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  • Jan Flynn

Dropping the Mask, Not

Post-vaccination masking motivations

mage by anncapictures from Pixabay

We’ve been shot! Twice! Thank God

As an educator as well as a woman of a certain age, I’ve been fully inoculated for a month. My husband is of similar vintage but due to various details too tedious to mention (if you’ve tried to sign up on some of the handy vaccine appointment websites, you know what I’m talking about), he’s still in immunity escrow. That is to say, he’s gotten both Moderna shots but has another week to wait until he’s officially, completely, mostly entirely protected.

Already the world feels different than it did two-months-and-a-bit ago. Of course, back then we were still reeling from the attempted murder of democracy on January 6. There’s less auditory resonance in “1/6” than in “9/11,” but in terms of existential threat, the two bear similar weight.

So it’s worth noting how far we’ve come in the intervening weeks. We have resumed life under a rational and functioning administration. There’s still plenty of vile rhetoric fizzing and seeping out there in the zeitgeist if you go looking for it. The difference is that now you have to look for it. It’s possible to go an entire day without obsessing over politics or calamity. Or doomscrolling to see when the next shoe’s going to drop, or if it already has while you were distracted by the previous profanation.

And a growing number of us have been vaccinated. Way sooner than Joe Biden, in his under-promise-and-over-deliver wisdom, had dared to boast. We, the happy punctured, are still in the minority, but our club is growing. And let me assure you, it’s nice to be a member.

And maybe a stimulus check has found its way into your direct deposit account. If so, mazel tov.

Still, this is no time to abandon facemasks

That would be like riding out into enemy territory without a weapon just because your side has won a couple of battles. The baddie isn’t beaten yet. We can’t even say for sure it’s in full retreat. And none of us wants to be the last casualty before armistice is declared.

So of course all of us who are fond of rational thought and civil behavior will continue to do all the anti-COVID things we’ve been doing for the past year. It’s just that those of us who have protection (to be clear I am talking here about immunity, not condoms) will do so for different reasons than to save our own skins every time we poke our noses outside.

These reasons probably differ with different individuals, and that’s just fine with me as long as whatever your reasons are motivate you to keep the flag flying, and the mask over your nose. Other than being a responsible adult, here are my personal reasons for continuing to mask up.

1. I forgot about lipstick

The tubes I have left from pre-pandemic days are looking rather dried out and derelict, and I’ve gotten out of the habit. It’s been a year since I felt the need to swab my mouth with anything more glamorous than Vaseline. Some effort is required to reaquaint myself with what shades, textures, and sheens work best on my particular kisser, which after all has undergone another trip around the sun since I’ve paid much attention to it other than as a portal for wine and chocolate. I’ll get around to it; I just need a little more time.

2. People are less likely to guess my age

Not because they can’t see my whole face, but because if I were to go sashaying around maskless, at least in my part of the country where people are diligently mask-observant, it might tip folks off that I’m of an age to have received the vaccine in one of the early phases.

They might figure it out anyway given that I have gray hair. But that could be a fashion choice.

3. I’ve saved so much money on sunscreen!

Seriously, since I’ve only had to slather myself from the cheekbones up with SPF 400, or whatever I can find to reduce the havoc wreaked upon my visage by the sun, a tube of the stuff goes ever so much farther. I’m not sure I’m ready to give that up.

4. People don’t have to know that I mutter to myself

Full confession: I am an auto-conversationalist. I’ve talked to myself (yes, out loud, though rarely loudly) for as long as I can remember. I like to think it means I’m imaginative, auditory, and creative.

The problem is that as time goes on I look more and more like a daft old broad. But not with a facemask.

5. I only smile in public when I feel like it

Admit it: there is a teeny little part of you that has found it liberating to have your expression half-hidden and partially unknown when out amongst your (distanced) fellow citizens. No need for the scores of daily social micro-calculations that, in non-plague years, occur whenever you’re passing someone on the street, or scooting by someone in the market aisle, or even spotting a neighbor across the trashcans.

Add sunglasses and you can be dishing out dirty looks or making faces at people, with nobody the wiser. Tell me that’s not secret fun.

6. After this long, my face is shy

Not around people I live with or know well, of course. But out there, in the world with strangers? With my entire face hanging out, naked as the day it was born?

That’s going to take some getting used to.

7. It’s just rude not to

It might be that being vaccinated makes us far less likely to transmit the virus to other people. The evidence for that happy possibility is growing. On the other hand, it might not be. Scientists say it’s not a sure thing yet, or even a sure enough thing, given the hefty downside of being an unwitting Typhoid Mary (or COVID Charley).

Also there are the new variants. Some of them are scary. How scary, we don’t yet know. But scary enough that we should keep what shields we have at the ready. And by shields, I mean masks, as well as handwashing and distance and all the rest, again when we’re out and about.

At home or with other vaccinated folks (not too many), knock yourself out. I suggest having a tasteful place for people to stow their masks while at your intimate dinner party — a clever repurposing for that Christmas card display rack you still have in your attic, even though nobody sends out paper cards anymore.

By July, or maybe October, masks will no longer be a thing

If we all act like grownups, that is — and hopefully by the fall, even the youngsters will be able to s̶h̶o̶o̶t̶ ̶u̶p̶ get their shots, and we can all go back to kvetching about spending all day at school or the office. In full facial nudity, no less, our countenances open and free for all the world to glory in.

And then you can tuck all your unused masks away in the same place you keep the Christmas card display rack. Until you figure out a crafty use for them as well. Get your Pinterest board ready.

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