To Mask or not to Mask that is the question

To Mask or not to Mask that is the question

We used to wear masks over our eyes for theatre, play, to sleep or perfidity, now we’ve got them on our mouths and noses for… protection. Whether the throw-away kind or reuseable cloth, bought or homemade, white or bright colors, solid colored or print masks are here to stay for a while. By desire or force they have become part of our everyday accessories, as important to pick up when going out as your phone. You’ll always remember the year that those vacation pictures were taken. 2020 is clearly discernible. Here are 3 different mask experiences, thoughts and analyses from Italy, Canada and Paris. It’s interesting to have perspective from a variety of places. (PS: If you would like a free homemade washable mask, just stop by Bill & Rosa’s Book Room!)

Basilica San Vitale Ravenna, Italy


Our “cousin” website and magazine Easy Milano, which serves English speakers in the Milan, Italy area, has recently published an article titled English Speakers Dis Mask Wearing Rules, Italian Speakers Obey. They found a study done based on native language rather than male/female or age groups. They wrote:

BritsAmericans and other English speakers are some of the least likely to wear face masks and social distance to combat the spread of Covid-19, according to new research from Durham University Business School. The only native speakers, researched by the academics, less likely to follow health precautions are German speakers.

Read the whole article:



Parisian Fields, retired university professors and bloggers from Toronto recently posted an article titled A view of the pandemic (so far) in five masks. Philippa reflects on the pandemic as a series of five masks. She notes that as the masks have changed over the last 5 months, so has our relationship with them and our relationships with each other. The most amusing part of her article we found was the Toronto city managers posting signs about how far to stay apart when social distancing: 3 geese is the right distance! This must have been inspired by the emboldened Canada Geese who wandered around downtown Toronto during lockdown.

Bas les masques!

A French expression meaning reveal yourself, stop your games and lies has now become a slogan for a populist movement by healthcare workers.


Shari Leslie Segall, a writer who lives in Paris, contibuted these thoughts. Masks: IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT THEM.

Inconvenient at best, irritating at worst; dangerous for tots, lifesaving for their grannies; a newfound fashion-statement one day, a beauty-buster the next. As a follow-up to our “Contemplations on Coronavirus Confinement, Conundrums, Consequences (in France),” published here this past April 17, it is time to talk about…MASKS!

Cover of Madame Figaro 15 May 2020

New normal: For two months we pledged we would not accept let alone ever get used to the “new [post-pandemic-onset] normal.” We would hold on to old normal like a kid in the backyard clutching that clothesline pole for dear life as his parents try to drag him away to the packed-up U-Haul, engine running, GPS boldly displaying directions to their next home. Then we got onto a métro. And casually looked around at all our fellow travelers. Then calmly looked down at our phones or newspapers. Then eventually sauntered off to our destinations. Nothing to see here, folks. Just another routine trip…… WAIT!!!!! Were ALL those people wearing MASKS?! EACH one of them?! And I didn’t even REALIZE it at the time?! As if ALL MY LIFE, EVERY TIME I took a subway, EVERY passenger looked like a figure in a surrealistic painting (Google: René Magritte, The Lovers)?!

Positive feedback: For those of you who thrive on kudos. Whose every move is a calculated fishing expedition trawling for praise. Who bloom like a peony in the sweet shower of approval. If you wear your masks–despite living where they’re not obligatory –this one’s for you: Way to Go! Bravo! Yay, you! Keep up the great, responsible, sensible, mature work! Every time you wrap those uncooperative elastic bands around your ears before heading out to the grocery store, running down the hall to return your neighbor’s cookie tin, walking your child to school, thank yourself for a job well done! We thank you, too!

Not-positive feedback: Did we miss something? Has there been a second type of mask manufactured, distributed, touted? The kind you wear below your chin (i.e., below the two areas from which the virus that might be in you spreads to others: your mouth and your nose)? Or dangling precariously off one ear? Or crumpled up in your pocket until the bus driver doesn’t let you on unless you dig it out with your dirty hands and don it–below your chin? Oh–we see now: You removed it from your mouth/nose area so that you could talk. Except isn’t that how the virus spreads, surfing out on the wave of air that projects your phonemes? If you’re not worried about protecting yourself, maybe thinking about the children you live with or the cherished great-aunt you visit or the nice bakery-cashier you’ve known for years might inspire you to cover up.

Volunteers: You need another inspiration? As opposed to several months ago, pharmacies, supermarkets, even variety stores and news kiosks are now overflowing with paper masks. But where do you think all those cloth masks come from? Some do come from haute couture houses, temporarily repurposed for the cause (might as well–with no balls to go to, not a lot of folks are buying gowns right now). And there are regular factories churning them out, here and abroad. But leave us not forget the legions of volunteers who decided to spend lockdown doing something other than binge-watching movies, binge-eating take-out, binge-ordering possessions, and–young and old (and very old); in cities and in villages so small as not to have their own stores or schools; alone “in their corner,” as the French say, or in clusters reminiscent of Civil War-era quilting bees–churned out cloth masks by the collective tens of thousands. If only for their sake, wear your mask!

Frozen meets Ratatouille: Speaking of couture houses, yes, it can seem tacky to be running around with a Louis Vuitton-print mask, or over the top to wear a lace one to match your wedding dress, or cheesy to stand at the checkout counter with Spider Man splashed across your face. But you gotta admit: Some of those for pre-teens are really cute!

What price beauty?: If all other pro-mask arguments fail, ask yourself when the last time was that you had to replace your (pricey, now-unseeable) lipstick and make-up base or that (high-end, now-unreachable) sunblock-cream that promises to prevent more of those pesky wrinkles from taking up residence around your mouth. Ask yourself when the last time was that you stopped yourself from dashing out to the supermarket until you tamed that (embarrassing, now-undetectable) stubble.

Putting them on, taking them off: If you need to make your mask fit a bit more tightly, twist the elastic bands, thus shortening them a bit, before hooking them over your ears…No matter how exasperated you are and rebellious you feel, if you rip your mask off mid-errand/mid-sidewalk, do not–that’s: do not–throw it on the ground. Not only does this litter up our often already littered-up streets, it does nothing toward getting rid of any menacing virus particles that may be lingering thereupon. (More hints and tips for donning and removing are only a Google-search away.)

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