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  • Laura Cameron

To Mask Or Not To Mask?

All hail July 19th, right? The long-awaited ‘Freedom Day’ has finally arrived. We can meet our friends, go to the movies, enjoy a drink in a bar without a mandatory meal we really don’t want. But crucially, we can do all these things without a mask.

So great! We can now enjoy socialising, shopping, and gourmet meals without mask-wearing being mandatory. No more smudged lipstick almost instantly after you applied it. No more desperately trying to catch a breath of fresh air or struggling to understand a word anyone says (who knew I lipread so much!). This all sounds amazing, right? Like the little bit of normality we all needed? Well, maybe not so much.

Unfortunately, with the death of mandatory face coverings came the birth of (what I’m going to call) ‘mask judgement’. Who knew a small piece of fabric could cause so much controversy? Just a few short years ago, I had never even considered wearing a mask (apart from as part of my surgeon fancy dress costume, of course) and now I find it at the top of my ‘leaving-the-house checklist’. Keys, phone, purse… MASK.

So, what happens now? Well, that’s simple… we choose. We choose whether we want to wear a mask or not. We choose between smudged lipstick and the ability to lipread. We choose whether our mask is needed to protect ourselves and others or whether perhaps, after all this time, we need to drop the masks and move on with our lives. Luckily for you, and vitally, I am not here to tell you which choice is the right choice, and which is wrong. But instead, to tell you that your choice is exactly that, your choice.

But sadly, life is rarely that easy and, instead, we Brits have managed to split society right down the middle and create two camps: Camp Mask and Camp No Mask. Now, no matter which side you’re on, you’re open to judgement. And either way, you can’t win.

I personally fall into Camp Mask as I have no respiratory issues and, honestly, I hardly ever wear lipstick anyway. Wearing a mask isn’t an issue for me and I like the idea that I could be protecting others by doing something so little. And so, I wear a mask. And yet, when I recently visited my local shop, I found myself under the crossfire of judgemental scowls from Camp No Mask. “Covid’s over, take it off”, they said with their eyes. I even had a store assistant ask me to take off my mask so she could hear me better. All in all, I left the shop feeling like my decision was not respected and questioning whether it was the right one.

So, what did I do? Well, as any good journalist would, I conducted an experiment. I returned the next day to my local shop but this time, without my mask. I thought to myself it might feel better to be part of Team No Mask, as us mask-wearers surely can’t be that critical. And, of course, I was undeniably and unequivocally wrong. Once more I was subjected to glaring eyes that this time silently spoke, “oh, so you don’t want to protect the society around you?” or “I’m protecting you, why won’t you protect me?”.

As it turns out, there’s judgement on both sides. Neither camp is better, neither is worse. Ultimately, I’d say we are all as bad as each other. I’m guilty of it too! So next time I’m in my local shop, I’m going to conduct a new experiment. This time, instead of making assumptions about the choices of the person behind me in the queue and judging them for making a choice that they are well within their rights to make, I’m going to stop. I’m going to remember that the person in front, behind and the shop workers themselves are all making the best choice for them. Perhaps they struggle to breathe, perhaps they forgot their mask on this occasion or perhaps that red lip was just too good to smudge.

Whatever your camp and whatever your reason, don’t take for granted the freedom we have to choose. And most importantly, respect the choice of others around you without judgement.

To mask, or not to mask? That is your choice.

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