Performative masking

Yesterday I went out four times and forgot my mask every time.

The first three times, I knew I was going to be outside the whole time, no closer to other people than loud talking distance. So I knew it was safe to be maskless.

And yet it felt funny. For months now, whenever I left the house, I’ve been wearing a mask on a lanyard around my neck (or on my face of course). It felt weird and uncomfortable to be without it. Like walking down the street not wearing a shirt.

The fourth time I forgot my mask was when I went out for take-out food. I realized my error when I was walking to the car from the house, and I turned right back around and climbed the stairs and retrieved my mask, because I knew that this time I was going to be indoors.

The restaurant, by the way, is a local Mediterranean place (for the benefit of my local friends, it’s Mystic, on University and 70th–highly recommended!). It’s got a take-out counter near the front doors, and they keep the doors open and have fans blowing hard indoors. They’re conscientious about masking and ventilation so it’s reasonably safe. And everybody’s always masked, including me.

I’ve been thinking for a couple of weeks now about performative masking — wearing masks when out in public, outdoors, away from crowds, but where other people can see you. Earlier, I thought that was a good idea, just to normalize mask-wearing.

But now I think it makes more sense to only wear masks when necessary. Performative masking leads to mask-shaming, which is just a bad idea.

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