “He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.”
This was us, our society, pre-pandemic.
If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we wore masks long before the pandemic, but they weren’t constructed from fabric or paper. Our masks were neutral disguises we fashioned that hid who we were. The ones that gave us an excuse to look away from one another, to not say hello or give that little smile where the eyes crinkle up a bit, call out a good morning, good afternoon, or even for some of us toss off an angry expletive. Our masks robotized us, rendered us faceless, and if truth be told, many of us liked it that way. They protected our independent selves, the part we didn’t want to share or want anyone to see, the part that was sad, tired, angry at life, lonely.
Some of us wore our human masks only sometimes, some of us rarely, and some, all of the time. We liked them because they helped us avoid person-to-person bonding, helped us remain emotionless, to look away at the last minute if someone approached on the sidewalk or at the mall. Anything to keep from revealing too much, from being human, being naked.
They served us well because we were so busy. We thought—we were sure that we didn’t need anyone. We were self-sufficient. We had close friends and family and that was enough. Strangers and new friends were superfluous.
Because we were independent and self-reliant.
On occasion, our masks would slip. Someone would see through. Damn that person who was just too friendly in line at the grocery store. You had to talk to her. Her smile was so sweet, so hopeful. Not responding would have snapped that single remaining thread to your heart.
Then came Covid-19, respiratory droplets, and masks.
And suddenly, we were vulnerable, isolated, scared, shut off from those we thought we didn’t need, people we once didn’t have time for, desperate for that humanness we were so sure we didn’t need.
We were unreachable and impenetrable behind newly-enforced barriers.
So what of us now, I wonder, now that the vaccination is imminent.
Will we go back to our old lives, replacing paper and fabric for the former flesh and blood masks we fashioned?
Or will we stay human, reach out, love one another?