I didn't put out a newsletter yesterday. Usually I write these in the evening, after the kids have gone to bed and my work is done for the day, and now that I don't send them on the weekends I can even work ahead a little bit, although mostly I try to write them in the moment and treat them like a weird pandemic diary that I just happen to share with a large group of friends, relatives and total strangers as well as post on the Internet for any lunatic to read.
The upside of this arrangement is that whatever appears in your inbox each morning is a little time capsule of whatever was on my mind the night before.
The downside is that some nights I just can't.
Monday was one of those nights. I try to make sure these newsletters are at least amusing or informative and ideally some combination of both, and on Monday I just did not have it in me.
There are a lot of reasons to be down right now. If the spectre of death, illness and economic devastation and the emotional fallout from two solid months of homeboundness weren't enough (and usually they're not because I am IRREPRESSIBLE, guys), there's the increasing politicization and polarization of this whole mess, and that's largely what's been getting to me lately.
Specifically, I'm really down about the fact that some people are losing their minds over having to wear face masks.
Look, I get it. The messaging about masks, back in the early days (literally just two months ago, which I realize is impossible to believe; if this were a college semester we'd all still be recovering from our Halloween hangovers), was to not wear them. At this point it should go without saying, but when we're dealing with a novel disease that no one in the world has ever had to fight before and then every country in the world gets it basically at the same time, messages are gonna change. In March, the message was don't wear them; now the message is wear them when you can't distance so that you reduce the possibility that you'll spread the virus to other people.
Are face masks fail-safe? No. Are they a silver bullet for contagion? Absolutely not. Are they comfortable? Fuck no. They're inconvenient and sweaty and a real headache for people who wear glasses in particular. And if you aren't careful, they can be germier than going without.
At the same time, science currently indicates that properly worn masks, when used correctly in combination with physical distancing, can slow the spread of the virus. And yeah, there are a lot of emphatic italics in there. Because it seems like all those pieces need to be in place.
That's not what I find frustrating; that's just going to be part of Life With Coronavirus.
What I find myself getting depressed about, and what's harder to understand, is the phenomenon of people becoming unhinged over mask policies. They're so vehement that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reversed a directive that face masks be worn in stores because he decided that people simply weren't going to do it. A city in Oklahoma backed off its face mask law after threats of violence. And discount store shoppers in Michigan have escalated to assault and murder after being asked to wear masks.
You know what else is inconvenient, difficult to learn to use properly, and a major hassle that is also technically not necessary? Child car seats. Yet we read those GD booklets and we learn the proper way to install those MFers and we strap our kids into them every time they get in the car, JUST IN CASE we happen to get into a collision. That's how I look at my face mask. It doesn't protect me personally, but if I happen to somehow get into a situation in which I'm exposed to the virus, there's a possibility that it will stop me from spreading it to other people. It's an annoying thing that I choose to wear for other people's safety, just like my kids' car seats are annoying things that I use for the same reason. Would I rather just let them buckle themselves into the back seat like we did when I was their age? Obviously. It would make my life 10000 percent easier (or at least it would if we still drove places). But our knowledge of car safety has evolved, and when you know better, you do better.
Actually, I wonder if any of the folks who are refusing to wear face masks have ever used a car seat. Because if they had, they'd appreciate the relative ease of use and low level of frustration offered by face masks.
I get not wanting to wear a face mask. And it still makes me really depressed to know that there are people who refuse outright to even consider this simple step to potentially help slow down an illness for which, as a reminder, there is still no proven course of treatment, vaccine, or cure.
I didn't live through World War II, obviously, so all I have to go on is American Girl books and Bing Crosby movies, but pop culture has taught me that people on the homefront made some pretty extraordinary changes in their lives to support the war effort. Food was rationed, homemakers went to work at factory jobs, kids collected scrap metal, families planted Victory Gardens, women drew seams on the backs of their legs because they'd sacrificed their stockings. And this went on for years. We've only been asked to wear masks for about a month (although it seems likely that it's going to be a long-term arrangement).
I think — I think — that most people are the Victory Garden kind of people. In a Gallup poll last month, most people reported they had either worn or considered wearing one. I also think we'll see them catch on as people start to get the message and get over the weird factor of wearing them in public.
But in the meantime, I need to stop reading the comments. Because the number of people who refuse to even consider wearing a mask because they don't want to be told what to do, and that's more important to them than looking out for other people? That just makes me sad.