The title above, ‘The Mask, ’ reminded me of a famous American Super Hero movie in 1994. Uses of face masks have pros and cons in the pandemic time, and the memories of the film fade to the background. Perhaps someday, a new movie with a similar title will make it to the silver screen, designated to the face-covering for Covid-19.
• The schools have students coming in person for the fall semester across many states of the USA. Teachers and students are struggling with connecting since a significant part of the face is under the mask. As Halley, a high school teacher, remarks, “Usually I smile and laugh and communicate with my students, and now I can’t do that with my eyes; my eyes are non-expressive under the glasses.” Some teachers use see-through facemasks so that students have a better vision of their faces.
• There are the significant challenges in placing the two loops of a face mask behind the ears. The ears get painful over long-term use, and there may not be a long enough mask-break time for the users. And people who have shorter noses come with a different problem altogether. The sturdy area of the mask that holds the cover falls on a less accommodating nose bridge. The result is continuous sliding off and having to re-adjust. For some, the ear problems with the mask loop were much more significant and needed doctor visits.
• Let’s talk about keeping our precious masks clean. Not all of them are washable. If one is constantly on disposable ones, there is adding to the already extensive trash/ recycle that every household has to get through. Innovative hands are making homemade ones and utilizing them to the maximum by regular washing.
Lena, my neighbour, has made a separate chest of drawers to store face masks for the whole family. Each drawer has names with different spaces for the user and the new face covers. “The chest of drawers with facemasks sits in the front hall beside the shoe rack so that when we go outside, we have it handy. The hand sanitizers are right on the top too.”
• Marketing for face masks has found a new place in the form of ‘neck savers’ and ‘ear savers’ and more. The added cover-pieces are great discoveries to make lives easier for children and adults. The neck-savers hold the masks back from the ears and create less pressure. The ear-savers have hairbands with large buttons on the sides that keep the two cover loops secure and off the ears over prolonged use. The age-old proverb “One’s gain is the other’s loss” holds with pandemic masks. While new products have come to the market, the lipsticks have temporarily lost their light since we cover the lower part of our faces for safety. Katy, a university student, says, “The classes are in-person, but makeup doesn’t make sense with the face covering. I had to trash lots of my lipsticks, foundation, and other stuff.” She pretends to be sad and adds, “Of course, being alive comes first.”
• If you wear glasses and have your face mask on, there is a constraint to the use. When you exhale, the glasses become cloudy as the breath travels upward instead of flowing straight. There are these trials and re-trials till you can adjust the mask and the drinks and avoid the clouded vision. It is common these days to come across colleagues mumbling/ cursing under their breaths as the battle between the sensory organs and the face-covering goes on. However, you do find a way to keep together and get through the day. “One step at a time,” You repeat, and stay calm, realizing there is little choice one has to be safe from the virus.
• The N-95 face masks are said to be the better ones to use, but they are sometimes not near at hand. The expert advises using double covers with the Delta variant to make a surge in Covid cases. The pandemic is no joke, and while some people fail to understand how deadly the virus is, there is little we can do to teach adults what is good for them when the red alerts fail to reach them.
• We, humans, are resilient, and beyond all the tears of wearing the face-covering, we have invented fashionable, matching ones to go with party wear. The glittering gowns and saris have nicely patterned face covers to keep the bride and groom safe on wedding days if the gathering is allowed to a set number. Weddings are special pandemic ones that shall be memorable for the generations to come. The videos and photos that shall witness the weddings wait for only God knows what kind of future is still waiting for us. While we smile and cry about our face coverings, we realize that not all countries can provide their people with these or vaccines. Let us pray hard to the Almighty to save the world from the virus. Indeed prayers can move the mountains.
Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, USA