Masks

I am fortunate enough to live up in the hills of Los Angeles where there is lots of green and, for more than a brief moment, you can shut out the world and pretend bad things don’t happen to good people and that you, somehow, are exempt from bad things.

Granted, the pretend game doesn’t always work but in uncertain times, when you’re really in need, it is possible to will a more lovely reality into existence by simply opening your eyes and seeing what stands before you.

Not so much anymore.

Reboot! Reboot!

Early this evening I took my dog Rosie for a walk and all I could see coming down two different hills and then up a third one were masks – lots and lots of colored masks.

Some were black, others were blue and still more had bright bold patterns.   They were, of course, attached to human bodies of varied shapes and sizes and ages, all of whom seemed to have collectively decided to go on a hike or walk, or, more likely, on a specific trip to a well-known destination on top of one of the hills with one of the best views in the city.

Usually at least half of these walkers or hikers or solo fellow humans smile and approach when you have a dog, particularly a cute one, as Rosie will signal to you that she certainly is.

I mean, look at this face.

But that’s not what happened this evening.

This evening not only did Rosie fail to be a people magnet, she and I found ourselves part of a well-defined human obstacle course of avoidance.  The second a mask, or several masks, spotted us, that’s how quickly they scurried into the road, or crossed the street, or looked down and turned away.

It was as if WE had the plague, rather than merely being two of billions of unwilling participants in one.

Over the last few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic now sweeping the globe, it was still possible to pass people at a safe distance with a smile or a nod or even an eye roll at the ridiculousness of our joint medical, um…situation.

Pretty much sums it up

But it’s difficult to recognize a smile when city law now requires that we wear a mask that covers our mouths or risk a hefty fine.  Similarly, we’re being told on the news that we could be taking our life in our hands if we get close enough to any stranger we see in a road in order to give OR receive an eye roll.

These days we keep our eye rolls to ourselves, at least in public, and probably all the time.  For what good is an eye roll anyway, if no one else can see it?

Very much my energy these days

That’s like yelling at the TV when your idiot president is blathering on at a faux news conference about something he knows nothing about (Note: which is pretty much everything) and Lord knows none of us except me would spend even a moment of their normally allotted eye rolling time doing that.

It is interesting to exist in the outside world wearing a literal physical mask since so much has been written over the centuries about the imaginary masks we choose to show to others.

Sorry Phantom, the CDC would not approve. #coveryourfaceplease

I don’t know about you, but at times it’s been confusing and downright appalling to learn just how many virtual masks existed out there and how unadept I’ve been over the years in realizing who was wearing which at what time and for how long.

More surprising is coming to realize over the decades that I’ve been as guilty as so many of those I’ve criticized.  I mean, they felt convincing enough at the time – my masks of heterosexuality, of success, of endless good humor – despite the fact that they were about as representative of my inner truths as the president is of his at one of those aforementioned “press briefings.”

My mask of heterosexuality probably needed some work #lol #denimfordays #sofly

What was even worse was the knowledge, as I grew older, that the protective gear I thought was 99% effective at keeping my inner truths at bay to everyone else, was nowhere near that.  These were quite inferior masks.   Something more akin to washing your hands with icy cold water, sans soap or alcohol based disinfectant, after visiting a church service or synagogue on Easter or Passover in one of the nation’s hot zones of infection, and expecting it to somehow fool the virus and shield you from its infection.

Be fashionable, please.

In other words, not so efficient and not so good.

What is also not very good, but endlessly ironic and really quite efficient, is despite the fact EVERYONE will now be wearing actual cloth masks in public, it will be EASIER THAN EVER to recognize what’s really going on underneath them and the commonality of truth that we share.

We are all terrified, we all want this to end and we are all frustrated that no matter how we slice it or roll it around in our minds, we are not much different than the faceless person we stay six feet away from on the street as far as the virus is concerned.

Be kind to your fellow houseplants

Imagine, it’s taken everyone wearing a mask to realize we are all, essentially, the same.  And in the same boat, or sinking ship, depending on what we choose to do from now on.

Billy Joel – “The Stranger”

SCRATCH! THAT! ITCH!

It’s amazing how much I want to touch my face.  Like, all the time and everywhere.

Most especially, I want to rub my eyes.  But REALLY rub them good and hard so they will never itch again.

