No mask? That’s so 2019. Since Covid-19 has changed everything about life this year, I’d like to talk about the most prominent and ubiquitous accessory that everyone must have, literally. The ever-present mask. Like humans tend to do, we were not satisfied with the boring and institutional blue or white mask. Creativity and humor took over in a thousand different ways. As Clairee Belcher said in Steel Magnolias, “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.” This is no more evident in our ability to bling up our most prominent new accessory.
I myself just have a regular black mask. It’s an N95, practical and boring, like my life. I wear it with most of my clients, especially my little old ladies. It took some getting used to, with Old Ironsides not recognizing me and Midge thinking I was a burglar.
One thing I’m having trouble with as far as the mask goes, is that I feel like my communication is severely hindered. I do speak clearly, although sometimes it comes out in the muffled, Charlie Brown teacher voice. But it’s the lack of seeing facial expressions that bothers me. Facial expressions, as well as body language are a very big part of communication. So I’m trying something new, a new language of “Expression.” If it works, I’m going to write an instruction manual and submit it to one of those haughty scientific journals.
So what I’ve been trying is this: when I smile with the mask on, I raise my eyebrows in a joyful, cheery expression to convey happiness. Only what I have found is that this is only confusing people, as my raised eyebrows can also convey surprise or shock, or ingestion of a lot of drugs.
Waiter: “Would you like another refill?”
Me: (Raised eyebrows) OHMYGOD “Yes please.”
Cashier: : “Have a nice day.”
Me: OHMYGOD “Thank you.” OHMYGOD “You too.”
Needless to say, I now just nod my head. Maybe I should just get one of those smiley masks, and if I’m not happy with the service, I’ll immediately change to my frowny face mask.
My little trainwrecks are having fun with their new accessories as well. The Artist, of course, has painted all her own masks for each mood. And believe me, she has a lot. There are some very colorful flower masks, whimsical fairy masks and fun cartoon masks. Then there are dark, rainy masks, red, bloody heart masks and one that just has a bunch of black ink blots on it. I swear one looks like the outline of Satan himself. Maybe that’s just me though. I could probably use some therapy. Hey, new field: “Mask Therapy.” Take that scientific journal!
The Bachelor wears those manly neck gaiters. He’s got a skull one, a growling wolf one, and a bloody clown one with fangs. So now he always looks menacing (great candidate for Mask Therapy). And back to the communication thing. Even if he says, “Great job, Cleaning Lady” it comes out, “I’M GOING TO EAT YOUR SOUL.” Yeah, I should probably make an appointment with someone. Here’s some cute Disney face masks for your viewing pleasure.
And poor Midge. She doesn’t even know how to operate her mask correctly. Half the time it’s over one eye and she wonders why she can’t see anything. I’ve had to untangle it from her hair several times and sometimes she just wears it like a hair band. In her mind, if she has it somewhere on her body, she will be protected. Of course I’ve gone over the proper use of the mask many times, including instructional videos, but it just gets lost somewhere between picking it up, and putting it on. Most of the time she just thinks it’s a chin guard.
So while these times can be some of the hardest the world has seen, humans, in all their glory have shown that given lemons, they will surely make a lemon mask. I myself am waiting for the lemon-clad full-body mask.