It was the day after Publix announced that vaccinated customers don’t have to wear masks anymore. Many other businesses were following suit, loosening mask requirements, from Trader Joe’s to Disney World.
How does one tell if customers are vaccinated? This is like putting a bowl of candy on the stoop at Halloween with a sign that says “PLEASE TAKE ONE,” then acting surprised when the Twix are cleaned out in five minutes. We know this game. This is a free-for-all.
Most folks still wore masks in my local store on Saturday, but not everyone. Because of new Centers for Disease Control guidance, it has become harder to tell where people stand, the way you can’t tell if someone has had those jeans since freshman year 1992 or bought them new and runs a successful TikTok.
I shopped, mentally putting people in imaginary baskets, like a Sorting Hat.
1. Anti-maskers, finally buying Cheetos without causing a scene on YouTube.
2. Pro-maskers, going mask-less to convey the importance of vaccines.
3. Pro-maskers, wearing masks to convey the importance of community care.
4. Those who have decided, “Hell with all of it, I’m wearing a mask until 2065.”
5. People who haven’t read the news in a while.
6. Everyone else who is a little confused, because one moment the CDC is all, go for it, and the next, it’s all, “there’s no need for everybody to start ripping off their masks.”
This push and pull will continue for a bit. We will always see a handful of masks in America now, maybe more around cold and flu season. But the bulk of us?
Maybe, just maybe, we will actually miss face coverings.
No, don’t leave! Hear me out. Yes, there’s plenty to hate, from mask acne, to foggy glasses, to the ritual dance of getting all the way to the door, cursing, then turning back to the car for your mask. But masks play a vital role in preventing the spread of disease, and they have unintended perks.
Never has it been so easy to disguise yourself while running errands. Add sunglasses and a hat, and you might as well be undercover. Just look what happened to Adam Sandler when he tried to get a table at IHOP. Masks have leveled our access to seating in pancake houses.
It’s satisfying to wear fun lipsticks again, but those who use makeup have saved time and money applying products only to the tops of our faces. Now, we’ll have to budget emotional space for chin grooming.
Have food in your teeth? Masks eliminated conflict; we didn’t have to be angry at others for ignoring the leftover lunch pal riding on the incisor. You ever had a buddy let that go on for, like, eight hours? Not a real friend.
They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and we have done tons of soul-searching during the pandemic. Yes, our souls are dead inside, but easier to know that on first glance rather than asking questions.
Finally, women have enjoyed a blissful year-plus without anyone telling us to smile, as if we are supposed to shop around Walgreens looking like the Joker, as if waiting for a bus is like Christmas morning, as if walking down the street is the opening number of Oklahoma. Our natural, low-hanging faces will return to the world, open for commentary once more, and that’s a real shame.
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