When I would remark to a friend about how eerie everything looked during “lock-down”— vacant parking lots and streets, closed businesses downtown—I would often get the response of “But think how clean the air is! They can see jelly fish in the Venice canals!”
So yeah I get it. Always look on the bright side of life, as Eric Idle does in The Life of Brian. I usually do, too, but it’s difficult to feel happy about this glimpse of a pristine environment when I know that as soon as we begin to resume whatever normal is ahead, things will return to dirty.
The newsy echo chambers are asking what we are asking, with no clear answers as usual: what will the normal ahead look like? Great question. Nobody knows. Except a couple items are clear: we will be wearing masks, and we will be maintaining the six-foot barrier, and we will be liberally using hand sanitizer.
So I’ve put together a list of the bright side of wearing a mask.
1) Think of how much money we will save on lipstick. Good lipstick that doesn’t dry out your lips or wear off after two minutes is costly. And if you like to change up your hues, you need several colors. Now, you don’t need to apply it at all! No one can see your white, chapped lips behind a mask. Think of that!
2) This next will take a bit of work and practice, but you have to learn the “eye smile”. A lot of people smile with mouth only (POTUS comes to mind). Their eyes remain stony or vacant. You have to get the warmth and light of a smile or grin into your eyes. Crinkle the skin around them; raised eyebrows help, also a quick nod.
3) If you’re a bus or train rider, just think of all the room you’ll have; you can put your backpack on one seat and your roller case on the other. You can sit sideways and put your feet up. Wearing your mask, especially with a ball cap to shield your eyes, and with your ear buds in, you can tune out all stony mask-eyes from the other passengers, especially those that have to stand.
4) Mask styling is a thing. When you begin going back to work, whether in the office or Trader Joe’s, you can wear a new mask every day. Color co-ordination is a must. Heavy hemp masks for winter and light calico for summer. Skull and crossbones for the hard core and balloons and flowers for the toddler, as long as the balloons and flowers complement the child’s clothing.
5) Now that we are bringing our own bags to grocery stores, we can coordinate the colors of our bags with the colors of our masks. Think of holidays. Christmas-themed red and green masks and bags, Halloween-themed black cat and witch masks and bags, shamrocks for St Patrick’s Day.
6) Many people are worried about dating during the pre-vaccine period. I think that’s easy. Branded masks are what is needed. For someone looking for a date, the depth of the encounter can be telegraphed via a mask. For just a meet and greet over espresso, a coffee cup-patterned mask. For a real hook-up, after you have both shared your COVID-19 negative test result and completed a survey of symptoms and contacts, a mask patterned with lips—signifying at least a kiss if the meet goes well—would be an encouraging sign.
We may not want to give up wearing our masks after herd-immunity is real. The first definition for mask is “a cover or partial cover for the face.” The second reads as “something that serves to conceal or disguise”. We already walk around with our lives marked on our faces; the addition of a nose and mouth protective covering will accentuate the rest of what we are unable to convey through our features. Someone having a good day can wear a sun-embroidered mask. The next individual who is feeling disappointed, aggrieved or blue can wear the stenciled message, in red of course, DON’T ASK. People who successfully met while mask-dating can communicate their in-love high by wearing champagne bottles with hearts floating. Or something equally trite.
Now I shall go ponder the bright side of hand sanitizer. I think that’s going to be a bit more challenging.