To the Editor:
I didn’t expect to be one of the ones who didn’t want to wear a mask. I read what the scientists are saying and I understand them: “a mask keeps others safe … transmitted by vapors … lingers for hours … three times more contagious than the flu….” I understand all of this and yet something deep within me, not attached to my logical brain does not want to wear one.
It’s not because I think it is a hoax. I believe Janet Mills and Dr. Nirav Shah (Maine CDC). I believe they are trying to keep our state safe, our communities safe, reduce the impact and flatten the curve.
I tried to blame it on my father, a doctor who has his own views, separate from the system and the CDC. Views I have come to listen to and respect as his unique truths. And then my mom, who tends to be without fear. We visited my 90–year–old grandma together, without masks. It was a great day. I wanted to blame my stubborn Maine upbringing. Mainers don’t like being told what to do. I live in the woods, on the fringes of society, I am an outlaw, I wanted to say. None of these excuses hold court with my partner, who is wearing a mask, because on May 1 that is what our Governor ordered us to do. He is logical and it makes sense.
I bring my lovely handmade mask with me, the star–patterned fabric tucked in my back pocket in case someone calls me out. I did wear it once, when the sign at Jonathan Edwards specifically stated I had to in order to enter. I have been reading about the protesters. I don’t want to sound like them, angry and entitled. I try and avoid the places I may be expected to wear a mask altogether. Yet just yesterday, I walked into my local hardware and grocery store with my nostrils and lips exposed. There is no community transmission, I think to myself; I will when I need to. Janet Mills, my partner and my friends are saying I need to now. I am reluctant.
I realized that the reason I am struggling and can’t fully get on board with this mask thing is the same emotional response that motivates so many to do just the opposite. Fear and safety.
I fear that when I start wearing a mask it will signal the start of a new era. The time before we wore masks and now. I fear this is not going to end. The strains of viruses will continue to come and our masks will need to be something that makes us safe in a world that is sick. I love where I live. I am surrounded by woods. Creatures. Plants. Water. I live amongst builders, artists, dreamers and creators. I found my place in the woods, my community as the ultimate declaration — I feel safe here. I feel at home here. To feel unsafe here, that others may be unsafe here, it feels like a betrayal. A betrayal to wear my mask to the grocery store, where I know everyone, where it is sparsely populated, where the checkout clerk jokes about sanitizing as she sprays the disinfectant half–heartedly at the stacks of baskets and I genuinely laugh.
To wear a mask feels like an acknowledgement of my fear. And acknowledging that yes, even here in this wonderful remote small community, we are not safe. This is hard for me. I think of myself and many others, needing someone to guide me. To acknowledge that I am having a hard time with all of this, that I may need extra support or help. To see me and my own personal small struggle and help me let go of my attachments to being free and brave. To assure me that this too will pass.