Op-Ed | Maskless Wonder: The Top Ten Things I’ll Miss About Masking Up

By Elizabeth Cavanaugh

My mask has become my security blanket. Despite the relief and freedom brought by waning Covid-19 cases and less rigid CDC guidelines, removing that little strip of fabric proves complicated. Oddly, there are some things about wearing a mask that I will miss. Here are my top ten:

Number 10: That unabashed feeling of audacity that comes from walking into a bank with my face covered. Not having participated in bank robber cohorts, I would never have dreamed of masking up in the teller line pre-pandemic.

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Number 9: Using less sunblock. Since March 2020, not once did the sun burn my nose. I saved time and money on lipstick too.

Number 8: Eating spinach with wild abandon and going about my day without worry whether the green stuff lingers in my teeth.

Number 7: Staying extra warm and cozy on cold and windy days.

Number 6: Maintaining an aura of mystery. Although admittedly, even with my protective face covering, oversized, dark glasses, and floppy hat, my friends, neighbors, and bankers still recognize and greet me by name.

Number 5: Gazing in a meditative state through foggy glasses. Om…

Number 4: Applying the new breathing techniques I developed from behind my diversly shaped, sized, and layered face coverings. Perhaps I’ll try out those skills on diving or snorkeling ventures.

Number 3: Feeling a tad more comfortable when walloping coughers and sneezers encroach.

Number 2: Lessening the impact of dust, pollen, leaf-blower debris, and exhaust fumes wherever I go.

Number 1: Making a fashion and philosophy statement through the colors and symbols splashed across or woven into the fabric of a mask. Like the neon-orange and pink hibiscus-patterned one I stitched together out of necessity last spring – after I uncovered a remnant from my previous life in Hilo. That mask has elicited many cheery hellos from strangers over the past twelve months. In fact, I’m thinking of crafting it into a headband when this is all over. Aloha!

In short, I will miss the powerful wonder of a small scrap of cloth with a big role in personal safety. I feel incredibly grateful for my masks, my family, my friends, and so much more. I am thankful to live in a country where freedom and ingenuity lead, and where most citizens care about each other and come together to solve the big problems, despite fear and clamor. Speedy vaccine development and free, public distribution of them come to mind as an example.

Just after the recent CDC announcement on face coverings, a little neighborhood boy approached me. This child generally likes to critique my methods; from the way I walk to how I water daisies. Since I have decades of experience doing both, I take his well-meaning advice in stride.

“Why do you still have that?” he said, pointing to my mask. “You don’t need it, ya know.”

Then, the little one repeated his year-long refrain, telling me his views … about how kids shouldn’t wear masks if they’re not even sick and how his barefaced relatives don’t wear them either because they never catch anything and how they will never, ever get the vaccine unless they really, really have to do it for work.

I listened.

“I want to respect and protect others and their health,” I said. “I choose to wear or keep my mask with me for that reason.”

The little boy stared up at me with defiance in his bright green eyes. Then, he ran off to play.

When this Covid-19 pandemic slinks from center stage and crawls into collective memory and history books, its devastation and mask-belief encounters will not be missed.

Right now though, as someone deemed eligible to safely unmask, I am slowly starting to do so. Ah, to savor the full fragrance of jasmine blooms and sense the breeze tickle my nose, cheeks, chin, and lips. Delicious! Walking in maskless wonder along neighborhood streets feels liberating albeit a little strange.