Discover more from Covid Underground
Your Mask is Sexy
Plus Ask Chi and movement updates
Periodically my ex asks me, “what barometer do we use to determine when things are safer?” He wants to know when he can visit our son without masks, and send him back to public school.
I hate this question because I don’t feel like there’s a clear answer. All we know now is it’s not safe because there are no public mitigations, and the only real way to avoid long Covid is to avoid Covid. Personally, my energy is no longer focused on the distorted Covid numbers. Instead I’m focused on creating what we need and making the most of where we are. So when he brings this subject up, it throws me off balance and stresses me out.
How would you answer this unanswerable question?
“Let’s focus on creating what we need” is a healthy attitude, and I’m on the same page.
And you’re not alone. Lately I keep hearing versions of this question.
When will you let up? When will you stop masking? What is the metric for returning to normal?
On the Masks4All subreddit. From my friend, relaying a tense conversation with her aunt. On our monthly Covid Underground Zoom.
The only true answer to the question is “no one knows the future.”
The likeliest answer is “not for a very long time.” And the most accurate answer includes a eye-glazing technical discussion.
But all those answers, as you’ve already intuited, aren’t likely to help.
For casual situations, “I can’t afford to get sick” is a popular response. So is the snarkier, “Wouldn’t you wear a condom if you were having sex with a stranger?” The moralistic “I’ll keep doing it as long as it’s the right thing to do” is tempting. But when the asker is a friend or family or an ex, none of that will do.
Instead, I wonder what’s behind the questions. Often, underlying the request for information, there’s a want. They want to see you, connect with you, or in your case, your son.
And yes, maybe they want you on Team It’s Over.
To neutralize the force of the desire, all you have to do is acknowledge it. Though the askers might seem to be asking for information or metric, you can do some conversational jiu jitsu, and meet them instead at the unspoken level of their emotional needs. “I wish the pandemic were over, too.” Or, “Yes, it would be so nice to have an unmasked visit.” And depending on the situation, maybe there are steps you can take to meet that need while maintaining caution.
But wait. Before you even get into the nitty gritty of negotiating mitigations, try this: ask about their values.
Studies show that the best way to defuse a disagreement is to ask the other person about their values. Allowing somone to reflect on their core principles boosts their intellectual humility and openness to other perspectives. So when your ex hounds you for answers, gently turn the tables. Ask what’s most important to him, and listen. He’ll be more receptive to your point of view afterward.
This response is practical, emotionally sensitive, and still brings your ex back around to your terms.
The pandemic isn’t going away, but we have agency in how we adapt to it. That’s where I see you coming from, and that’s a good place to be.
Check out the Covid Underground’s new directory of activist Covid groups (U.S. focused). Help us add to it!
ProjectN95 is piloting a free air purifier program for schools, shelters, and other organizations in the U.S.
Covid Safe Campus has an excellent resource kit for advocating for masks in healthcare settings.
Your Mask is Sexy
Hey, I like your mask.
Thanks. Yeah, I finally did a fit test. But it doesn’t set off my eyes the way yours does!
Oh totally. You can tell so much from a person’s eyes.
Haha, me too. Year four, baby!
Seriously though. You know what else I notice? The people who are still masking, they’re high agency. Like, I know what my health is worth, and I’m going to do everything I can to protect it.
I’m totally drawn to that.
Or maybe it’s the air of masked mystery! LOL.
How do I keep doing it? Don’t know. Prolly on the spectrum somewhere.
Yeah, haha, who knew being neurodivergent was going to be such an adaptive trait in a pandemic?!
Well, anyway. I just wanted to compliment you on your mask. Super sexy. Keep rockin’ it.
Very Last Thing
I love hearing from Covid Underground readers! Send me a note or drop a comment below.
And know that if you choose to become a paid subscriber, your donation goes directly to the movement: paying our zoom and web hosting fees, offering financial aid to students at our Forest School, and funding community-building events — like the masked Easter Egg Hunt we held this Friday!
Grateful for all of you.