I’m shopping at my local grocery store, wearing a Covid mask, and examining organic double-stuff Oreos, when a middle-aged guy with a beer belly and a stereotypical Southern accent, says in my direction, “Real men don’t wear masks.”
With that I turn away, reach into my pocket, then into my grocery cart, and when I turn back around to face the man, I am wearing a black brim hat and a Zorro mask.
Before he can speak, with lightning speed I slash the letter “Z” into his shirt with my sword. As he looks down at the tiny trickles of blood on his chest, he looks up at me in astonishment and then fear… as he realizes I’m holding the tip of my sword to his heart.
And then I say in a slight and very cool Hispanic accent (because after all, my name is Ramon), “I’m sorry, my friend, what were you saying about masks?”
While the police were on their way, the manager pointed out to me that my mask is supposed to cover my nose and mouth. To which I replied, “What if the alignment does not allow me to breathe and speak through the eye holes?” He closed his eyes and sighed. As Zorro, I regularly defeat lesser men either with my sword or with my intellect.
A Profound Disunity is Unmasked
Okay, seriously. I didn’t think this country could get much more divided than it was in 2019. Of course, I expected the division to ratchet up the closer we got to the big election in 2020. But I didn’t anticipate Spring would see us sparring over paper and cotton masks.
Reasons for wearing and not wearing masks seem to correspond not only to perception of risk but to partisan beliefs about the media’s role in assessing and conveying the risk. But health & safety advocates have always sparred with freedom advocates. Decades ago, Americans argued with each other about seatbelts, and later it was conflict over smoking in public spaces. Carrying a gun in public places will always be divisive. And there will always be motorcyclists who insist on their right to ride without a helmet.
A Fashion Opportunity for Personal Expression
I honestly don’t understand why wearing a mask is so difficult or why having to wear a mask incites some people to such anger. I would suggest that establishments who have a strict mask policy provide disposable masks for customers who do not have one or who just forgot to bring one.
But I believe the Never-Maskers are missing a fashion opportunity that won’t always be with us. Masks are the new way to express your individuality. Today’s Covid masks are the jean patches of the early 70’s, the bumper stickers of the 80’s, the message t-shirts of the 90’s. Tattoos and piercings are so early 2000’s. It’s 2020, people; do something with the bottom half of your face!
Sure, you can wear the standard powder blue paper mask. Or instead of wearing your emotions on your sleeve, you can wear your personality on your face. Artists and small businesses are selling every style and pattern imaginable. Check out these masks as well as an even greater variety of masks on Etsy. For some really crazy do-it-yourself possibilities check out this innovative selection.
Most often when I’m in a store I’m wearing the most interesting mask—it’s not only colorful but has Batman symbols all over it. Because I’ve always adhered to the wise words of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates who said, “Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman, in which case you should always be Batman.”
And when I can’t be Batman… that’s right, I’m Zorro.
Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin, TN, and the author of several books. He has been a weekly newspaper columnist in the Nashville area for over a decade.