Though while we’re on the subject, I really, REALLY want to spend a good hour scratching my nose.  I don’t have a particular spot because the tingling shifts all the time. First it’s on the outside, then on the inside and then on the top and the bottom of every side.

Cue Macaulay Culkin scream

Which is to say nothing of my mouth and my ears.  If I weren’t eating everything in sight (Note: Not that there’s very much) or spending so many hours listening for updates and warnings on cable news, they’d bother me even more.  That said, when those orifii (Note: Alternate plural for orifices) are not engaged it’s pure hell to resist the urge to, well, manhandle them in some every way.

In the age of COVID-19 self-quarantine/social distancing/pandemic land we’re not supposed to do a lot.  But touching your face is among those at the top of the list of the WORST things to do.

It’s easy to understand why.  The virus’ entry point is through any open membrane into your body exposed in everyday life.  If you don’t live in a nudist colony, your face is Iwo Jima.

Or, if you don’t like war metaphors, you can think of it as a potentially fatal petri dish.

This is how I used to think about my acne-ridden face all through adolescence so for me that’s not a far reach.  It’s more like a golden oldie.

Unless, of course, there is another way to think about this.

When I stop to ponder what I’ve just written only one word comes to my mind – insanity.  It’s that kind of neuroticism I spent most of my adult life trying to undo through every means possible.

Totally normal now

In particular, many years and tens of thousands of dollars of therapy come to mind. Let’s not even get into all the bad relationship choices, inappropriate acting out by any means necessary or the sheer abject solitary terror and loneliness.

So I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Covi drag me back now.  Nor do I want you going down your own personal rabbit hole, however more creative yours might be. (Note: though I doubt it).

Take those personal victories where you can get them

The crazy part of this face stuff is not the admonition to keep our hands and everything else away from that particular part of our person.  Instead, it’s the absolutism with which we tell it to ourselves and shout it out to the world.

It’s true, you don’t want to be in an office, a public space or anywhere else and put your fingers where they shouldn’t be (Note:  Good advice, even without a plague).

But if you’re at home alone and you’ve just washed your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, well —

HAVE AT IT!!!

Me, right now

Truly.  If you’re healthy nothing will happen to you.  How could it?  You’ve just disinfected (aka killed the virus) the means by which your death sentence will mutate.

Yes, I’ve exaggerated for dramatic effect.  COVID-19 is not a death sentence for most.  But for many, it’s not fun.  And for many more other than yourself, it could be if you pass it on.

But you want to be mindful.  And you want to be rational or you will kill the very reason you want to stay alive to begin with.

And when in doubt, I just remember Jon Hamm is OK

TODAY.

Fine, today’s not so great, even if you do like your house.  Nevertheless it’s all we’ve got for now.  In actuality, it’s all we’ve ever had.  It’s just, well, it didn’t always seem that way, did it?

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to f-ck up today for myself more than outside circumstances already have.

This occurred to me this morning after I came back from a lovely morning walk with my dog, Rosie, took off her collar and leash, gave her a treat, took off my jacket and put it in the laundry room, scrubbed my hands thoroughly and then nearly slapped myself silly for having the urge to….itch the outside of my nostril with my bare finger.

Do I want to die, I thought for a split second.

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!

And then I sneezed, confirming pretty soon I would die.  In fact, it was imminent.  Never mind that it’s the height of allergy season and I haven’t had my bi-weekly allergy shot in weeks.   And that Rosie had decided this a.m. to sniff every tree, shrub, flower (Note: But no people, NEVER people) in sight.

Then suddenly I stopped.  Maybe it was all that therapy or perhaps it was Rosie’s look at the crazy person in her kitchen.

But something in that moment made me ponder my runaway train thought processes, wash my hands one more time for good measure (Note: You never can be too careful), and then SCRATCH AWAY.

NEED MORE HANDS!

EVERYWHERE.

And I do mean everywhere.

(Note: Use your imagination).

What have I done?

In closing, all I’m saying is this:

You don’t have to scratch every itch you have but there is no point to any of this if you simply exist in a scratch free prison of your own making.

DO NOT take this as in invitation to party in the South Beach of your choice with your favorite teen or twentysomething.

But DO find a way to party on your own….with clean hands.

Bee Gees – “Stayin Alive”