The people who want to keep masking: ‘It’s like an invisibility cloak’

The Guardian

More than a year into the pandemic, some people prefer to keep wearing their face mask – even outdoors in public

She’s been fully vaccinated for three weeks, but Francesca, a 46-year-old professor, does not plan to abandon the face mask that she’s come to view as a kind of “invisibility cloak” just yet.

“Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker or maybe it’s because I always feel like I have to present my best self to the world, but it has been such a relief to feel anonymous,” she said. “It’s like having a force field around me that says ‘don’t see me’.”

Francesca is not alone. After more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic, some people – especially some women – are reluctant to give up the pieces of cloth that serve as a potent symbol of our changed reality.

Whether and when to wear a face mask has been one of the most fraught and divisive debates of the pandemic, from the early days of (bad) expert advice against masking, to the anti-masker protests of summer 2020, and the current, oddly angry public debates about when people should stop wearing masks outside.

US officials in recent weeks have said that fully vaccinated Americans can go outdoors without a face mask, except in big crowds. But while Tucker Carlson on Fox News frames continued mask-wearing as child abuse, Emma Green in the Atlantic portrays liberals who remain very concerned about Covid as anti-science, and various pundits toss around accusations of “irrationality” or pandemic “addiction”, some people told the Guardian that they simply prefer wearing their face masks in public. It has nothing to do with being pro-science or anti-science, liberal or conservative, they said. Instead, it’s about the fact that there are more things that can hurt them than viruses, including the aggressive or unwelcome attention of other people – or even any attention at all.

“It’s a common consensus among my co-workers that we prefer not having customers see our faces,” said Becca Marshalla, 25, who works at a bookstore outside Chicago. “Oftentimes when a customer is being rude or saying off-color political things, I’m not allowed to grimace or ‘make a face’ because that will set them off. With a mask, I don’t have to smile at them or worry about keeping a neutral face.”

“I have had customers get very upset when I don’t smile at them,” she added. “I deal with anti-maskers constantly at work. They have threatened to hurt me, tried to get me fired, thrown things at me and yelled ‘fuck you’ in my face. If wearing a mask in the park separates me from them, I’m cool with that.”

A woman wears a face mask as she walks in Manhattan, New York.

A woman wears a face mask as she walks in Manhattan, New York. Photograph: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

Aimee, a 44-year-old screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles, said that wearing a mask in public even after she’s been vaccinated gives her a kind of “emotional freedom”. “I don’t want to feel the pressure of smiling at people to make sure everyone knows I’m ‘friendly’ and ‘likable’,” she said. “It’s almost like taking away the male gaze. There’s freedom in taking that power back.”

Bob Hall, a 75-year-old retired researcher in New Jersey with a self-described “naturally grim countenance [that] tends to be off-putting to others”, concurred. “In the United States there is an obligation to appear happy, and I get told to smile and ‘be happy’ a lot, which is very annoying,” he said. “The mask frees me from this.”

For Elizabeth, a 46-year-old tutor living near Atlanta, Georgia, the mask has accomplished for her social anxiety what years of therapy and medication have not: allowing her to feel comfortable while out in the world.

“I’m short and fat and if I don’t moisturize compulsively, my face is constantly flaking,” she said. “It’s easy to feel like I’m surrounded by mocking, disapproving eyes … Nothing has shielded me from the feeling of vulnerability like a mask has.”

Who has the right to exist in public without question is one of the constant, defining struggles of any society. For years, countries have debated and even banned Muslim women from wearing the niqab, a full-face veil, and women who wear the hijab, a head scarf, face high rates of discrimination. Some Muslim women told researcher Anna Piela that the pandemic allowed them to feel more comfortable adopting the niqab, which they had wanted to do before.

Early in the pandemic, many Asian Americans and Asian immigrants were among the first to adopt face masks, a decision that may have protected their health while simultaneously making them targets for racism. A year later, with coronavirus cases down but concerns about anti-Asian hate crimes much higher, some are looking to masks as a form of disguise.

“The night of the Atlanta murders, I was messaging with another Asian American friend and she mentioned making sure to wear sunglasses and a mask before she went out, just so that no one could see her eyes or nose and guess she’s Asian,” said Jane C Hu, a 34-year-old science journalist living in Seattle. “I definitely feel a sense of protection when no one can see my face.”

Jinghua, a 34-year-old non-binary writer living in Melbourne, Australia, said that masking had provided relief from being wrongly perceived “as a woman or a little boy” in public.

“I appreciated that I felt a bit more anonymous in a mask and more gender ambiguous,” they said. “After lockdown ended, it was confronting to go out and be exposed to all that offhand racism, sexism and misgendering from strangers again … Sometimes when I’m just going out to grab takeaway, I’ve enjoyed keeping the mask on even though it’s not really necessary here now.”

The sense of privacy that masks can provide in public is somewhat offset by the scrutiny some remote workers now feel when they’re at home, but working.

Hartley Miller, a 33-year-old tech worker in San Francisco, said that the past year of constant, camera-on Zoom calls has seriously exacerbated her body dysmorphia, a mental health condition that involves obsessive thinking about a perceived flaw in one’s appearance.

“I just stare at that little box with my face in it and pick apart my appearance,” she said, noting that her distress is affecting her job performance. “My double chin seems six times larger, my eye bags are too deep of a purple, etc … Even when there’s a heatwave and my apartment is close to 90 degrees, I’ll wear a turtleneck that I can pull up. I pack on thick makeup that makes my skin peel.”

