People want to keep wearing masks because they like being somewhat anonymous

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The Guardian has a story with quotes from people who want to keep wearing masks for reasons beyond protecting themselves from covid and germs. Masks help women avoid the male gaze, (although some men just try harder when you’re wearing a mask) and they help us avoid having to smile and look happy all the time. For people who work in retail especially, this is a big advantage. Some women appreciate that they don’t have to wear makeup under a mask and others say they feel less vulnerable and judged when their face is covered. I got a lot out of this article and the personal stories people shared. Mostly I felt bad for the people who work with the public.

She’s been fully vaccinated for three weeks, but Francesca, a 46-year-old professor, does not plan to abandon the face mask that she’s come to view as a kind of “invisibility cloak” just yet.

“Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker or maybe it’s because I always feel like I have to present my best self to the world, but it has been such a relief to feel anonymous,” she said. “It’s like having a force field around me that says ‘don’t see me’.”

Francesca is not alone. After more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic, some people – especially some women – are reluctant to give up the pieces of cloth that serve as a potent symbol of our changed reality.

“It’s a common consensus among my co-workers that we prefer not having customers see our faces,” said Becca Marshalla, 25, who works at a bookstore outside Chicago. “Oftentimes when a customer is being rude or saying off-color political things, I’m not allowed to grimace or ‘make a face’ because that will set them off. With a mask, I don’t have to smile at them or worry about keeping a neutral face.”

“I have had customers get very upset when I don’t smile at them,” she added. “I deal with anti-maskers constantly at work. They have threatened to hurt me, tried to get me fired, thrown things at me and yelled ‘f-k you’ in my face. If wearing a mask in the park separates me from them, I’m cool with that.”

That poor woman who works at a bookstore! I can’t imagine dealing with antimaskers all day like that. I would be keyed up waiting for the next one. Masks do add a layer of protection against scrutiny. There were quotes from a man who was relieved he no longer had to fake a smile and from a non-binary person who was glad to not be misgendered constantly. This article ended with a woman who felt more self conscious about her appearance because because she sees herself on Zoom all day, which I’ve heard is a real issue for people. Wearing a mask helps her feel ok about going out in public. While I will continue wearing a mask inside for the near future as I want to feel more protected, I realized that it lets me hide in plain sight too. It also helps me be less self conscious about skin issues like acne. I can wear a blemish sticker and not worry about people seeing it either.

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photos credit: Georg Arthur Pflueger, Lala Azizli and Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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74 Responses to “People want to keep wearing masks because they like being somewhat anonymous”

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  1. CJ says:

    I love not having to fake smile when I pass people

    • Pusspants says:

      Yes! No requirement to smile and I can freely talk to myself as I’m walking down the street, which I do when I’m going over the days events or daydreaming. One other thing that’s nice is that when I gave myself an in-home acid peel, as my skin was healing no one could see it. Win, win!

    • mellie says:

      Agree with the talking to myself comment….I do it all the time, especially in the grocery store. I have a soft voice (which doesn’t help with the masks!), but no one can really hear me doing it!

    • minx says:

      Yes. And now that I’m used to wearing masks—in the beginning it felt claustrophobic—I’m glad to have that barrier between me and others’ germs. I feel like it’s a privacy shield, too.

    • DuchessL says:

      I feel nobody sees me with a mask. I dont need no makeup, im anonymous, in my own world, im loving it

    • Ladychef83 says:

      Same, but I do miss lipstick.

  2. Ariel says:

    I am looking forward to less spreading of coughs, colds and flus in the years to come.
    The masks reduced it like crazy last winter.
    No reason we need to go back to giving each other germs at our offices/retail stores, etc.

    • LadyMTL says:

      100% this! I was in Japan in 2019 and remember seeing lots of people in the subway wearing masks, thinking what a good idea it would be if we here in my city started doing this on public transit (little did I know, lol…)
      This is why it baffles me so much when I hear or read anti-mask nonsense. Not only do I enjoy wearing less makeup and not fretting about breakouts, but I am pretty confident it keeps us all healthier overall. Do I want to wear one all the time once this is better / over? No. But if I am sick, I will happily slap one on.

      • Vizia says:

        I’ve worked with a lot of people who lived in Asia during SARS, and masks just became second-nature to them when they were feeling unwell at all, or a family member was. I was in Tokyo in Feb 2020 just as the cruise ship docked in Yokohama, and there were a *lot* of masks on subways and trains.

      • Anners says:

        This is how I feel – I’m looking forward to not having to wear it, but will absolutely put it on in the future during cold/flu season or if I’m ever feeling under the weather.

        As I side note, I enjoy being able to softly sing along to the music played in grocery stores (pure 80s and 90s nostalgia) without feeling like a freak lol!

