Hello all, and welcome to the second half of 2020, the year of yellow skittles and socks which slide down and curdled cream in your coffee. Everyone likes to talk about “the new normal”, a term which I deeply dislike, but which does seem to pretty much sum up the human race trying to figure out their lives this year. One of “the new normal” things we’ve all had to learn to deal with, with varying levels of graciousness and goodwill, is wearing a mask in certain situations. In New York City they’re required in the subways and stores, and apparently in my little building too, according to the hand-written signs put up by my landlady, asking us to “Please wear your mask in our shared spaces, AKA, the stairs.” Okay then.
Since I prefer to make the best of a situation rather than murmuring about it for forty years in the wilderness, I thought I’d share with you some of the unforeseen benefits of wearing a mask in New York City. You ready?
I generally listen to music on the trains, and although I can (usually) keep myself from belting along to the songs, I can’t stop myself from mouthing the lyrics to whatever rousing number I’m enjoying at the moment… “It’s the feeling of freedom, of seeing the light. It’s Ben Franklin with the key and the kite, you see it, right?” I have often thought that I probably look just a little deranged to all the strangers on the train, but a mask solves this problem very nicely, by hiding my mouth so everyone thinks I’m just your average New Yorker with her stoic commute face.
#fashion. Last weekend on my eleven-mile walk across the city, I got to see several examples of how creative people have become with their masks. There were all kinds of styles and designs and placements, such as the one lady who was wearing her mask directly above her elbow like a misplaced puff sleeve. Very…useful. My favorite though was the couple grabbing coffee who looked like they were maybe on a second date, as things still appeared slightly awkward. While they waited for their lattes, he complimented her on her mask, asked where she got it, and told her how nicely it matches her dress. That, in a nutshell, sums up our new normal, don’t you think?
I’ve already mentioned the lovely way a mask hides your un-made-up face. Pop on a pair of shades too, and nobody can see how three months of sitting at home and neglecting your grooming has affected your skin. It’s extremely convenient. Also, when you happen to fall into a sound sleep in Central Park, which is definitely not weird, and you wake up with all sorts of sleep crinkles on your face because you had your arm resting on it, just hide behind your mask and nobody will ever know.
You already know I love New York City with an unreasonable love. However, love is not love which can see no faults in its lover. Therefore I don’t hesitate to tell you that summer time is not New York City’s best time of year. On garbage day everyone places their mountains of refuse on the sidewalks for the trucks to pick up, and the whole neighborhood smells a bit like you’re a rat living in a giant trash can. Enter masks. You know how in old novels the girls would always daintily touch their noses with their perfumed handkerchiefs and smelling salts whenever there was a distasteful odor in the air? Masks are pretty much our modern version, as they block out many of the green clouds wafting through the air.
Speaking of smells- when you eat three dozen pickled onions for lunch and forget to brush your teeth before heading out the door, your mask will tell you so, which is very courteous of it. You get to bask in your own bad breath and regret all your bad decisions. On that note, it may even keep some friendships intact, as you probably all know how difficult it is to be close- or at least close physically- friends with the kind of person who eats three dozen pickled onions for lunch.
Did I miss any? What do you think has become the best part of our “new normal”?