Life in the MASK Lane

Today, I was headed to WalMart, routinely checking off my to-do list before walking out the door. First, I made sure my jewelry was in place. Next, I found my purse and made sure my wallet was in it. Also, I pulled out my makeup bag from my purse and began systematically putting on lipstick.

Uhh…

With a start, I remembered the time I had inadvertently puckered ugly lipstick stains on the inside of my mask. No use wearing lipstick, I reminded myself. Nobody will be looking at anything but my eyes, anyway. I put the lipstick back in my purse, thinking about how even our habits are taking a hit. I always put lipstick on before I walk out the door to go somewhere, but not anymore. I have begun to form new 2020 habits.

So…appropriately masked and unlipsticked, I went forth and shopped.

I’ve noticed that people don’t give direct smiles or glances anymore.  If direct eyelocks are involved, I’ve found most people smile nervously, scoot as far away as possible, and slide by me in the aisle before (gasp) I might try to strike up an awkward, mask-muted, conversation.

Other things that have changed: the way I check my ears after loops are on. I’d rather not look like Howdy Doody. I talk more loudly with a mask on, and appropriate expressions are impossible, thus shortening communication. Eyes  slice this way and that in suspicion, as if wearing a mask automatically makes us outlaws. If I’m distracted, and have accidentally left my mask in the car, I’m met with the evil eye and a convicting stare.

I, for one, am a non-judgmental masker. If someone wants to go without a mask, that’s their business. And no officious comments here, it’s my blog. Be nice. Not everyone CAN wear a mask. I hate the darn things because I cannot breathe and I feel trapped in them. I don’t feel pretty when I go out anymore, either. All that time spent making up my face wasted. The makeup takes a hit, and lipstick? Forget it. It’ll smudge all over my face. So, the end result is that it is less and less appealing to go out.

Also, have you noticed that we even judge each other’s mask habits now? Masks should be appropriately worn (fitted tightly to the nose and firmly under the chin), earrings should be outside the loops, not inside. Ditching the earrings is even better. (Can you say…androgynous? Yeah, I don’t want to inhabit a world like that.) And mask and outfit must be matchy-matchy. Entire conversations are now mask-related, and how they have become a fashion statement, which ones are better and why, etc.

Sigh.

This is no way to live. I was a holdout on even buying one until I actually won one in a Zoom meeting. Haha. The irony was not lost on me. So after that, I went out and bought another one.

After all, I have to match, don’t I? Plus, I don’t like the looks I get when I wear the disposable kind.

2020, you are getting your way. I’m positive this is not a good thing.

I look forward to the great unmasking. May it be soon.

I Liked the Old Normal

I miss hugs.

It feels strange to go out now. If I have to sneeze (heaven forbid) and I am in a store, even though masked, I feel like a ‘super spreader’ caught in the act. The ‘covid elbow’ is a poor substitute for a handshake, and though we laugh about it, it is weird. Isolating.

Then there are those who want to spew their anger all over those who don’t mask up. Don’t they realize that the masks they are wearing do little to stop the spread of their saliva as they scream obscenities and accusations? I prefer to not go through the exercise of explaining why I don’t want to wear a mask, so now, I jerk one over my face as I enter a store, then jerk it off the moment I leave. It is a reluctant obedience. I gave up.

And that is the problem. A lot of us have given up. And given over.

We wander through our few, but necessary, shopping expeditions like silent wraiths in an apocalypse. I’ve noticed people have begun avoiding each other’s eyes. The friendly hello is fast becoming outdated. Our ‘new normal’ is gaze avoidance, silent meandering, a quick snatch of products needed (lest they not be on the shelf one day) and screening the checkout lines for distancing.

I hate the phrase ‘we are all in this together’. We are not in this together. We are in this APART, i.e. social distancing and Zoom calls. Mandatory masking. Video call apps are becoming wildly creative. Microsoft Teams has a new mode called “Together.” If more than five people are on the call, they look like they are seated in an auditorium side by side, as if everyone is in a classroom. Together. And everyone seems happy about this. It even includes fake high-fiving. This is so creepy I’m having trouble comprehending the consequences. Are we now manufacturing fake togetherness in an effort to make forced isolation more palatable?

It’s not palatable. It’s not healthy. And it won’t last forever.

Friends now look at each other as if they are already infected, and stand a good distance away or raise their hands in protest if one zeroes in for a hug. Can you say…rejection? I know, I know…it’s protection…subliminally, though, that rejection thing is happening. Mandatory quarantining and screening are a given. My dentist takes my temperature when I walk in, makes me swish with hydrogen peroxide for 30 seconds (no less, or they make you do it over) and nearly slathers hand sanitizer all over my upper body. They perform all of this like medical attendants from a Hitchcock movie. Smiling, militant, hard-lipped, steely-eyed. They are focused on the mission. After all ‘we’re all in this together’.

Nope. I’m not all in this at all. I mean, I am…but…in my mind, I’m running as fast as I can for freedom.

The new catchphrases of the dreaded COVID existence:

new normal

mask up!

virtue signaling

flatten the curve

essential business

novel coronavirus

shelter-in-place

stay safe!

social distancing

super-spreader

contact tracing

droplet transmission

PPE (personal protective equipment)

Our communication is peppered with these phrases, now. It is the top conversation on every network, FB, Twitter, Instagram…the entire world, I guess. Still, I refuse to cave. I’ve limited the amount of news I allow into my brain. I’m stunned by the division this ‘pandemic’ has brought, and avoid FB posts that lecture the rest of us apparently misinformed, misguided, uneducated, helpless souls. It now makes me laugh, the sheer condescension of some of the comments aimed at those who rail against imposed restrictions that should not happen.

