Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Liz’s favorite mask. Well, at least that is what I keep telling myself. “Me, me!” my fuchsia and turquoise Lilly Pulitzer self screams each time she hurriedly grabs for one running out the door. “No, me!” asserts that Vera Bradley bitch hanging upside down doing somersaults on the hook next to me. My sister-masks and I are relegated to spending our non-active duty time dangling from a metal rack in the laundry room. There aren’t even windows. The light is off most of the time. It is so boring. Every fiber of me cries out for closeness.
Sometimes I get the opportunity to spend time in her purse. Now let me tell you, her purse is an experience all of its own. I share space with a noisy cell phone, lotion oozing into the lining of the fabric (because, of course, she was driving and couldn’t see to put the top back on the tube) and cosmetics that have fallen out of her Lululemon cosmetics bag (she forgets to zip it up after applying lipstick she doesn’t even need since my job is to obscure her mouth and nose. When will she ever remember?!) I’m usually thrown in with a couple of other paper masks. She went through a paranoid period when she thought paper masks were safer than cloth. But I’m 100% cotton and pretty proud of my tight weave. I can catch up to 35 percent of those pandemic particles. My know-it-all brother mask, the N95 one, thinks he is so hot and in demand at his 95% capacity to roadblock those pesky particles.
We all vie for the right to snuggle up to her face. Sometimes, in the darkened laundry room, we talk amongst ourselves. We all grudgingly admit how every fiber of us loves the feeling of her warm breath and the taste of her spittle when she speaks through us to a friend or store clerk.
Fogging up her glasses is one of our most favorite pranks. Her nose is an excellent accomplice, only too happy to waft up a good exhale or sneeze straight up to those funky eyeglasses of hers. Whoosh! The condensation spreads, bringing her multi-tasking self to a standstill. Masks provide a myriad of excuses. “I can’t hear you because of your mask,” or even better, “I can’t hear you I have a mask on.” I hear those excuses a lot from her man. “I had to take my hearing aids out because of my mask.” Liz and her friends really grumble about that excuse. “I’m horse from repeating myself all day,” they whine. We feel positively plastered with power, controlling those ear lobes, interfering with earrings, headphones, and hearing aids. I overheard Liz’s physical therapist say he is experiencing significant communication problems because of us. Adam has a hearing impediment forcing him to rely on lip-reading for help. Not easy to do when those lips are covered. I confess to feeling guilty about that one.
Sometimes my ears burn from all the expletives she utters as she slams the back door unceremoniously ripping me from my hook saying, “Forgot my &@# mask again!” Same scenario when going to the grocery store. The ignition turns off, door slams, door locks. Wait for it—door unlocks and I’m yanked off the rear-view mirror, F-bombs flying.
We laugh listening to her morning inventory: Car keys, cell phone, wallet, sunglasses, mask. A Master Card commercial years ago admonished viewers not to leave home without it. That is how respected we are these days. Take that cell phones! Commerce and the government can’t require her to carry a cell phone, but they can mandate a mask. Ha! Masks rule!
The first time we really noticed masks in mass was in Saigon, Vietnam. Residents wore masks outdoors to combat air pollution. Entire masked families astride a single moped careened down streets and sidewalks.
Liz said the juxtaposition of recklessness and safety struck her as odd. But now it’s not just Asia sporting us. Everyone is wearing us. We were front and center during the recent inaugural festivities. Dresses, tuxes, and coats were not the only fashion accessory to be analyzed. The focus was on Michelle Obama’s memorable merlot-colored ensemble designed by Sergio Hudson. But the attention did not stop there. Tribute was also paid to the silk mask he created to accessorize her outfit. Alexandra O’Neil designed Dr. Biden’s teal blue tweed coat and dress embroidered with pearls and Swarovski crystals (AND matching mask.)
All those powerful people on the stage at the West Front of the US Capitol wearing masks signaled their respect for our power to protect. That makes all the grumbling I hear worth it. Even as we fog up your glasses or thwart your ability to take deep breaths when performing crunches in your cardio class, we help keep you, and those around you, safe. And let’s say it together, that’s priceless! Better get used to us, I think we are here to stay for a while.