22 April 2020
All our lives, we wear masks to gain acceptance, to show compliance and to hide what we dare not see, or don’t want others to see.
So why is it that when it comes to wearing a mask to protect ourselves from the pandemic, so many of us fight against it?
For one, our facial bone structures, skin sensitivity, breathing capacity and tolerance for having our face blocked for an extensive period of time differ from one another.
Some people can go into a minor panic attack during beauty treatment when a facial mask even with gaps at the nostrils and mouth to accommodate breathing is put on them.
I know of a friend who couldn’t complete his scuba diving certification despite his love for undersea adventures because somewhere along his training, he also developed a phobia of having his face completely covered.
These days when it comes to wearing disposable masks as required of us, bespectacled folks like me have to adjust our masks periodically to prevent our breaths from fogging up the lens and compromising our vision. And believe it or not, the fogging always seems to happen at times that puts us at potentially risky situations – midway on a moving escalator, facing incoming/ outgoing lift passengers, dodging the cleaners’ trolley etc. 😄
Health workers who can be masked up for hours on end and still perform their duties calmly must have a physiology very different from the rest of us.
And for elderly folks who already don’t see so well or can’t balance properly, wearing a mask is an added challenge because the top of the covering can interfere with their line of vision, especially when they try peering down into their bags to fish for coins or ezlink cards etc.
Coupled with their stiff joints which limit their neck and finger mobility, the mask is really a hindrance. And yes, even if their lives depend on it, masking takes some practice.
It is very necessary & very good if we could comply with the guidelines so that we can survive this pandemic. But it is even better not to feel morally superior or more enlightened just because we are capable of following all the rules.
Consider the masked grandma, huffing and puffing from the walk and the weight of her groceries, which could very well be just a bottle of soya sauce and a can of baked beans, and looking resignedly at the rows of cordoned off benches as she tried to catch her breath and cope with her aching back.
If we could see what others have to overcome in order to stay united with us, maybe we’ll be less inclined to get annoyed with those who cannot seem to toe the line.
The feeling that we’ve got it all together is very delicious. And it is very tempting for those who can, to stew in self righteous anger underneath their collective masking, against those who can’t, while unmasking their barely containable pent up feelings as they pounce on the next mask-less person whom they perceive to be not doing his part to fight the pandemic.