    • L84Tea says:

      YES! My husband is very prone to colds because he works with kids, and when he gets a cold it hits him hard and lasts over a month because his allergies are terrible. He has not had any colds this year as a result of all the mask wearing. It’s been great for him.

  3. amiloo says:

    I’m in backwards Tennessee, and I work for a popular retail chain. Our company requires us to wear masks, but I would say only about 25-30% of our customers are wearing them. I went to the locally-owned grocery store in my little town yesterday, and I was literally the only person in the building wearing a mask. This is Tennessee, and it’s shameful.

    I’ve only had a couple of yt women start ranting to me about Covid being a hoax, and I just turned on my heels and walked away. No one has cursed me out, but early on some of the teens I work with got coughed on and cursed at. People are trash.

    I haven’t been sick since the pandemic started, and I hate being looked at. Wearing a mask is a win-win for me.

    • Kimberly says:

      I had a man approach me at rest area in Kansas to tell me that, “IT can still go through the mask” then give me a smirk. I literally turned my whole body and asked him, “Why would you ever think it was OK to approach me? Why do you think, me as a total stranger, would give an F about what YOU some random nobody has to say? I’m not related to you and have zero obligation to give a 💩 about YOUR opinions.” Then I just turn and head into the rest room…

      My husband and I travel for work and have done so during the entire pandemic and this response my typical repy…

  4. Hannah says:

    100%. I haven’t worn makeup in over a year. I love the whole mask thing.

    • Seraphina says:

      YES! No waxing and no makeup and you can’t see my facial expression. All around win as far as I am concerned.

      • L84Tea says:

        I love getting to silently mutter under my breath when something annoys me and nobody knows it. :-D

      • Christine says:

        I was about to add that now that I’m 46, I get a random chin hair every so often, and the mask means I don’t have to panic. I started carrying tweezers, pre-pandemic, because I would always find one when I was out, never when I was home. Those middle age chin hairs are really fast on the creep up!

    • minx says:

      I love it because I have resting bitch face and no one can see it!

  5. Kimberly says:

    I love wearing a mask. I am fortunate that the reason isn’t a serious one. I just like being able to sing along to overhead music and not looking absolutely insane for doing so. I have perfected a head nod greeting and can sneer at people who piss me off at the grocery store without them seeing….yes, that sneer is you lady with the wagon up and down the aisles!! stop rolling into people and not apologizing!!

  6. Piratewench says:

    As someone with a very friendly face but who prefers being left alone, I’ve absolutely loved the anonymity of masks. I can go to the store and be left alone. I’m an introvert but somehow my face always screams “chat with me!” to many people. It’s always been tiring and even uncomfortable for me to have so many people talk to me in public.

    I now can smile happily under my mask while shopping, and no friendly person around me takes that as an invitation to chat.

    • ab says:

      Same here. I deal with a fair bit of social anxiety, small talk with strangers makes me sweat and want to crawl into the nearest hole. But something about my face or demeanor often makes people decide I’m the one to ask for directions or stop for a chat. 😬 Masking up and social distance have been great for me! I also get to talk to myself out loud now without worrying what people will think lol.

    • Chanteloup says:

      ha, are we sisters?? I must have the same face, people not only want to chat with me but also *always* think I work at whatever location I’m at. [It dumbfounds me sometimes - I could be in a high-end place and am definitely never dressed to fit in, why do they think I could possibly work there?]. I’ve actually just helped people before if I knew the answer, it was easier and quicker than convincing them no, I have nothing to do with the place, lol. I like being kind, but I too am an introvert and find all the interaction exhausting.
      I quit going ANYWHERE during covid, even ordering groceries for pickup but now that I’m finally vaccinated – yay! – maybe I’ll start showing up with a mask on and see if it [hopefully] makes me less visible. You’ve given me hope, Piratewench & ab.

    • SpankyB says:

      Same! I was complaining about it to my mom once and wondering why it always happened to me. She said it’s because I don’t look threatening, I look friendly, happy, and approachable. I tried to work on a Resting Bitch Face but I can’t pull it off. Masks are wonderful!

    • Monica Q says:

      Oh it’s so good to have a mask when you have “one of those faces”. I’ve learned about people’s lives in the grocery store, in line for concessions or at the dog park through no fault of my own. Now with a mask + glasses, none of that. Occasionally I’ll get “cool t-shirt!” (bands or comic books) but nothing bordering on the lady in publix telling me about her 4th marriage 2 years ago.

    • booboocita says:

      After years as an academic librarian, then a college professor, I’ve developed an expression that says, “Authoritative, but friendly.” My resting face says, “I know stuff, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask me.” I’ve been asked for directions in bookstores, malls, libraries, airports … Good gravy, the airports. I’ve been asked so many times for directions to bathrooms, nearest Starbucks, pet relief stations, gates and times of boarding/departure — while sitting in a chair with a briefcase on my lap, a suitcase at my feet, and a boarding pass in my hand. Dude, I’m new here too! How should I know?

