Do you ever feel like the celery in a hot wings basket? Or an ad on YouTube? Or the tootsie roll in the bottom of the Halloween pumpkin? Judged and found lacking? Or ignored altogether? Unable to connect?
I’ve been feeling that a lot lately. And I think it’s the isolation behind the mask. I find myself trying to connect by overcompensating — chattering aimlessly, using lots of hand gestures, smiling till my eyeballs vanish — trying to appear welcoming, to sound happy, to be happy. But I probably just seem crazy.
Teaching through a mask to 190-plus students also wearing masks is lonely business. And no matter how hard I try, they mostly stare silently back at me. Judging me. Or worse — not caring. Or even worse still — feeling as isolated as me.
Because I definitely feel lonely. And dejected. And detached. (And I fear that they do too.)
There’s a human connection we miss when we can’t see whole faces. Two-thirds of our features are currently hidden. And what’s hurting me most is the lack of smiles. I’m missing them something fierce.
And it’s breaking me.
Smiling’s my favorite. They’re so contagious — way more than COVID-19. And while the virus droplets aren’t getting shared and spread, neither are the smiles.
And I’m not just missing the smiles. I’m missing myself. It’s like my personality has been purloined by my PPE.
I never thought not seeing smiles could impact me so much.
But even without the masks, smiles are so few and far between right now. Everything and everyone is so angry and divided. Between the plague and the politics, I feel a social distance not solely attributable to the pandemic.
We’ve been losing our humanity for a long time now. And it’s what I need more of. More connections and grace. Not more exclusion and judgement.
Not more I’m better than you because I think like this. Or I’m better than you because I have accomplished this. Or I’ve been rewarded with this. Or I wear this. Or drive this. Or live here. Or work there. Or have this skin color. Or vote this color.
I want to belong, not to exclude. I want to be a part of something. Not to feel like the last one picked. But also not to be part of a click. And I definitely don’t want to be a dick. I just want to be included and to include others. To be a part of, not apart from.
Can’t we do better? Can’t we love better? and live better? and be better? Even behind masks? Because I am a believer in the safety and science of masks. But I’m also a big believer in smiles.
I miss sharing and spreading and basking in smiles.