Donning a face mask in public has become second nature now. At first, I double-checked I put it on correctly. I didn’t want to be like the suave politician who slipped one elastic ear band over his head while the other one dangled below his chin in an epic mask fail. Most of us now wear our masks like a pro.
Then again, most of us have had a lot of practice wearing masks of another kind.
Masks I’ve worn include the good girl, dutiful daughter, tireless teacher and martyr mom. My mask said strong, when I felt like mush. It said perfect, when things were anything but. All too often the mask I wore said yes, when I should have said, “No. Nope. Not a chance.”
Author Rick Warren wrote, “Wearing a mask wears you out. Faking it is fatiguing. The most exhausting activity is pretending to be what you know you aren’t.”
As a young woman, I learned to put on another type of mask in the form of make-up. Cover, girl! For most of my life, I rarely left the house without a light coat of six cosmetics. I came to view putting on make-up as something classy women do to hide the real deal and present something more acceptable.
Then there is the full-body mask I wore in the name of fashion. Uncomfortable styles. Unnecessary details. Unpractical fabrics. Unaffordable trends. All in an attempt to say something about myself through what I wore on the outside, instead of who I was on the inside.
I knew it wouldn’t be long before designer face masks were in vogue. Louis Vuitton masks are already sold out. Marc Jacobs has a $100 mask available. Givenchy sells one for $590. Yes, you read that right.
As George Benson sang, “We’re lost in a masquerade.”
The face masks we are asked to wear now aren’t meant to make a statement or hide behind. They serve a practical purpose – to protect ourselves and others from Covid-19. They aren’t cute or comfortable, but they are necessary for the time being.
I wear a simple mask we bought in bulk. When I put one on, I notice my body language becomes more important. I move in a more intentional way. My word choice and tone, though muffled, become more precise. I’m more aware of communicating through eye contact.
The mask somehow intensifies my desire to live more authentically. I’m seeing my bare face without judgment. I’m sparing my hair from the daily assault of styling tools. I’m wearing my most comfortable clothing. I’m moving through life at my own pace and listening to my own voice – which always leads to more joy.
I’ve spent much of my life masquerading as one thing or another. Yet under the cover of a pandemic and, ironically, a face mask, I’m becoming more and more comfortable exposing my true self.
Uncovered. Unadorned. Unapologetically unmasked. §