My First Day Donning a Mask

Today, I either read or heard a headline that more men than women are dying of COVID-19. This statement stuck in my mind. I was trying to figure out why it isn’t more 50/50. Around 3:30 it hit me. It is because women are, in my experience, more practical than men.

If there is a shelter-in-place order enacted, women are going to follow that directive. Men will figure out a way to justify venturing out.

If there is a warning to hunker down, women are going to buy what food is needed to last a little while making sure to have the basics of flour, sugar, eggs and milk. Men are going to go buy some beers, some chips, and other comfort foods without thinking long-term.

If there is a warning one should wear a face mask everywhere, women are going to find some or make some, and will wear them everywhere. Men are going to resist it for a whole host of reasons, which we will be able to rationalize for not wearing one.

It took hearing another story about how this virus can linger in the air around us for up to three hours that woke me up!

So far I had resisted wearing a mask because I was practicing social distancing, to the best of my ability, everywhere I went when there were other people around. I take latex gloves with me shopping or volunteering, along with a small hand sanitizer spray. Washing my hands with soap for 20-seconds has become almost second nature already. And I’ve even lessened the amount of times I touch my face (this has been the hardest thing to stop).

Today I decided I was also going to be practical, thereby also being safe, by starting to wear a mask when out in public.

My internal dialogue was so fascinating to observe. Although logically I knew it was the right thing to do, my brain was offering so many reasons why I shouldn’t wear a mask. Some of them were: Men don’t wear masks, I’ll be the only man wearing a mask, everyone will be looking at me because mine will be handmade from a bandana, it will be rude to talk to people through a mask, what if I scare someone, will someone wonder if I’ve come to rob them, other guys will make fun of and harass me for having it on, it isn’t socially acceptable as humans need to see facial expressions, it just isn’t natural not to be able to see a person’s whole face.

In the end, practical won out. Even after I had decided I was going to wear a face mask. Even after making the face mask from a video someone had shared on Facebook. Even knowing it could safe my life and the lives of my family. It was hard to put the mask on.

I wore my first face mask to Lowe’s. My garden needed dirt and we needed mulch for the front flower bed, and mulch was on sale. Once I had parked, I just sat in my car. I looked around to see if anyone else was wearing a mask. Only one person had a mask, a woman of course (see being practical above). No one had on gloves and I only observed one person using hand sanitizer.

As I sat in my car, I just couldn’t bring myself to put on the mask. It just sat on the seat beside me, taunting me, daring me to leave it in the car.

Finally, I picked it up, but when I saw a man and a woman approaching the car in front of me, I couldn’t put it on. I couldn’t put it on when another guy might be watching; I mean, what was up with that.

After they got in the car and drove off, I took the plunge. I donned my homemade mask, put on my gloves, and got out of the car. In all my life, I have never felt so self-conscience walking from Point A to Point B. No one was actually looking at me, but the feeling was almost overwhelming. I continued into the store and begin looking for one of the items I needed to purchase. As I turned into an aisle, I saw someone in a face mask. It was a man! Don’t ask me why as I can’t explain it, but I immediately felt much less self-conscious—maybe because he was a kind of kindred spirit.

As I walked around the store and the gardening center, I did notice a few other fellow humans wearing masks. More than half of them were men (probably because there were mainly men about), and two were a father and son.

Other than the emotional turmoil, the face mask wasn’t too bad to wear. It does feel odd to have something on my face. Breathing was a little more difficult, or at least it felt that way. After a little while, my mind wrapped around having it on and why. I did have to continue to remind myself of the why of wearing it.

The bottom line is, I survived, although still a little emotionally imbalanced from the experience. The imbalance is more of getting used to the fact wearing a mask is going to need to become a habit in public for the foreseeable future. The other part is adjusting to not being able to know who is around you. There will be no warning of menace or protection, malice or friendship, or anything.

Our emotions will be hidden from sight, just as we need to be, to survive this pandemic.

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