I’m In No Rush to Remove My Mask

Normality is almost here, and I’m sure that everyone is pleased as punch! To finally see friends in person for the first time in fifteen months, embraced loved ones, actually travel beyond four walls and try and get their plans back on track.

As someone who has left their house fewer than ten times since the UK entered the first lockdown in March 2020, I am longing for the day I can sit back in a university lecture or browse my favourite bookshop in person.

I followed every rule as written, even going further to protect myself in a time which was genuinely terrifying. When I had to go out for essentials, knowing that I could take steps was grounding, gradually evolving into a new step in my daily routines.

And I’m in no rush to stop doing some of these habits I’ve honed in the 400+ days since last feeling “normal”. Even with the first (and soon to be second) doses of the vaccine, I don’t want to stop doing things which make me feel a bit more secure.

Earlier in May, the US announced that fully vaccinated adults no longer had to wear masks in public spaces. Now I definitely don’t know more than the CDC, and I’m not trying to argue that, but if I wish to wear it a little longer, then I will do. And I believe everyone should have the right to.

Like, why must we all suddenly drop the curtesy of wearing masks because the government said so? In countries around the world, it’s been polite to wear when sick for years, and I see no reason why we can’t continue to do so in the UK beyond pandemic times. I’m tired of being sneezed or coughed on by a random person on a bus; if you can’t stay home or further away when sick with the flu, the least you could do is try and prevent transmission, surely?

Perhaps my dad is right with saying I have grown far too comfortable sitting inside on my laptop or with a book for months on end. That the transition is going to be shocking once I return to university for my final year, and I agree. The last time I left for a walk in the park the fact I was the only one even holding a mask shocked me into almost turning around and going straight home. But wearing the mask, even if nobody else was, made me feel calmer, as much as both parents thought it silly.

It’s not silly. COVID still exists out there, and we are still seeing daily infections.

If I can’t put off real life for another year (and by hell, I don’t want to), then I must take that adventurous step forward, and move on whilst still feeling comfortable.

There are numerous things I learnt over lockdown – how to do neater stitches in my hand sewing, buying fewer items would bring me more happiness – so why isn’t the fact that wearing a mask makes me feel comfortable be something I can continue to do in the same vein of thought?

And why must I be looked down upon for doing so?

(If nothing else, the mask helps to hide bad acne days behind a delightfully designed piece of fabric whilst I wait two meters away in the queue.)

I am anxious; I have been non-stop for the last fifteen months. I will continue to be so for a while, but being able to step into sunlight at a park, or visit museums and theatres again, will help me reduce that panic a little.

My medical condition means that I cough for an irritant as small as an extra piece of dust, or having someone blow cigarette smoke in my face (something I have not missed) or just need a drink during warm weather. I’m not being rude hiding my face; in fact, it’s usually the opposite reason. Let me wear it, even if it hides my smile. So what? Are you so concerned about a small piece of fabric that is doing you no harm?

Perhaps you’re jealous of the design – the silvery uniform arrows on azure blue fabric; I bought it on Etsy a personality ago. And I’ll be wearing it during my next trip to the museum, thank you very much.

Image courtesy of engin akyurt.

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