This morning I donned my mask and headed to the grocery store. For me, wearing a mask isn’t a simple straight forward thing of the CDC recommends it to help protect against spreading COVID-19 so I do it. No, with me, many things often involve a lot more psychological wrestling than they should.
You see, deciding to wear a mask or not exposes deeply rooted tendencies I’d rather not have. In particular, I want people to not judge me. Therefore, I want to know how many other people are going to be wearing masks so I can make the choice that will put me in the majority so I don’t look like the odd man out. I’m the odd man out enough as it is; I don’t need to be deliberately doing things that will make it worse. The problem with mask-wearing is I really can’t win. I live in exurbia, close enough to a major metropolitan area for commuting to work there but out past the immediate suburbs, where the culture is smalltown. This means mask-wearing is about 50/50—half of the people do and half don’t. So, if I opt to wear a mask, I’m going to have about half of the people I see at the store looking at me and thinking, “Oh, you’re one of those paranoid people.” But, if I don’t wear a mask, the other half of the people I encounter are going to be thinking, “How can you be so irresponsible!?!? You’re endangering us all!” I can’t win.
I wouldn’t have this problem if I didn’t have mixed feelings about the mask recommendation myself. If I firmly believed masks were going to be a major game changer in this pandemic, it wouldn’t bother me to wear one, even if it made people think I’m paranoid. If I firmly believed masks were worthless as a prevention strategy, it wouldn’t bother me to go without one, even if it made people think I’m a public health menace. However, I don’t believe either of those things wholeheartedly. Yes, masks probably make us somewhat safER, particularly if the majority of people use them. But, they don’t make us safe. Life is not safe. On the other hand, I understand the fear of getting sick many are experiencing right now, even if I don’t share that fear myself. For me, if I get sick, I get sick. It’s just not a worry I have. It’s okay if you do worry about getting sick and I don’t; I’m not right and you’re not wrong. It’s just a different perspective. I don’t want to increase your worry for yourself and your family though by refusing to do something simple that is not risking harm to me just because I don’t have the same concerns.