Just a Thought | Navigating Life in a Faceless World

A smile is priceless. And I miss them.

By Rick Kraft 

Life is interesting without faces. I didn’t realize how much of experiencing life is tied to seeing another’s face until people’s faces have been taken away.

I have a hard time interacting with others without being able to see their face. And without my face I suddenly have a different relationship with my cell phone. It doesn’t even recognize me these days!

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I understand that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but I really need to see more than a person’s eyes to be able to have a healthy interaction with them. Apparently there are 43 muscles in a face, but a majority of them are removed from being in play when a person puts a mask over his or her mouth and nose. 

I can’t blow a kiss to my wife in public anymore (I find myself winking now). I can’t hear the waiter explaining the menu at a restaurant. I actually find myself getting closer to strangers so I can hear them through their garbled mask. I don’t think wearing face masks is designed to draw us closer.

I brush my teeth for health reasons now, because others can’t see my pearly whites. Nor can they smell my minty fresh breath. I sometimes wonder if people with crooked ears have crooked face masks?

Face masks have become a fashion statement. Before March, in over six decades of living, I had never told another person “I like your face mask.” Now I find myself saying that all the time. Whether the other person can hear me or not through my own face mask is another issue. But I’ve seen many that are very clever both in design and in appearance. I’ll bet some people have a collection of masks and wear a different mask each day depending on their mood. Maybe in the morning they choose an outfit, a pair of shoes, and a face mask?

There’s something wrong about encouraging people to enter a bank with a face mask on. Or even a mini mart. Bad people can now have an excuse to do bad acts without anyone being able to identify them. Add a large baseball cap or a hoodie and a person can do just about anything without being able to be identified.

We are definitely living in awkward times. There is no consensus on the etiquette of wearing a face mask. This is something none of us were taught by our parents growing up or in a grade school classroom. So we’re all left out here trying to figure out what this face mask business is all about.

Some wear face masks while they’re driving alone in their own car. There are others who refuse to own a face mask. The rest of us fall somewhere in between…and “in between” is a large area.

I think the average person, myself included, carries a face mask and then puts it on or takes it off depending on the setting. For example, as I write this I’m in an airport lounge without anyone within 40 feet of me. I feel safe and the face mask is uncomfortable. Yet I’ve been wearing it religiously while riding the shuttle from terminal to terminal and on the plane.

Some say that your wearing a face mask is not for your benefit, but for the benefit of others. In other words, not wearing a face mask is disrespectful to others, not for your own protection. Some say face masks provide no protection while others circulate diagrams showing how far a cough can throw germs. Why a person wears a face mask differs based on who you listen to on any given day.

Assuming I live through this mess, I’ll never forget the world as it is today. It seems like independent of face masks, longstanding traditional events are being cancelled every day. And we have to listen carefully to our governors to determine what the current law is on wearing face masks.

Regardless, It has been difficult staying six feet away from my wife for four months. Fist bumps are just not the same!

I can’t finish this column without stating that there are some benefits to wearing a mask. You can burp and no ones knows it. You can yawn if the person you are listening to is boring and he will never know  it. You can grin when something stupid is said and the speaker doesn’t know you are being disrespectful. You can even stick your tongue out (but not to far) to a sales clerk that is providing poor service to you. And it hides a double chin and bad breath.

I don’t think wearing face masks will continue long term. I’m anxious to put this season behind us. I like to experience the full personality of each person I deal with.

My challenge to you today is to stay safe and healthy, whatever that looks like to you. If that means wearing an uncomfortable face mask 24/7, so be it. But I’m looking forward to leaving my face mask at home and seeing every one of the 43 facial muscles each person has again.

A smile is priceless. And I miss them.

Also, I am looking forward to getting back to my old relationship with my cell phone.

Just a thought…

Rick Kraft, a South Pasadena High School graduate, is a syndicated columnist, a motivational speaker, a published author, and an attorney.  To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org.