These days most of the world’s population are wearing masks. I
doubt that anyone would choose to, were it not for the Covid pandemic. There is a smaller group choosing not to because they perceive it as an infringement on their personal freedom. I am part of the population choosing to wear a mask. Although it is not, as yet enforced by law, there are many places I would be refused entry without one. Therefore, it is easier and more convenient to conform as well as being safer and more respectful of others’ fear of Covid. We are, after all a herd, like it or not.
Surprisingly, I have discovered other pros to wearing a mask. You can accessorize with masks in the same way that you would with a scarf. For a man, it could be thought of as a tie for the face. In addition, my vigilance with dental hygiene has been heightened, since I am now the one who has to smell my breath all day.
The biggest surprise of all came as I was driving to the grocery store the other day. I was engaged in heavy rumination when I noticed an odd sensation on my face. Upon investigation, I discovered that it was the mask rubbing against my cheeks. To my horror,I realized I was moving my lips to the cadence of my numerous thoughts. At least there was no sound. Due to the social isolation of this time, when I’m home, I’m very vigilant about keeping my lips tightly pursed when I ruminate so as not to cross that fragile line that would mean I’m talking to myself, which might indicate mental imbalance. I’ve already noticed a carelessness in my normally impeccable grooming since Covid; put on a hat and a mask and you could be just about anyone, but talking to yourself is another matter altogether.
When I recovered from the initial shock of how close I had come to the edge, it hit me like an explosion of light: WHO CARES?!?! No one knows who I am!! I could break out in song and all anyone would see is a bobbing head with two eyes and flailing arms. Being incognito has its advantages.
Think about it: Haven’t you ever felt so happy that you wanted to dance down the street instead of marching forward, eyes straight ahead? OR even better; skipping down the street. Imagine your reaction if you saw a group of adults skipping down the street. Imagine your reaction if your financial advisor was among them.
It’s clear that I’ve become coerced into the cultural perception of normal. I also see how stifling it is. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve passed people on the street exhibiting unusual behavior and I assume: mental instability or drugs. Maybe not. Maybe they were just feeling great and letting their bodies express it. Kids do it all day long.
At what age are we told that we can’t skip or spin in circles? I can’t remember. At what age does genuine spontaneity become an embarrassment instead of a joy? Who makes these rules? People take workshops to connect with their inner child. I can tell you exactly where mine is. She’s standing right behind my smart phone, arms crossed over chest, tapping her foot at a pretty good clip demanding, “Put down the stupid smart phone!!!!!!”
I suddenly realized that we started wearing masks long before Covid. They are the masks of cultural conformity and much more confining. Like Covid masks they are not enforced by law. They are enforced by something much more insidious: the incredibly powerful psychological weapons of ridicule and shame.
This psychological masking starts when we very young and continues until the day we die unless you’re one of those unique individuals who can withstand the shock of crossing the line. Most of us are like dogs kept in an invisible fence. We cannot see it, but we certainly feel the jolt if we cross it, and learn pretty quickly not to do it again. I’m not suggesting that we all go wildly crazy. I’m suggesting that there is a quiet, deeply buried longing for a freedom that we can’t name because we do not realize we’ve lost it.
I’m going to enjoy my covid mask while I’m required to wear it. I may not skip down the street, but I will probably talk to myself out loud if I want to, and maybe sing a song or two. My covid mask is not interfering with my personal freedom. That interference started a long time before covid.