I went out to the movies on Saturday afternoon. This would usually be a pretty mundane statement, no big deal, but in this case, it’s pretty momentous. This was the first time in thirteen months – thirteen months, mind you – that the cinema was open and that I wasn’t watching a movie in bed.
For a long time, I wasn’t sure that I would return to going to the movies right away when theaters opened. But one day recently, I thought, “Fuck it” – I’m vaccinated, and I can’t hide out forever. When I went on Saturday, after seeing that Minari was playing, it felt strange and wonderful, like I was waking up after a very long sleep, not sure if I wanted to get out of my warm bed even as I was eager to move on. I did feel quite safe; I had a (rainbow) mask on, and there weren’t many people, although I’m not one to hang out chatting in crowds anyway. (There were a number of people, a few unmasked, hanging out in the plaza out front, but all the tables had been removed, except at the restaurants, presumably to discourage too much hanging out.) I also felt unexpectedly quite emotional, like I was seeing a very good friend or lover after months or years.
I was also reminded of a couple thoughts I’ve had about masks and the wearing of them.
Yes, there are those who don’t wear masks, and, yes, that may be more of a problem as we try to make our way out of this pandemic. That being said, I wonder if there will be a significant number of us who will continue to wear masks in public, even when the pandemic is over. As weird and kind of upsetting it is to see people going around with masks covering their faces like in some sci-fi movie, a vision of a future dystopia, I can see us being more like a Asian country like China or Japan, where, in addition to concern about bad air pollution, there is an emphasis on community rather than the individual and where, hence, mask-wearing is common. Although masks aren’t 100% protection, as was tragically evident when COVID-19 first proliferated in China, I’d like to think that, for one thing, wearing a mask is why I haven’t gotten any contagious illnesses in the last year. I suspect I’m not alone in thinking that mask-wearing will be good for us.
Maybe one reason I think this is the way young children – and also teens – have taken to wearing masks. For a long time, I have found it striking, exciting, even moving when I see young children out and about with masks on. As far as I’ve seen, they do not seem to mind wearing the mask; they do not fiddle with it or whine about wearing it. (Things might be different when they are in school for hours and especially when they are out at recess.) What excites and moves me is how children have adapted to mask-wearing, how natural it appears for them to wear them. I don’t know what they have been told about COVID-19 or the pandemic or if some were told that the mask-wearing is like a game or something. Whatever they’ve been told, it gives me hope, it excites and moves me, that these kids will grow up thinking not only of what they need but also of what’s best for others and the community. I am hopeful that, unlike those that don’t wear masks and protest against mask-wearing and vaccines, they will mask up and really care about our society.