The Masks We Choose to Wear


Should you wear a mask after getting a COVID-19 vaccine? 5 reasons why the answer is ‘Yes.’ (USA Today)

One of the things I wasn’t able to take with me from Toledo is the very early nineties-style, very purple Caboodles makeup case I’d been toting around with me for decades. Apart from just not having the space to bring it along to Colorado, I’d gotten into a pattern with my makeup where I was using the same four things (concealer, powder, blush, and lipstick) for the same look, day after day, and I haven’t really felt like changing that look for a long, long time. I’m not that good with makeup to start with — my concealer is always way too light for my skin tone, since I like thinking I have more of a gamer’s tan than I really do — and experimenting with makeup isn’t something that appeals to me. I wound up packing my four trusty items in my checked baggage when I took that flight from Detroit to Denver back in 2017, and I’ve just been replacing them ever since.

I don’t remember the last time I bought makeup, but I’m pretty sure that the last time I wore makeup at all was for the last day of in-person classes last spring semester, which was over ten months ago. Whenever I’ve had to leave my apartment since then, I’ve always had a gaiter on, and I don’t have a webcam that I need to look “nice” for, so that makes makeup kind of pointless for me right now. Like a lot of other changes that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, as much as it’s convenient for me not to have to worry about makeup here, there is a small part of me that misses the routine of it. Strangely enough, I find myself missing that Caboodles box more than anything, and I haven’t seen it for over three years. (It’s with a friend right now, so I still have it, but I don’t have a practical need for it right now, just an emotional one.)

As more and more people have gotten the COVID-19 vaccination here, and there have been increasing warnings that even vaccinated people will have to wear masks for a while, that’s made me think about what I want to do here. I won’t be returning to in-person teaching until September at the earliest, so while I’d like to get vaccinated soon, I don’t feel any pressing need for it, and I can think of lots of my colleagues and friends here in Wisconsin who should get vaccinated before I do. Until then, those gaiters will absolutely be a necessity for me, and wearing makeup will serve no purpose at all, and as much as I wish I could look down beside my bed and see my old Caboodles box to remind me of my past, I still don’t miss the makeup.

If there ever does come a point where I don’t need to wear a mask when I leave my apartment, though, I may be tempted to keep putting a gaiter on. I made sure to get some awesome-looking gaiters as the world was shutting down last March (including one a huge Cheshire Cat grin on it that’s helped me earn some brownie points with my English colleagues), and slipping one of those on is a lot more convenient than spending minute after minute trying (and usually failing) to get my makeup just right. I recognize that wearing a gaiter creates problems when it comes to people who need to lip-read and people who need to see my facial expression for whatever reason, but these are kind of non-considerations for me in everything but my teaching life, and maybe not even for that, depending on the students I have any given semester.

Like a lot of other things with this pandemic, I don’t think I’ll be able to make a good decision about how to go forward here until after everything has settled down, and we’ve figured out exactly what the post-pandemic “new normal” is going to be. With the expansion of the modern surveillance state likely to continue here, it wouldn’t surprise me if legislatures start passing mask bans after the pandemic is officially declared over, just so all the facial recognition apparatuses around us can start doing their work again. Until then, though, I think I might buy another couple of gaiters with my tax refund this year. It’s not like I need to spend the money on makeup right now.

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