Dorothy Rosby
Contributing columnist
One day early in the pandemic, I caught myself muttering to a can of cat food at the grocery store. “Geez, it would be cheaper to buy the cat a T-bone.”
I regularly talk to car keys I can’t find, jars I can’t open and computer programs I can’t operate, but usually only when I’m alone—or when I think I’m alone.
I looked around quickly to see if anyone had noticed, but the other shoppers seemed to be going about their business, paying me no mind. That’s when it hit me: When I’m wearing a mask, I can mutter all I want. I can’t tell you how liberating that was. I started to mumble at other products. I told a bunch of bananas they were too ripe for my taste and asked the parsley why it couldn’t come in smaller bunches. In case you’re wondering, they didn’t answer, but I felt better.
Soon I began muttering at other shoppers too. I’m one of those brave souls who regularly tells other people off—when I’m alone in the car on my way home. But suddenly I had the courage to say what I thought the moment I thought it. I mumbled at a man in aisle 4, “Hey, leave some TP for someone else” and at a woman at checkout, “Can’t you count? That’s way more than 13 items.”
Here was yet another benefit of mask-wearing I hadn’t thought of. And it might surprise you to know that I’ve thought of a lot of them. For example, while it’s true you have to smell your own breath, you don’t have to smell anyone else’s. And no, you can’t see people smiling at you, but you can’t see them frowning at you either—or, come to think of it, smirking when they catch you talking to the cat food.
And honestly, there are days I appreciate covering half my face, though I am glad it’s the bottom half. When you wear a mask, no one has to know you don’t whiten your teeth or that you have spinach stuck in them.
I’ve never been a lipstick wearer, so I was alarmed by an article I read in a woman’s magazine claiming that a woman who doesn’t wear lipstick gives others the impression she doesn’t care about her appearance. Now if someone thinks I don’t care for my appearance it won’t be because of my lack of lipstick, though it may be because of my appearance.
Besides all that, this past year I’ve become acutely aware of something called respiratory droplets. Apparently everyone spews them every time they open their mouth—everyone but me. I would never do that. It’s disgusting.
But I think we all know people who send forth way more than their share of respiratory droplets when they get a little excited about a topic. Eww! It makes me wonder why it took a global pandemic to get us to wear masks.
That’s reason enough for me to keep wearing a mask after this is all over. But I’m also a little concerned I won’t be able to break my habit of muttering my thoughts in public. My mask emboldens me to say what I think without fear of retribution—as long as I don’t do it too loudly and I keep my gestures to a minimum. I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop that—or that I’ll want to.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s not that brave to speak your mind when no one can actually hear you do it. Oh yeah? Come say that to my face…mask.