Reflecting Pool

Reflecting Pool

Baseball Hats and Face Masks

by Peter Marotto

I’m not comfortable wearing hats. Baseball hats in particular. I wear them now, from time to time, but never without apprehension. My reluctance stems from late elementary and middle school. A great uncle living in California had sent my brother and me baseball hats from Santa Anita Racetrack. I remember wearing it to school one day and having some kids grab it off my head in the cafeteria prior to school starting. This wasn’t the first time I was bullied for how I dressed, my haircut, facial hair, etc., and it wouldn’t be the last. For whatever reason, however, a reluctance to wear baseball hats stuck with me.

Skip ahead some 30 odd years and we are presented with the requirement to wear face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Prior to the face mask recommendation, we were told the virus spread primarily through touch. How many times did I opt not to wear disposable gloves and only sanitize my hands? Now, that work around isn’t available. So, the weekend after April 9th a 46-year-old going on 11 donned a face mask, checked the fit in the rearview mirror, and sweated bullets entering a grocery store; more afraid of ridicule, and the proverbial hat being torn off my head, than of the virus.

Navigating a pandemic is hard in any political climate. Navigating it amidst overt distrust and ridicule of the very scientific and medical community working to protect us and pull us all, regardless of ideology, out of this pandemic is disconcerting. To be fair, I wonder how disconcerting navigating this pandemic is for the very people who think it’s all fake? We are all shouting into the winds of social media as if anyone else has stopped shouting long enough to notice.

I personally know people who have been scoffed at and made fun of in public for wearing a face mask, all while having their personal space invaded by deniers who refuse to maintain a six-foot distance. Here is where my being a moderate and, contrary to all my willingness to debate, a relatively shy person ends up on knife edge. The same people who make disparaging comments online are often the same who exhibit this behavior in public, and for all the headlines of workers shot for enforcing that the public wear face masks, these low-level offenses rarely make headlines. Yet for those of us who may shake our heads in dismay at someone not wearing a mask, or wearing one incorrectly, who never actively confront, taunt, or bully them, but simply keep our distance; how do we rectify the childhood fear of humiliation?

Thankfully, the number of people wearing face masks far outweighs the number who do not. People are, when required, able to adapt quickly to new social norms. With our new normal firmly in place I continue to don the mask, check it in the rearview mirror, and go out into the world.

Whether it has become easier, or just become easier to ignore the unease, is still in question.


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