Interpretation by Julie Martin
I’ve been masking up in public places since somewhere around mid-March. And while the mask covers my nose and mouth and renders me invisible and unrecognizable even to people who know me, I’ve never felt more conspicuous.
Walking into the grocery store in March with a mask on was like walking on to a brightly lit stage surrounded by an audience. I’m not new to an audience. I’ve performed on stage dozens of times. Most audiences are warm and responsive and ready to be entertained. But the March audience felt accusatory. Suspicious. Even angry.
I was out of state, away from home, but I also wore a hat into grocery stores to more thoroughly disguise myself in a place where nobody knew me anyway. I wanted to be invisible, but this little cloth on my face, worn to protect other people from whatever spiky ball I might be toting around with me, made me stand out like a cockroach scurrying across the floor of a 5-star restaurant. I was nervous and jittery and practically ran through aisles that had been picked over during panic shopping. It had quickly become acceptable to hoard TP and bleach and hand sanitizer because of virus fears, but it was NOT acceptable to do so with a mask on.
I don’t get it.
More people are wearing masks now, but there’s also more overt anger and contention. We don’t see each other as people. We see each other as mask-wearers or non-mask-wearers. We avoid each other. We don’t make eye contact. We get in. We get out. We hope no one will spurn, or spit on, or yell at us.
I no longer wear a hat to the grocery store, but I still do my shopping quickly and quietly. I long for invisibility in public, but that only makes me more acutely aware of how much I long for the return of civility, connection, hugs, jokes, and potluck-style dinner parties in private.
Air hugs. XOXO. -Michelle