Masked Faces with Hidden Smiles: It’s Time to Get Awkward


mask with smileLet’s be honest, wearing a mask is no fun. It’s awkward, uncomfortable, and some of us are experiencing “maskne” (mask-acne). It’s a thing…look it up. The good news is, no one can see your deteriorating complexion, because it’s covered…by a mask. Another adjustment to mask-wearing is that you can’t greet someone with a smile as you walk past. Being the true Minnesotan that I am, this is a big change. I was taught that a smile can go a long way. Smiling at a stranger is sort of like saying “Hi,” but without words. Sometimes that simple act is the one thing that can make a person’s day better. Smiling shows kindness, and that’s something we can all agree that the world could use a little bit more of.

When I look at someone with my face half-covered I feel like I’m blankly staring into their soul while also trying to remember to “smile with my eyes.” So lately, I’ve been trying out different ways to acknowledge a passerby. 

The Head Nod. 

According to Wikipedia, a nod of the head is used to “indicate agreement, acceptance, or acknowledgment.” The trifecta of greetings!  I’ve tried to give someone a head nod on several occasions. It’s a little awkward for me and it’s more formal than I’m used to. If an informal head nod is what you’re looking for, tilt your head upwards to indicate you acknowledge a person’s presence, this is also known as saying “What up.”

The Wave.

  • Short and Fast – Use when you’re really excited to see someone. Raised eyebrows can be added for effect.
  • Wide – Use if you are trying to get someone’s attention, or to wave at someone who is far away. Both hands are often used for this option.
  • Finger Wiggle – Do this by holding up your palm, and moving your fingers in a wiggling motion. This wave is often done to convey flirtatious feelings, or when waving at a small child.
  • Stop-Sign – Do this by lifting up your hand as if to say “stop.” Commonly done when a person lets you cut ahead of them in traffic. For added flair, throw in a head nod.

Note: Use waves with caution! Some may make a person think that you know them personally, and then you run the risk of having to say something like, “Oh no, I was just saying hi…you know, because you can’t see me smile in this mask?…HaHa…” I prefer to avoid awkward situations like this if at all possible, although they seem to find me quite often. 

Smile With Your Eyes.

Unless you are already skilled at this, I suggest you practice in front of a mirror before you take to the streets. I feel like when I try to smile with my eyes I end up looking like I’m squinting in the sunlight, or that I’ve got something stuck in my eyeball. Since I’m not skilled at it, I don’t ever use this strategy. Life Tip: Know where your strengths are, and play to those.

The Verbal Acknowledgement.

Simply saying “hi” as you pass by someone is sufficient. Saying more can get a little weird. I often catch myself smiling at someone under my mask (AKA staring blankly into their soul) and then I say “I’m smiling.” The less you know the person, the more awkward this gets. However, if done correctly and in the right moment, both of you can get a good laugh, which might unintentionally make that person’s day, and yours, a little better. 


Although it’s not always convenient or comfortable, wearing a mask is important, and part of our daily lives now. Instead of staying silent and worrying about creeping someone out with my awkward blank-stare, I’ve been choosing one of the strategies I’ve listed above. If it fails, at least I get to laugh at myself and sometimes I get to laugh with a stranger. A few things to remember: give the people around you grace, choose your mask-etiquette wisely, and don’t be afraid to get a little awkward.

Previous articleSurround Yourself With Good Things
Next articleWhat Better Time to Try Out Therapy Than During a Pandemic
Blair is a wife to Rodney and mommy to Kyus (2016). She grew up in Red Wing and has lived in Rochester for 15 years. Blair works full-time at the Mayo Clinic as a Psychometrist (she tests people’s thinking). She finds mental health and psychology extremely interesting and loves learning about wellness. In her spare time Blair likes to do all things relaxing. This includes, but is not limited to: napping, going for walks, taking baths, and watching reality television. On the weekends you can find her thrift shopping, and attending fun events around town with her family of 3. Blair loves to make people laugh with her sarcastic and blunt personality, and she doesn’t take life too seriously.