Love them or hate them, wearing a mask when out and about has become the new normal. I have my own issues with wearing one, but since I began leaving my house during Stage 2, I’ve become aware of the many benefits of wearing a mask (aside from health/saving lives).
I was taken by surprise when I first encountered what I like to call “mask perks” as I was wrapping up a failed, first Tinder date. He met me on the back patio of a bar that I was already seated at. As soon as he said hello, I knew the online connection didn’t result in any in-person chemistry. But I had made the amateur mistake of ordering us a bottle of rosé to split before he arrived so I uncomfortably sat through the date, sharing pleasantries while using my body language and other subtle signs to showcase my lack of romantic interest.
After we finished the bottle and paid the bill, I attempted to bid him adieu by saying that I had to use the washroom, so we wouldn’t have to walk out of the restaurant together and engage in an awkward goodbye. He was a gentleman and waited for me so we could walk out of the bar together, but since masks are mandatory indoors I kept mine on, prepared to dodge a potential first kiss with a reasonable excuse. As we left the bar and came out into the open air where masks aren’t mandatory, he gave me that telltale look and I kept my mask secured in place, as if it was an airplane oxygen mask saving my life, one awkward kiss at a time!
After that experience, I was met with another mask perk; hiding my feelings. When you have a mask covering most of your face it’s easier to hide behind it. When nervous, I bite the bottom right of my lip and, when anxious, I clench my jaw. I got into an intense discussion when out with someone and loved the fact that my mask allowed me to give good game face. I have no poker face in general and wear my heart on my sleeve, so you can imagine my relief when I didn’t disclose my in-the-moment feelings and, instead, was able to reflect as opposed to reacting.
Now look, I get it. There are numerous annoyances that come alongside mask wearing. Breathing becomes more difficult. If you wear glasses or sunglasses, they constantly get fogged up. People ask you to repeat yourself multiple times because it’s harder to hear and listen not only when your mouth is covered but when unaided by lip-reading. It’s tough to figure out if the person you notice from across the way is in fact someone you know or, if instead, they’re a total stranger. But, come on, passive aggressive as it is, what a pleasure it is to be able to dodge or hide from someone you don’t want to run into, thanks to a little piece of material.
Don’t even get me started on all the awkward or uncomfortable moments that can be avoided in general: food stuck in teeth? No problem, cover it with a mask! Need more time to come up with a response to someone who catches you off guard? Blame it on the mask and tell them you can’t hear them, so they’ll have to repeat themselves (giving you more time to come up with an appropriate response. Win!). Does your face go red when you get embarrassed? Good news, no one can see your cheeks, your secret’s safe! Say goodbye to blushing when up close and personal with a crush. Say goodbye to smiling at a babe at a bar only to get shut down if they don’t return the sentiment. Mask on, problems solved.
Masks are a great tool to be a better version of yourself. They offer a sense of awareness too, allowing you to be more mindful of your bad habits (like dodging a kiss instead of expressing lack of interest through healthy communication) so eventually you can correct them. I don’t love that I have no poker face. That I’m so expressive. That my feelings are so open and abundant, and if someone knows me well enough that they can just look at me and know my mental and emotional state. I don’t like that sometimes, despite how communicative I can be verbally by setting healthy boundaries with others, that I too avoid confrontation. But hopefully, this awareness breeds change.
That said, we can all agree that there’s a sense of loss that comes with a covered face and mouth. Catching site of the serene smile of your lover. Catching kisses while walking in the streets holding hands or as you order coffee side by side. Catching glimpses of those teeth that add so much character to one of your favourite people. Smiling at strangers, making someone else’s day while also making your own.
But hey, there are some sticky situations you can dodge thanks to a face covering, so if you’re a cup half-empty kind of person, consider that. I mean, who knew that these nuances and facial expressions were something so present in our day-to-day life and interactions, yet we were so oblivious to them until forced to cover them up. Use this awareness to your advantage.
And if you happen to notice me out and about and we’re both mask-clad, feel free to give me a wink. I’ll shoot you one back and we can go upon our merry way, having said all that needs to be said.