This whole mask situation has been quite the adjustment for me. I have worn masks before, off and on, in my professional career but usually only for a few minutes at a time. So these longer durations of mask-wearing feels foreign to me. In fact, the first time I went into a store wearing a mask, I pulled my mask down to ask a store associated a question. I just wasn’t used to talking through fabric. I quickly realized my mistake and learned to simply talk louder.
Another hurdle I had to figure out was the mask-keys-sunglasses-purse juggle after getting out of the car. I had to somehow manage to get my mask on, not drop my keys, and avoid knocking my sunglasses off my head – all while walking towards a store entrance. I fumbled all of the above on numerous occasions. But I can safely say that I have now gotten that part down; I have a system. I first loop my mask around one finger while I put my keys in my purse then I move my sunglasses to the top of my head before I finally attempt to put on my mask. Whew!
While I can now manage to not look like a hot mess every time I get out of my car, something I haven’t adjusted to is not being able to see everyone’s faces. In fact, I have noticed that the masks tend to make it easier for the people around me to disengage. The mask becomes a kind of invisibility cloak. Like, because I can’t see their whole face, they aren’t even there. But the problem is, I am a face person. I always look at faces. I am the girl walking down the produce isle, humming a song and making conversation with the other produce patrons. You will either love me or hate me for it.
And one way I used to be able to let a passer-by know that I saw them was by making eye contact and smiling. Nowadays, I sometimes forget that people in the grocery store can’t see me smiling through my mask. So much so that I have started working on being more expressive with my eyes. I remind myself that people can tell I am smiling by my eyes as well as my mouth. When all of this is over, I’ll probably have more smile lines than I started with because I am basically out there squint-smiling at you. It is that important to me.
But there have been a few instances where I meet another smiling person and we have a moment. It’s like we immediately bond over our smiles. Almost as if to say, “You are smiling! I love smiles! I’m smiling too! Where are you from? We must know each other from somewhere because we are both smilers!” I am drawn to it. I can see it and they can too. So the next time you are at the store, look for us, because we are squint-smiling at you just to show you we care. And just so you know, I see you; I am looking at your face, and I can tell you are smiling under your mask.