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The interplay between mask etiquette and mask fatigue

Can I use this as a coronavirus mask? No? Ok nevermind. (Photo by Chason Gordon)

What’s shocking about the seemingly sudden adoption of coronavirus mask wearing is that I had no idea so many people could sew. Must have missed that day in Home Ec. As more sling them on, I keep hoping that everyone else wears a mask so I don’t have to, but that’s probably not going to happen.

Trying to make my own mask felt like trying to start my own space program. Like all desperate folks, I eventually turned to the internet and ordered a neck gaiter after learning that neck gaiters exist. Now it suffocates me everywhere I go.

When is the right time to wear a mask? Should we throw one on whenever there’s movement nearby like we’re all in the movie Predator? Or should we take a more subjective approach and just look out the window? “Today feels like a mask day.”

The consensus seems to be that it’s best to wear one when going into a building and anytime you’re not able to socially distance in public, like in a human pyramid or a bouncy castle.

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There are various shades of coronavirus mask strictness. Some seem to be the types who put on masks the moment they open their front door as if they’re an astronaut donning a helmet for a spacewalk. Others appear to happily stroll around mask-free, making the latter group incredibly nervous. I tend to only wear masks indoors when grocery shopping, and while outdoors I just cross the street whenever someone’s approaching like I’m afraid they’re going to mug me.

What’s amusing is that sometimes you can see a mask-wearer smugly giving a mask-free person a glare, with that person judging them back as sad, paranoid people. Both are likely right, and I can be guilty of it too when I get nervous. For instance, the other day in a convenience store someone not wearing a mask stood right behind me at the counter and I had to resist the urge to kick them backwards like a horse.

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As with cars or the internet, masks may inevitably give us an anonymity that makes it a little easier to be rude to people. The constant itching and ability to smell our last meal certainly don’t help. But like cars and the internet, few fights will actually break out. It’s hard to throw a punch when you’re still social distancing.

We seem to be stuck with these damn things for the next little while, and it’s a shame, because I kind of miss seeing people’s faces. Let me rephrase that, I miss seeing women’s faces. Men can walk around in beekeeper suits for all I care. That’s the odd thing about the masks: They do display an inherent caring for humanity by helping prevent infections, but the sight of people covering their faces also casts an inhumane pall.

Hopefully one day when this virus business is over, we’ll be able to gather again, free our faces, and throw ourselves a nice mask burning celebration. God, it’s going to stink.

On Twitter @chasongordon.

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