Zahava Raymond
Zahava Raymond

A Bittersweet Goodbye to Masks

Being able to go outside without a mask for the first time in a year was freeing, yet strangely unsettling. It was that feeling that you’ve forgotten something but you can’t remember what. That feeling where you suddenly wonder in horror, did you actually get dressed today, do up your buttons, wear real shoes or a hair covering before leaving the house. I can’t be the only one who worries about these a bit too often.

Ever since getting vaccinated (with thanks to G-d and #VaccinationNation), I’ve found the masks to feel even more cumbersome, all… several grams of them. Honestly though, they’ve felt even worse lately than when I gave birth wearing one in a 27 hour long labour (she said, casually.)

Despite the success of the vaccines so far – and may it continue – to the point that we don’t have to wear masks outside anymore, there are also some downsides to this. There are some things I’ve grown to like about masks.

  1. The extra warmth they provide in winter (the price of this being the dreaded steamed-up glasses.)
  2. You can pull the mask down to take a huge bite of food while walking down the street and then pull it up again to hide the fact that you’re chewing and munching away in the most uncivilised manner.
  3. The anonymity. People you might not want to talk to on the street might not recognise you. Also you could, like, commit crimes and stuff, I suppose.
  4. You can pretend not to recognise people who you don’t want to talk to. On the other hand you might for real not recognise someone that it would be particularly rude of you to ignore, and later on get in trouble for it. Incidentally, if anyone I know reading this thinks I did this to them, well, I am just so offended that you’d think I would do such a thing.
  5. Protecting you against bad smells. Admit it – before Corona, when you’d have to go to a public bathroom you would have paid to have a mask to wear when you’d go inside.
  6. Feeling smug and being able to mask-shame others. I, unlike many other people, actually behaved during the pandemic. I mean, there’s a terrible disease going round that randomly decides whether to let an 80 year old be asymptomatic or a healthy teenager die. So no, I didn’t want to catch it or be responsible for someone else getting it, so I kept to the restrictions, as sucky as they were sometimes. There are many people who I understand and would not resent breaking the rules at some points for various reasons during the past year. But for the rest of them, particularly bus passengers with either no mask at all or only covering their mouths, I have nothing but contempt.
    As I’ve said though, since getting vaccinated the mask-wearing has felt more uncomfortable for me, and so I confess, when I’ve been outside and far enough from other people, I’ve been a chin-wearer (gasp!) And I’d wonder whether people would look at me in my skirt and hair-covering and think “look at that haredi, not wearing her mask, typical. Pgh!” Even though I’m not and don’t look haredi, just religious. But people get confused.
  7. Protection when you’re walking through a cloud of gnats or other flying insects, preventing any accidental bug-swallowing.
  8. Not having to care too much about your appearance. You’re wearing a mask so who cares what you look like anyway. On the flip side, a mask could also be the finishing touch to your outfit. I personally never got round to wearing any stylish ones, but I enjoy and appreciate those who did!
  9. Being able to hide your facial expressions. Sure, sometimes you want to be able to convey your feelings with just a look, but, let’s face it (face it), there are times when it’s probably best that you couldn’t. On the other hand, masks gave us the fun challenge of non-verbal communication having to be just with our eyes. This is coming from someone who will walk halfway round a supermarket to avoid having to say “excuse me” to someone blocking the aisle.
  10. Protection against Coronavirus. This is a pretty solid pro that masks have going for them. And while they’re not necessary outside now in Israel, we can only hope that this remains the case – and that a solution is found soon to the variants from different countries that shall be unnamed, because I heard that it is not Woke to say the name of the country where a disease originated. 

For now though, I’ll enjoy the liberating feeling of being maskless outside, not even with one on my chin, even if I am popping in and out of shops. I’ll wear one for the reasons above, sure, but at least it will be on my terms. After a year of social distancing, restrictions and lockdowns, that’s not something to take for granted.

About the Author
Mizrachi Jew. Israeli-in-Progress. But I only drink tea with milk.
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