Goodbye masks!

A twist on last year’s piece entitled “Why I love my mask”

Annalisa Waddick

Last year, after being struck with inspiration while waiting in the long, long D-Hall cue (remember that?) I wrote a piece for this very section entitled “Why I love my mask.” (Self plug: you can read that piece in the online edition of the Ring-Tum Phi.) In it, I detailed 12 reasons why masking can be beneficial, aside from the obvious fact that they save lives. 

A lot has changed in the 18 months since that piece was published. I’ve gotten and recovered from COVID-19, survived a year as an RA during a pandemic, and switched from a writer of this section to the editor of it. But the biggest change has affected all of us: the lifting of pandemic protocols. As of several weeks ago, the Washington and Lee University administration dropped the campus-wide mask mandate, effectively ending COVID-19 procedures and precautions (with a few exceptions). 

Campus looks very different these days. Every seat in D-Hall is filled, every classroom packed to capacity. Spring is in the air, and a fresh start is right around the corner for graduating seniors. 

Given all of this, I thought it was only fitting to write a follow-up masking piece – except this time, I’m focusing on the little benefits of a life without masking. 

Of course, there must be a disclaimer to my previous statement before I continue. I am a strong supporter of masking. I believe the research that has shown its health benefits. I believe that people made it into a much bigger deal than it ever needed to be. I believe that it was, and is, a way to show that you care about your neighbors and community. I have worn a mask myself for two years, and continue to do so in places like CVS or stores in downtown Lexington where there are people outside of the campus community present. What I am writing about is campus specific, and that is because there is a vaccine mandate in place that includes booster shots.

We would not be where we are today without such a vast majority of our campus community being vaccinated. I am a strong supporter of this policy, but that’s an opinion piece for another time. 

I also want to acknowledge the incredible loss of life that has resulted from this pandemic, as well as the effects on people’s mental, physical and emotional health. It has been miserable for all of us, and I in no way mean to trivialize the experiences of these last two years. 

Rather, I want to provide a glass-half-full view of our new, bare-faced situation. I want to talk about all the little, insignificant things that can add up to feel – well, significant. 

So without further ado, here’s those 12 little reasons (with the order correlating to my previous article as much as possible)… 

1) It is so much easier to hear what people are saying. Masks obviously impact volume of speech, but they also impact clarity. I can’t tell you how many times I would be standing in line to grab dinner, practically shouting at the poor D-Hall worker to make it known that I wanted a second scoop of mashed potatoes. Listening to professors is also easier, especially in classes with large rooms (because who wants to sit at the front, right?) 

2) There is nothing rubbing on your ears. I was able to mostly avoid this by strategically choosing my masks each morning depending on their comfort level, but even my comfy ones would begin to bother my ears after five or six hours. 

3) I can wear makeup again and it will actually stay on! Even my (extremely) expensive Urban Decay setting spray is no match for a mask – my blush would rub off onto the mask in seconds, and often most of my foundation too. 

4) Musicians don’t need to bother with slit masks!! This one gets two exclamation points because it is big. My fellow Wind Ensemble members understand. Trying to play a brass instrument through a slit mask means you’re constantly playing a fun little game called “how much fuzz can one person get in their mouth in one rehearsal.” 

5) My skin is so much better. While I still sometimes miss the cover that a mask provides for my acne (my previous number five) my skin is overall much clearer without dirt and sweat constantly trapped against my face. 

6) No more smelling your own bad breath. I was wrong about number six last time – breathing in your own onion or garlic breath for hours is brutal. I don’t think I’ve ever brushed my teeth more in my life than last school year. But no longer! Now it is other people’s problem. 

7) I get my freckles back. Besides the incredible feeling of warm sun on your face, maskless cheeks provide the perfect opportunity for freckling. 

8) Greeting people is once again simple. We can go back to the soft smile, eyebrow raise, head lift combination when you see someone you know in passing, and they no longer think you’re ignoring them! No more obnoxiously-over-excited waves to convey that you see someone. 

9) Everyone can see each other’s smiles. This is vitally important when connecting with other people, whether that be classmates you’re presenting to, a professor you’re speaking with, or a friend you bump into. And I didn’t get those braces for nothing!

10) You can see my nose ring. In my previous piece, my narcissistic moment was that the focus when wearing a mask is on my eyes, but now my narcissistic moment is that non-masking reveals my adorable little nose ring. A very small but very real win. 

11) You don’t have to constantly worry about washing your masks and then having them get tangled with your clothes and accidentally falling onto the gross GLees laundry room floor. Just me? No? Alright. 

12) Indoor workouts are much easier. This is a strong one to end on – anyone who enjoys working out knows how unbelievably sweaty and gross fitness center workouts could be, and even those who don’t consider themselves gym rats but find themselves in a P.E. course gain similar benefits. 

Let’s take some time to embrace the little victories. After these past two years, we all deserve it.