One thing is certain, a pandemic brings out the best and the worst in people. At least now, it isn’t hidden.

I miss hugs.

I believe they’ll be back.

 

Non-Seafood People Need Love, Too

B448DEC3-5F36-41B4-B555-E67F5A26B1E4I’m really not the best person to tease. In fact, I was teased so badly as a child, that it’s called ‘bullying’ today. The scars are healed, now, but once in a while they flare up, and I fly off the handle a bit. It’s usually due to a repetitive scorn, and after about a trillion times of throwing it in my face, I just…well…here’s the rest of the story.

There is one thing my husband and friends mock and denigrate me about as if I were the queen of fools. Quite honestly, I’m sick of it. I have driven a stake in the ground. (Umm…sand, actually. We live on an island.)

I’m saying no.

I will absolutely not, ever again, eat seafood in any form. Not clams. Not oysters. Not shallots. Not grouper. Not redfish. Not…well, I can’t remember names of seafood, but believe me, folks have all but forked bites of it into my mouth in an effort to show me how wonderful it is. Do they not think I’ve tried several times? Do they think that I outright lie when I say I don’t like it? It’s a mystery. One of my good friends even told me to stop saying I hated seafood  because I wouldn’t be considered a local (insert eyeroll here). Seems to me people that love me would know this about me and LEAVE ME ALONE ABOUT IT.

Sigh.

Why do people feel they have an obligation, nay…a holy DUTY…to recruit non-seafood people into the seafood-lover militia? I will be the token anomaly. It’s okay. Locals can point to me and whisper, “that’s our last holdout, but we still have hope” all they want to, but there is no hope. And I reject all manner of putting stuff in my mouth that is even slightly fishy. I have the right to refuse, don’t I? Isn’t that the American way? I especially reject crustraceans that wander the ocean scooping up all manner of fish poop into their little clampy mouths and then arrive on a restaurant table artfully displayed for $500. Yuk on several levels.

Look, seafood people – we non-seafood people should make you even more proud of your lofty seafood vocabulary and discussion of culinary literacy regarding lobster, crab, dauphin, (is that a fish?) or whatever. You know something we don’t. (We don’t really want to know, but hey, we will listen with rapt attention and respect your right to know. We can still get along.)

Speaking of crustaceans, the worst of the worst happened a couple of weeks ago.

My husband and I are semi-retired, and he is looking for hobbies and fun stuff to do as he feverishly awaits full retirement. When we moved across the street from a lake, I took a very deep breath when he took up fishing.

With all his heart.

I mean…the man seeks out every neighbor and pulls information and help from them like a dentist pulls teeth. He is merciless. So now we have not one, not two, but THREE stinkin’ fishing poles in the garage PLUS a filet knife, line, tackle, and all the other fishy accoutrement. Trust me when I say I hate the smell of fish more than the taste of it and this man knew it when we got married. Did that deter him?

Of course not.

But we have agreed on boundaries. He can’t bring the fish in the house unless its fileted and on its way to the freezer. Don’t get me started on the rotting bait he ‘just happens’ to throw into the trashcan for our poor trash pickup people to endure. Plus, now we have a racoon problem? Hmmmm.

But I digress. Worse than that, he has started CLAMMING.

OMG.

Now, he has dirty, muddy rubber boots, borrows this little rake-thing from a neighbor and wanders out into the muddy marsh. With a smile on his face, no less. I know now where the phrase ‘happy as a clam’ comes from. These, also, cannot come into the house, and I thank God that we have water faucets all around the perimeter of our home so he can wash the little critters outside. His mud-spackled clothing has to go straight to the laundry, and his mud-spackled body straight to the shower.

When he’s done clamming, he looks like a slightly remorseful- but proud -three-year-old boy fresh from a mud puddle. The other day, in all his mud-bespeckled glory, still wearing the grimy rubber boots, he grabbed his white, plastic bucket of unmwashed, still very much alive clams and strode purposefully toward a neighbor walking her two little purse-dog Pomeranians in the street in front of our house.

I was downright horrified as he marched toward her, bucket held high, little bitty fork-rake thing at his side, in all his clammy glory to show off his catch. Come to think of it, I guess clamming is where the term ‘clammy hands’ comes from.

Eww.

Our neighbor smiled and tried to be polite, but backed away before the dogs leapt into the bucket.

A few days ago, he asked me to come watch while he raked the salt marsh mud for clam treasure, which I did. After all, a wife’s gotta support her man, at least on the surface, right? I don’t have to smell or touch the mud or the clams if I stay a good space away from the entire activity. He bought me black rubber boots for the occasion (why?) and I nicely responded that I’d watch from the bank in a chair, thanks.

With a goodly amount of wine.

So now I’m finding out that there are plenty of clam-lovers and clam-diggers out there. To my horror, once a friend of ours found out my husband had become conversant in all things clam, he promptly invited us over for dinner. He’d make Clams Casino Fettucine.

Guess who provided the clams.

The host generously cooked me chicken instead, but told me later he cooked it in the same sauce as the clams.

Did he have to tell me that? Really?