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Mask-Shaming: The Wave of the Future
May 8, 2020. My ninth blog post in the Coronatimes
This is going to be a sensitive subject in the coming days, so let me preface this blog by stating that I wear a mask nearly every time I go into a store or business these days. And when I say nearly, I mean 99% of the time.
Regardless of this fact, Cate and I were mask-shamed early last week at our neighborhood Kroger. Ironically, we had just made a delivery of material for masks to be made by a friend and decided to drop by the grocery to pick up something I had forgotten we needed that day. It was an unplanned stop and we didn’t have our masks with us. We rushed through the store, but weren’t the only mask-less there. In fact I would say on that day it was about 50-50, which has remained true for every subsequent trip that I’ve made since then.
Anyway, as we were self-checking out, a masked woman waiting in line decided to voice her disapproval of us to the Kroger employee working the area. She looked at Cate, rolled her eyes, and started a one-sided conversation loud enough for us to hear: “You know that the Governor is going to make it mandatory for everyone to wear a mask when they come to the grocery store. So if you aren’t wearing a mask, you won’t be allowed in.” Then she looked back at Cate. The Kroger employee stood there speechless.
Thankfully I did not hear these statements as I was already conscientious about running into the store without a mask and hurried to get out of there. When Cate asked if I heard this lady, I was dumbfounded by the fact that this person who didn’t know me, would take it upon herself to assume that I was purposely not wearing a mask.
Making assumptions about people or situations can be hurtful to the target or potentially dangerous in some situations. Personally I remember in sixth grade being shamed by some of the other girls in class because I had an IZOD collared shirt. They didn’t know that I had begged my mother for months for that piece of clothing and was beside myself excited when she bought me one for picture day. It was kelly green and I thought it really set off my eyes. As I proudly wore it to school, sideway looks and nasty comments greeted me. I heard “Who does she think she is?” “What a show-off.” “She thinks she is better than us.” All of these things could not have been farther from the truth. I was proud of my IZOD and those whispered assumptions gave me major anxiety. They knew nothing about me or my shirt, just like the woman at Kroger knew nothing about me or my mask.
As I continued to think about that woman, I recalled a dangerous car vs. bicycle incident Mike and I had over the weekend where the driver of a car didn’t give us room and ran us into the grass off the side of the road. I wondered if this woman who felt like she could point a finger at me, always held the line to keep everyone around her safe. Was she always the rule and not the exception? Did she always give three feet when passing a cyclist on the road? Did she always stop completely at a stop sign and not roll through? See my point? You know what they say about those glass houses. The second you condemn someone else, cracks show up in your own foundation.
We are getting ready to enter a real gray area in our social condition. Governor Beshear is going to require that masks be worn in public places starting May 11th. For how long, don’t know. Will people be cited if they don’t? No. Will people be arrested if they don’t. No. He is asking people to follow this mandate to help continue the flattening of the curve and keep people safe. In no way does it mean you are a terrible person if you rush out of your house and forget your mask. Let me repeat that for those in the back row…in no way does it mean you are a terrible person if you rush out of your house and forget your mask.
I can see this getting out of hand. I foresee fights and other violence, even in the most innocent of situations. Please, please, please do not take it upon yourself to police those around you. My best advice is to just take care of yourself. Wear your mask. Acknowledge that you are not responsible for other people. Some people without masks will have just forgotten them and others will just plain refuse to wear them. That is human nature. Let the powers that be make sure that those people are dealt with. I promise you, in the end, if you are a empathetic person, you will sleep much better if you keep your hands in your pocket because that finger-pointing can be an ugly business that can lead to ugly things.
I end this blog post with a big thank you to all the mask-makers out there. You saw a need and are filling it as quickly as possible. I’m sure it’s been thankless work but will definitely help us move successfully into the next phase of this shit-show. And I assume that the loud-mouthed lady at Kroger thanks you for making me a mask that I will be sure not to forget anytime in the near future.