Mask Guidance for Teens
I know this a confusing time. For two years, you have been told that if you don't wear your mask you will die, or end up accidentally killing someone you love, or at the very least be made to feel like you are one of "those" people who don't care about anyone but themselves. And now you're being told it's okay to take your mask off at school, even though no one officially recommends it, which is very confusing because you're not entirely sure what has changed from just a month ago, when pretty much everyone was sick and maybe we'd have to go back to that pajamas-in-bed-camera-definitely-off version of school, which just recently had begun to feel like a distant and very bad dream, except for the pajamas-in-bed part, which in retrospect was kind of wonderful, at least for the first few weeks, now that you have to drag yourself out of that same bed at the crack of dawn, get dressed, and get across town five days a week. So if you're wondering what to do about this confusing school mask situation, here's a little guidance from a veteran teacher.
Do wear your mask if:
You are feeling sick, like the kind of sick we used to call catching a cold.
You were making out with someone yesterday who was feeling sick, like the kind of sick we used to call catching a cold.
You spent the entire lunch period crammed into a car in the student parking lot with eight of your closest friends whose masks were hanging loosely off one ear and at least two of those friends seemed to be coughing an awful lot, especially if those two friends were not the ones vaping.
You have not brushed your teeth in at least seven days.
Consider taking your mask off if:
You have a raging headache because you abstain entirely from drinking water, preferring the energy drink called "Ghost" which tastes exactly like Blue Raspberry SourPatch Kids.
You don't want to be the only one of your friends not wearing a mask, even though you are incredibly tired of having a sweaty face, and are grossed out from smelling your own swamp-creature breath that only gets worse as the day drags on.
You're sad because you finally got your braces off, and now that your smile really is your best feature, no one except your boring family ever gets to see it.
You can't seem to make up your mind when you should wear your mask. This is called Mask Ambivalence. You wear it in Math, but not in English, not in the hallway except for that one really loud hallway in the basement when you always slip it back on for no logical reason, never while milling around the vending machine munching on Cheetos, always in the stinky second floor bathroom, even though other people's poop particles seem to march right through your face barrier like there was nothing there.
You believe wearing a mask makes you invisible. You are not invisible. It's time to reclaim your rightful place at The Party Called Life.
You keep telling yourself, especially when chatting with that really cute friend of a friend of your best friend, that your eyes are the window to your soul, when you know in your heart that it's gonna take your whole face.
It's probably time to take off your mask precisely because you feel more anxious now than at any other point in your life. Precisely because this pandemic has traumatized you in a variety of ways, including but not necessarily limited to: your self-image, your awkwardness around others, your rage at adults who seem to have completely screwed everything up, your feelings of hopelessness that we are possibly headed into World War III, and can't the world just go sit on the swings at the park and take a well-deserved break after so much death, death, death, because don't young people deserve to be occasionally unshackled from caution, especially if this turns out to be just a brief window of time until the experts definitively tell us to put our masks back on?