  7. escondista says:

    I’m in Texas – i’ll wear a mask but it’s already getting hot and i’d prefer not to.

    • Soupie says:

      ^Oooo didn’t think about this. I’m now living in a humid state. On another note, my state is almost as bad as Tennessee. I plan to keep wearing a mask when out anywhere for the foreseeable future. I’m sure a lot of people will think I’m an evil Democrat making a political statement and I don’t give a damn!

    • Lisa says:

      We had this issue in Hong Kong where I lived, summer and covid masks were brutal, but thats where nice cloth ones come in. You can get them in bamboo silk! :)

    • goofpuff says:

      I’m in Texas too and I know what you mean about hot. It’s not too bad if you use different types of masks and add some face powder underneath. I’ll occasionally take my mask off when I’m away from other people outside (inside is always freezing due it the air conditioning being cranked up).

      the mask has been a boon to me for allergies though! I love being able to wear it now during bad pollen days and nobody asking me why anymore.

  8. (The OG) Jan90067 says:

    I actually MISS smiling at people, but more so SEEING other people smile. It also makes me realize how few people actually *really* smile, one where it reaches your eyes because you’re feeling joy/happiness.

    But I do have to say, I kind of like not having to “put my face on”; I’ve even stopped with the eye makeup since my sunglasses cover my eyes when I’m out during the day. I actually tried putting some makeup on the first time I went out for outside lunch after I was a few wks. post 2nd dose, and I have to say, I feel like I almost *forgot* how to do my eyes! What used to take just a few minutes, by rote, I had to really work at! lol Amazing how rusty you can get in so short a time!

    All said, I will STILL be wearing my mask in any semi/crowded places, and DEFINITELY indoors for quite some time into next year. I don’t trust the anti-vaxxers who will “claim/pretend” they are vaxxed as a reason to go maskless. I am almost dreading the fall/winter cold/flu season surge…I am so afraid of what will happen if vaccinations continue to drop off.

  9. MissMarirose says:

    No one has told me to smile in over a year. It’s wonderful.

    • Jamie says:

      I agree with this. Although I do miss my response to people who tell me to smile, which is maintaining an uncomfortable amount of intense eyecontact while I continue to not smile, until the situation gets uncomfortable and they eventually walk away. That’s what gets me to smile, after they’re not there to see it, of course.

  10. embo says:

    I feel so ambivalent about this! On one hand I do 100% agree. I love the mask + sunglasses combo for total invisibility/anonymity! It’s like having a shield on.

    But I also hate when I DO accidentally make eye-contact with people and DO want to give a friendly smile to reassure them I am not glaring!

    It’s like I can’t win it’s just so dependent on my level of extroversion that day, which I’ll admit oscillates from Chatty Kathy with anyone to wanting to hide from all humans on day to day basis XD

    • Christine says:

      I have found myself randomly winking at kids, and I’m not sure how I feel about myself.

  11. GreenEyes says:

    As someone whose mom died of COVID and is not able to be vaccinated.. it’s scary for me as my state is almost completely open again with many Not being vaccinated but not due to health. I won’t go with out a mask, I don’t care what my state does… I am so grateful to
    those that chose vaccination and still wear masks.

  12. GreenBunny says:

    Also, I love wearing masks in stores because if they’re playing awesome music, I can lip sync along to the words and no one knows. I’ve jammed out so many times and no one is the wiser.

  13. Lemons says:

    I don’t want to give up masks either…
    I honestly wonder where we’ll go from here. Will it be socially acceptable to continue wearing a mask?

    • MangoAngelesque says:

      @LEMONS— Honestly, with all the people who considered it “socially acceptable” to NOT wear masks during a pandemic, I don’t think there will ever come a time where it is considered unacceptable to actually wear one.

      After all, plenty of people, especially in Eastern countries, have been wearing them during travel for many years with no hassle.

  14. Exactly says:

    Yeah but it’s also a way for criminals to get away with stuff. Having worked in a security department, it was surreal watching so many people steal and not having a good picture in our records. I can’t imagine what other criminal activities people are getting away with at the moment.

    • Brittany says:

      In 2020, home burglaries and drug crimes dropped, while homicides, shootings, and car thefts increased. Sounds like you work in retail security? I can see how masks would throw a wrench in the works.

  15. Jenn says:

    I have melasma on my upper lip. I love wearing a mask because I’m less self conscious about it.

  16. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I might wear masks the rest of my life. I love the fact that my overtly cynical and sarcastic expressions are under cover. I need to get some new prescription very dark sunglasses then even my rolling eyes can roam freely. I can’t even imagine what this would’ve meant in my 20s.

