You Can Have My Mask When You Pry It Off Of My Cold, Dead Face

Sure, I’ve read the studies that say masks probably don’t do much of anything, and yes, I’ve been quintuple-vaccinated. But I’m going to keep wearing my mask forever. It feels like the right thing to do. I know this because it’s the opposite of what those horrible right-wingers think. You call this a meaningless strip of fabric; I call it my emotional-support cloth…

Masking up every day when I get out of bed fills me with a sense of calm, wellness, and moral superiority. Frankly, I’m not ready for a future in which I just go around the community without a visible display of my self-righteousness. I suppose I could get a Queen Kamala tattoo on my face or something, but that seems impractical. (What will I do when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is president, haha.)

Signaling things to others is a really important part of my identity. That’s why I have one of those “DARWIN” bumper stickers on my fuel-efficent Mini Cooper, why I have an “IN THIS HOUSE WE BELIEVE” yard sign (okay, in my case it’s a window sign because we don’t have a yard in Park Slope), and why I spent nine years getting a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies. Keeping a mask on my face indefinitely is like shorthand for all of the stuff I want to indicate to others, right there on my face.

I do a lot of things to fight the anti-science people right in my apartment — for instance vigorously disinfecting all of the boxes that arrive and opening them only with rubber gloves on, but it bothers me that no one can see how thoughtful and responsible I am behind closed doors. I mean, do my partner and I get any credit for sleeping in plastic pods so that we don’t infect each other? Out of an abundance of caution, these days we make love only on Zoom. But not enough people know that, although I write a lot of letters to the Slate advice columnist asking for tips on how to make our sex life even more socially responsible. I wish there were a way to have vegan sex.

Since speaking words is a known risk factor for the emission of droplets and aerosols, my partner and I have agreed not to talk except while masked, which kinda makes us talk really loud, and maybe that defeats the purpose, but anyway, it’s the vibe we give off that counts. My children, Rocco and Ulysses, are doing fine in the virtual school they’ve been attending for the past year or so, getting up to three hours of instruction a day, but I think it’ll be safe to send them back to in-person schooling around 2023 if things get better. They don’t get a lot of exercise because of course I won’t let them go to playgrounds where they might touch a contaminated surface. I think it’s cute the way they now look like translucent gelatinous blobs from the movie Soul. Anyway, if I allowed them to run around, they might simulate gun violence or play a racist game of cowboys and Indians, so I think it’s better this way. Kids are resilient, right? I’m not worried about the way they seem to mainly communicate in grunts and moans. We should all welcome this natural, organic way of communicating. What’s wrong with the language of nature? It sure beats “our” language, which was largely assembled by white men and is hence a tool of the racist patriarchy, like the Constitution and math.

This morning, after I decontaminated every page of the Times and then microwaved it, I silently cursed Donald Trump for causing this pandemic with his racism. He calls it “the China virus”? I call it “the Trump virus.” Clearly we would not have suffered at the same scale if we had had someone reasonable and competent in charge. You know, like Andrew Cuomo. Anyway, can you believe Trump told us to inject bleach? What a deeply silly man. Bleach is for wiping down your vegetables with.

I’m not a freak or anything; I do get out and exercise in Prospect Park, but of course I take reasonable precautions. A scuba mask strikes me as just common sense, because we all heard about how some guy got COVID through his eyes. Anti-science Trump probably denies this ever happened! Seriously, can you believe Trump? If he had been reelected, people would have continued to die of this in large numbers. Thank God we elected Biden, who exudes managerial mastery, which is why only 200,000 people have died since he took over.

Conservative creeps keep saying they want to return to normalcy, but I just don’t think I’ll ever feel safe in a country in which Donald Trump used to be president. My kids will be perfectly normal and healthy, growing up with Mommy and Daddy hovering nervously over them in close proximity at all times. And if the teachers’ unions say it’s unsafe to be around kids, I believe them. It’s become a really tiresome Rethuglican talking point to claim that schools are all about children. You wouldn’t ask a teacher to rush into a burning building, or to be reduced to the same social level as retail workers. We don’t respect our teachers in this country, and the proof of it is that we actually expect them to show up in school. It’s cruel and inhuman to ask teachers to do their jobs. Also, expecting black teachers to do their jobs is racist.

Since I’ve been vaccinated with every jab on the market, the most important thing about wearing this mask is not so much the additional level of safety it provides me, which I guess even Anthony Fauci kinda sorta admits is close to nil, or the assurance it provides me that I won’t be infecting other people, which is also pretty much zero. No, the reason I will wear this mask forever is because it makes me feel closely linked to other people, by which I mean other nervous people. Don’t you find that covering up your face is an excellent way to break down barriers? I am signaling to other masked people that we all share certain fundamental human values, such as inability to calculate risk and hating Trump. Sometimes I think of that cult of people who wrapped themselves in purple shrouds as they committed group suicide: At least they were all together working toward a shared goal in their community, you know what I mean? If anyone is thinking of doing something like that as a Trump protest, let me know. ✪

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