Masking the Pain


Years ago in Venice, Italy with my family, we had the misfortune of arriving in that iconic city during Carnival.

We found the city cold, unfriendly, shopkeepers evil and unwelcoming and the entire experience extraordinarily horrifying.

The hotel was filled with crowds of scary partiers in masks like a scene out of a Nicole Kidman horror movie. The hotel was filled with Freddy Krueger in ball gowns.

We got the hell out of dodge as soon as possible and caught the train for Rome to a safer and more inviting clime.

Now after a year relegated to a life confined to masks I find myself reliving too many unpleasant memories of the past.

Venice aside, I harbor unfortunate recollections of the early days of anesthetics when a small mask was placed over one’s nose and ether poured on slowly until unconsciousness ensued. Recollections of awaking after surgery to a mask-wearing doctor aren’t something I choose to dwell upon.

Neither of these mask memories fill me with a warm fuzzy feeling or a desire to spend the upcoming years in a face covering and yet, we are told we must.

We’re suddenly living in a mask-wearing-virus-filled existence and no one can predict how long this new normal will remain.

Faced with this new addition to my wardrobe I am trying valiantly to conjure up more pleasant mask memories and I must admit a few come with questions I’ve never before considered.

Why did the Lone Ranger wear a mask? Supposedly it was to hide his identity, which in my opinion it did very poorly. If one is doing good deeds why the need to hide? I imagine if you’re afraid of getting caught robbing a bank a mask would be an asset, but the Lone Ranger, I’m not seeing it.

Now Batman, that was a mask. If you’re going to go to the trouble of wearing a mask why not cover your entire face and add bat ears? Bruce Wayne always did things in a big way and that made Batman one of the coolest villains. I’m even willing to overlook the whole George Clooney nippled costume thing.

I don’t mind wearing a mask except for the obvious social setbacks.

How might one smile at anyone when walking down the street? One of my favorite habits has always been nodding and saying hello to everyone I pass as I move through my day. Without the smile it loses some of its cache and is far less friendly.

I see it as a civic duty to spread a bit of good cheer to the strangers I meet in my travels. How can I fulfill my promise to spread happiness like a Jewish Santa Claus minus the red suit and bag of goodies?

Oh sure the mask will come in handy for many things. Postponing a nose job or facelift, or the new double chin from the COVID 19 weight gain. Perhaps you can put off the teeth whitening a while longer and of course no need for lip plumpers anymore.

Still I’d rather see and be seen and the mask is a cover up of giant proportions.

You can be mad, glad, sad or blah and who’s to know. What could be better than a mask for masking our pain?

Your moods are covered up by a piece of cloth and unfathomable to others.

So because man is creative we now have all types of personality masks.

Designer initials and patterns, even some with smiling faces; happy masks or sad, heavy and light ones from all kinds of materials. There are masks with logos and ads or pictures of your favorite characters. Okay, so I admit I have a Baby Yoda mask. Get over it.

For evening there are pearls and sequins and some even dripping with fake diamonds.

From the looks of it masks are here to stay by virtue of the enormous investment we all seem to be making for a way to exhibit at least a modicum of personality in this new faceless world.

As optimistic as I’d like to be I find something reprehensible about masks.

Our world is plagued by a lack of social interaction with the advent of the Internet. A place where human beings hide behind a screen to chat, message and communicate. Unfortunately masks will become just one more way to prevent us from seeing one another and bonding with our fellow earthlings.

We must also consider that this covering will make it easy for space visitors to roam about freely where before one might have noticed their presence. Gee that gray guy with the mask has enormous eyes.

If you were beginning to understand how torn I am about protecting us from one another you’d be correct.

I know we need to wear them and I’m all for trying to do it in an attractive way, yet I’m really quite sad that this is yet one more layer between humans to separate us even further.

Nothing in this world is a better communicative tool than a smile. It shouts volumes to others whether friend or stranger. It says you matter to me enough that I am happy to see you. You’re important and worthy of a happy face.

It wishes the recipient a good day and sends positive vibes out into the universe.

Each smile drops a bit of joy onto the earth to attach itself to those passing by.

Where will these little bits of joy come from now without smiles to create them?

There is no doubt we will have to make more of an effort to reach out to others while our smiles are imprisoned in masks. More calls, more stopping to say hello, yes even more text messages with lots of smiley faces. It may not be the real thing but it’s the next best until the masks come off.

I imagine it’s my challenge to find happiness in my covered days. I can look back happily to that year I finished writing the book I’d been procrastinating for so long. I guess it’s true the best way to get a writer to write is to place them in captivity. Worked for me, but hopefully I’ll be able to discipline myself in the future since no one wants another year in lockdown.

We all need more smiles and a kind word never hurt anyone either.


3 thoughts on “Masking the Pain

  1. Good read Norma….those masks are coming off and I for one am excited…..some day we will look back at all this and wonder how did we do it…so off to get my teeth whitened, my lips plumped and my chin pulled up….I am ready for all of it!!! Keep up the writing, enjoy it so much…


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