  17. Normades says:

    I haven’t had my usual allergies this year. I like wearing one in the morning (warms up my face). I will continue to always wear a mask on public transportation and airports/planes.

  18. Tanya says:

    I know a lot of Asian women sporting the big sunglasses + mask look in NYC these days.

  19. tbg says:

    Someday I hope to get to play around with new lipsticks and glosses again, but I also like being protected from illnesses and sometimes I just don’t feel like putting makeup on. I’m one of those where in normal times if I went out for anything, I had to wear at least some concealer, blush and lip color. My skin tone makes me look like a corpse otherwise.

  20. Juxtapoze says:

    I smile at people with the mask on and when I realize they can’t see my smile, I end up baring my teeth and laughing to myself. Lol!

  21. Annabel says:

    I love the new mask mandate—I’m fully vaccinated and prefer not to wear a mask when I’m outdoors—but it turns out masks are fantastic for seasonal allergies, so I’ll put one on when the pollen count’s high.

  22. y says:

    That’s American culture and it’s spreading. I don’t need people to smile at me when doing their job and I don’t want to do it for others. Of course I don’t like it if they give me an ugly eye, just keep it neutral. For a while, being a former communist country spared us of it. We went about in our gloomy ways. But nowadays people expect smiles and greetings everywhere, expect others to make them feel better about their lives if they buy a trifle, or just pass over. Exploitative and contrived, in my opinion.

  23. Valiantly Varnished says:

    I get this so much. My hyperpigmentation from old acne scars has faded completely because it’s been completely protected from the sun for over a year. Also there are still people who cough without covering their mouths! I’ve encountered two in the last two weeks and was so thankful to have been wearing a mask and to have been socially distanced from them. This last flu season was basically non-existent because of mask wearing.

  24. Winnie Cooper’s Mom says:

    I enjoy wearing a mask to cover my slightly double chin. All my weight gain goes straight to my face :(

  25. Meg says:

    I am ignored in public so i cant relate to this but loved not having a cold last winter so i will for sure be wearing masks out in public during winter months

  26. lolalola3 says:

    Totally agree. There is something really freeing about mask wearing. My boyfriend is quite a bit younger than me and I felt really uncomfortable in public places when we started dating pre-covid — but with a mask on, it doesn’t feel so obvious. I feel much less pressure when out & about and I want to hold his hand or walk arm in arm. Its lovely.
    I did really miss wearing lipstick at first but the trade off is so totally worth it!

  27. JanetDR says:

    I had a delightful encounter with a baby in a Trader Joe’s recently. It cracked me up because it was the first interaction like that in a very long time and my mask didn’t seem to interfere with that at all! I’m fine with wearing a mask indefinitely, although I have been working from home just a few hours a week remotely. Next week, I’m headed back into work and not sure how it’s going to be wearing a mask all day. My fellow speech pathologists tell me I will want several a day, they get wet because we need to use our voices a lot. Some of my preschoolers can wear masks and some cannot… Very glad to be vaccinated!

  28. Monica says:

    I think people will get really attuned to reading eyes and eyebrows. I’ve been able to convey a smile that way and gotten the same in return. My ratchet front teeth need work and it’s been nice to hide them in until they get fixed next month. I’ll be happy to wear masks for the foreseeable future. But yeah, I need to get some cooler masks now that summer is coming.

  29. lemontwist says:

    Totally agree with the people who prefer to keep wearing a mask in public-facing customer service jobs, especially retail. You never know when you’re going to get an especially entitled/argumentative customer, and having that barrier helps prevent things from escalating if they ‘perceive’ something negative in the clerk’s expression. Plus it frees employees from having to plaster on a smile, which can be exhausting in itself.

  30. Katie says:

    Ugh, everyone recognizes me with the mask on. Even store employees recognize me despite sunglasses, hat, mask – people just remember your clothes, your coat, generally what you look like. (I’m not famous, I’m just talking about the neighborhood, I also recognize people I know or have seen around a lot). So while I will keep wearing masks until it’s needed just to avoid unintentionally promoting going without a mask when too many people aren’t vaccinated yet, but I for sure will not keep wearing them after that. For one, I don’t really mind “not being anonymous”, but also, I feel like with the mask off I’m kind of more anonymous than with one on? I just have one of those faces, I guess. When the face is covered, people pay attention to other things and those are very recognizable, it turns out. With the face open, people just glance at the face and move on, partly because it’s impolite to stare. But with the mask, it’s kinda different and I can see people recognizing me, and I don’t really like it much. People used to not recognize me as much (prob in part because with and without makeup those are two different ppl….).

  31. Kimberly Clement says:

    I am an essential worker (grocery store) and us females were saying we love wearing a mask so creepy men don’t comment on our looks in a vulgar manner.

  32. NotSoSocialButterfly says:

    A fake smile doesn’t.