The people who want to keep masking ‘It’s like an invisibility cloak’



She’s been fully vaccinated for three weeks, but Francesca, a 46-year-old professor, does not plan to abandon the face mask that she’s come to view as a kind of “invisibility cloak” just yet.“Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker or maybe it’s because I always feel like I have to present my best self to the world, but it has been such a relief to feel anonymous,” she said. “It’s like having a force field around me that says ‘don’t see me’.”Francesca is not alone. After more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic, some people – especially some women – are reluctant to give up the pieces of cloth that serve as a potent symbol of our changed reality. Whether and when to wear a face mask has been one of the most fraught and divisive debates of the pandemic, from the early days of (bad) expert advice against masking, to the anti-masker protests of summer 2020, and the current, oddly angry public debates about when people should stop wearing masks outside. US officials in recent weeks have said that fully vaccinated Americans can go outdoors without a face mask, except in big crowds. But while Tucker Carlson on Fox News frames continued mask-wearing as child abuse, Emma Green in the Atlantic portrays liberals who remain very concerned about Covid as anti-science, and various pundits toss around accusations of “irrationality” or pandemic “addiction”, some people told the Guardian that they simply prefer wearing their face masks in public. It has nothing to do with being pro-science or anti-science, liberal or conservative, they said. Instead, it’s about the fact that there are more things that can hurt them than viruses, including the aggressive or unwelcome attention of other people – or even any attention at all.“It’s a common consensus among my coworkers that we prefer not having customers see our faces,” said Becca Marshalla, 25, who works at a bookstore outside Chicago. “Often times when a customer is being rude or saying off-color political things, I’m not allowed to grimace or ‘make a face’ because that will set them off. With a mask, I don’t have to smile at them or worry about keeping a neutral face.”“I have had customers get very upset when I don’t smile at them,” she added. “I deal with anti-maskers constantly at work. They have threatened to hurt me, tried to get me fired, thrown things at me and yelled ‘fuck you’ in my face. If wearing a mask in the park separates me from them, I’m cool with that.”Aimee, a 44-year-old screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles, said that wearing a mask in public even after she’s been vaccinated gives her a kind of “emotional freedom”. “I don’t want to feel the pressure of smiling at people to make sure everyone knows I’m ‘friendly’ and ‘likeable’,” she said. “It’s almost like taking away the male gaze. There’s freedom in taking that power back.”Bob Hall, a 75-year-old retired researcher in New Jersey with a self-described “naturally grim countenance [that] tends to be off-putting to others”, concurred. “In the

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