Going out in public with a black surgical mask that covers her chin and sunglasses that cover her eye bags provides Miller with an escape from that sense of scrutiny.

“I 10,000% plan on wearing it for the foreseeable future,” she said. “After a full work day of worrying and not being able to focus on my actual job, it just feels nice to blend in. Simply put, I’m sick of being perceived.”

Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco
Please follow and like us:

7 thoughts on “The people who want to keep masking: ‘It’s like an invisibility cloak’”

  1. I love the child in this video. He’s incredibly courageous and intelligent. He’s standing up for himself and his classmates.

    BUT, is it not beyond sad WE are not standing up for our children and grandchildren by allowing this mask madness to continue….not even considering the vax program in their future. We are allowing them to abuse, control and possibly forever damage our own progeny. I see no excuse and we ALL must hang our heads in shame.
    I’ve said this before and will continue to say it….a society that has deserted it’s own children in their time of greatest need and vulnerability is LOST AND IRRETRIEVABLE. We are all getting close to what we deserve.

    So be it.

  2. When I read a article like this the Solomon Asch experiment comes to mind. I remember back in junior college taking a psychology class and the professor play his video on how easy it was for people to be bully/ pressured into doing stupid things.
    The more things change the more they remain the same.
    My family and I are spending some sunny days in south western Florida and when Governor Desantis supposedly remove the scamdemic executive orders people here was rejoicing and on Friday when Creepy Joe made his CDC guidelines change speech the local reaction was whatever.
    What’s really troubling is most people publicly still wear a face diaper and most of the restaurants and grocery stores don’t care but they still have up those stupid signs about hand washing and face coverings.

    I still see parents face diapering their children and I want to slap the devil out of them but instead I look them straight in the eyes and frown and shake my head. Stupid people killing their children.

  3. Here’s another bizarre piece of Kung Flu data. My friend Shane has a roommate that is 37. They share an apartment and live without the crazy insane mask hysteria. As soon as they leave to go down the street for coffee, the roommate puts the mask on. Shane says why are doing that?… (we are outside walking alone on an otherwise empty sidewalk). The Roommate says “it’s part of my social contract” Is that far out or what?

    I’m shocked by more Kung Flu data I collected from “in the trenches”. I just guided 13 millennials to a Red Rocks Concert. The weather was wind driven snow with 8 to 16 inches forecast and they weren’t deterred in the least. They asked me if I wanted them to mask up. I said “Don’t do it for me”. That’s when their fearless leader stepped up and said “don’t worry, we all took the vaccine”. I bet it never crossed her mind … saying that had the opposite effect.

    They all thought that was the end of the fear. They were dutiful citizens and I started to wonder if it was true about all the shedding. What have we all become… Irish Shedders? I had to fight my new paranoia of the vaccinated which are the formerly paranoid population now made bullet proof by their unquestioned faith in big pharma. It almost sounded religious. I have seen this attitude countless times now. That’s their new badge of honor and virtue signaling.

    There was zero skepticism manifested for Big Pharma’s motives from any of my Baker’s Dozen concert goers. That’s the disappointing part… people that have techno-savy ability to go find out the truth about hackzines. And they have zero inclination. That’s tragic. People are dropping dead from hackzines… Slugger Hank Aaron and Marvelous Marvin Hagler… the Millenials have likely never heard of such people and that makes them oblivious to the celebrity carnage. Maybe when some of their celebrities start dropping dead they will get a clue. Or like my pal Mavrik says… the internet is a cartoon world (with no foot in reality). So everything on the net is bunk but NPR and BBC are trusted news sources according to him. I didn’t bother pointing out the BBC’s coverage of Building 7’s collapse as it stood rock solid in the background. Reminds me of the buildings burning in the background with a reporter saying this was mostly peaceful protesting. You know except for the towering inferno.

    I drove right by the scene of the fake Grocery Store Shooting at King Soopers twice going to and from Red Rocks. Boy did that fade fast. I would love to come across the JeffCO County Sheriff and ask how in the hell his staff beat a small army of Boulder Deputy Sheriffs and Boulder City Police to a Boulder murder scene when Golden and the heart of Jefferson County is a good 20 miles away. Riddle me that. That should inspire confidence in the citizenry, Boulder Cops decided not to respond to a mass shooting, but they are really Johnny on the spot when it comes to directing traffic after the Buffalos Football Game. Good thing the JeffCO Sheriff was there to save the day from 20 miles away. I would estimate four Boulder cop cars there in 5 minutes flat if this was real. By the time JeffCO drove up there, the entire on duty police force of the city would be there in time for coffee and donuts.

  4. If this is not the most ridiculous, pathetic, selfish promotion I have ever heard, I don’t know what could be more inane. One million dollars given away every week in a lottery if you have been vaccinated. And many here want to believe this world has not gone mad with the inmates running the asylum….give me a giant break.

    1. It’s not a incentive , it’s bribery. And any sane person would have to ask the question why do they have to bribe you to take a Jab/shot ?

  5. Pingback: Globeinfolive
  6. “If it is possible to reason in a state of lethargic unreality, my being cannot be negated. If not, the ego of the universe is meaningless.”

    ….meaning, I think, therefore, I am..

    ….but in the case of the preponderance of snowflakes that now permeate our rapidly disintegrating society, it means my ego is more important than living.

    The inbred elites that live in the illusion they are our masters have diabolically tapped into a Facebook/social media infested/(un)inspired deficiency in the human psyche; the essence of which is, “I would rather be anonymous than face the reality of my existence”.

    Now, isn’t that precious?


Leave a Reply