Wearing a mask is unfamiliar behavior for many Americans. No one wears masks, unless you’re a superhero, or perhaps robbing a bank. But coronavirus has upended many norms in American life, the least of which is wearing face coverings.
I started wearing a homemade fabric mask last week, and I felt as self-conscious as a ‘tween wearing her first training bra. There are several disadvantages:
The mask itches, but I can’t scratch my face.
The mask makes my glasses fog up if it’s cold outside.
The mask makes sweat bead on my upper lip if it’s hot outside.
And let’s face it, a rainbow cloth mask doesn’t really go with my outfit.
Sadly, a rainbow cloth mask isn’t even the worst fashion mistake I’ve ever committed. There was my unfortunate bolo-tie obsession in the ‘80s, not to mention a silver vinyl jacket in the ‘90s. Let’s not talk about the most recent romper and boots phase of a few years ago.
All joking aside, I’m not sure why people are unwilling to give a mask a try. On my most recent walk around the neighborhood with the dog, one other person was wearing a bandana. On an unavoidable trip to the post office this morning, around half of the people were donning masks.
Perhaps wearing a mask infringes on America’s belief system of the right to pursue happiness — by breathing unimpeded. Maybe we could agree to tweak it to the right to pursue happiness, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
As the Centers for Disease Control debated whether or not to recommend wearing face masks in the U.S., every photo from South Korea has shown their citizens wearing masks. We should do whatever South Korea does to contain the coronavirus. I will even listen to K-pop if it means I don’t catch the coronavirus.
I will gladly suffer a dollop of discomfort by wearing a mask to avoid catching deadly and contagious disease. I am smack dab in my 40s, old enough to catch it and die a horribly painful death from COVID-19. I am also young enough to unwittingly pass it to my parents, and possibly to my children as well.
Fabric face masks do not have the same efficacy as N-95 masks, but any reduction in risk is better than none. So let’s all swallow our pride and learn how to wear a mask.
We can all be superheroes.
Nina Snyder is from Denver. She is the author of ABCS OF BALLS, a children’s picture book.