Just a few months ago, you can probably imagine the stares and implicit condemnation that you would receive for wearing a surgical MASK in PUBLIC.
Not that people didn’t. We probably all, at some time, encountered one of those unfortunate, immunocompromised individuals who were already living in the reality we all now inhabit. One could only imagine the indignity of having to wear a mask in public and enduring the disapproving stares of people who were insulted at the thought that there might be something wrong with their germs.
Now, thanks to COVID-19, we don’t have to imagine anymore. We are all lepers now.
That guy at the grocery store who is inquisitively thumping the squash could unknowingly be a viral aircraft carrier launching a squadron of stealth attack germs to decimate you and your fleet. The teenage girl at the drive-through window who hands you your bag of tacos could just as well be handing you a bag full of doom. Especially if they are spicy.
The curtains have been drawn, and we are now acutely aware of how vulnerable we all are. This is a landmark moment in our lives, and just like the moment when you discover there is no Santa Claus, there is no going back.
Welcome to mask culture, Santa. OR SHOULD I SAY “DAD!”
THE NEW HANDSHAKE
First, wearing a mask is a social grace. It does not really protect YOU (although it helps), but rather expresses a desire to protect OTHERS in the event that you, yourself could be infected without knowing. Which is exactly the way in which both COVID-19 and parenthood work, apparently.
In other words, masks are the new handshake.
The handshake has been around for so long, many people don’t even know where it came from. I mean, who’s idea was it to grab someone’s hand in a steely grip and wiggle it around like you’re taunting them about letting them have it back. But apparently the custom arose from people showing each other that they weren’t about to kill the person they were meeting with a dagger or some other weapon hidden in their hand, which sounds pretty normal for mankind.
Thanks to COVID-19, handshakes are now taboo, and we have surgical masks to let us know that the other person doesn’t want to kill us, even if they have a knife in their hand.
WHAT’S THE HOLD UP?
The irony here is that a mask worn over the nose and mouth has long been associated with crime and villainy. Want to join a terrorist organization, rob a convenience store, or hold up a stagecoach without being recognized? Mask up, Kemosabe.
In fact, until March 2020, you probably could not have gone far in public without having a chat with law enforcement about the handkerchief tied around your face. “No, officer, I’m just concerned about all the dust in the bank. I have allergies.”
Chances are, you probably even know someone who used this as an impromptu costume after not planning ahead for Halloween. A toy gun, a handkerchief, and suddenly you are a fiendish bandit. “Stick ‘em up and give me your candy!”
Suddenly, that costume’s not so much fun anymore. Looks like you’ll have to go as a hobo instead.
HERE TO STAY
Hopefully, COVID-19 will soon cease to be an existential threat. But it’s a safe bet that mask culture will stick around regardless. Even after vaccines render this upstart virus obsolete, the threat of some even more heinous successor will remain seared into the public zeitgeist.
The shared social trauma we have endured will not fade so easily from our minds. You can’t just close Pandora’s box. With time, the number of masks you see worn in public will likely decrease, mask culture is almost certainly here to stay.
Hey, change is hard. But don’t worry. Behind these masks are a bunch of smiling faces that are here for you. You need someone to talk to? Give us a call! We’re always ready to listen.
During the COVID-19 health crisis DAMN GOOD is doing its part to help support area businesses by offering free, no-commitment telephone consultations. Whether you use our services or not, we want to help your business survive and even THRIVE during this challenging time. No bloodletting required. Call us today at 561.266.0127