Opinion: Coughing in public without wearing a mask is a taboo thing to do now

Mary Duncan

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*This is a work of nonfiction and opinion based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.*

It’s a horrible thing to compare it to, but when I was a child in the eighties I had an uncle named Kenny who was dying of AIDS.

Even though I was young I was aware enough to hear the things my family said about him, and about how he got this disease because he was gay and it was something we didn’t talk about with others outside the family.

As much as some people in my family wanted to hide the shame they felt for him at the time, he couldn’t hide that he had it.

Toward the end of his life, Kenny was covered in bruises and sores and couldn’t go out in public, even to see his own doctors, without horrifying people.

Now we live in a time of a new illness that terrifies people, the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some people, like me, have already gotten Covid and survived with little to no lasting effects, but others have not been so lucky.

Covid-19 still scares a lot of people from going out in public, and I don’t necessarily blame people for being afraid, especially if they are older or immunocompromised.

As I sit here in the library writing this article I have a tickle in the back of my throat and I am terrified to cough.

I’m afraid that if I cough, which I know I have to do, I may very possibly scare every one around me and make them want me to leave.

I know this, because I have felt this way about other people when they have been coughing in public in the last two years, especially without a mask on now.

If I hear or see a person coughing close to me in public nowadays, I give them the side-eye glare and move away as quickly as possible because I feel like they’re being irresponsible if they’re going out in public when they could be sick.

Then again, I should also know that sometimes, like with me right now, you could just have a tickle in your throat that needs the relief of a good, innocent cough.

What a conundrum these days, when coughing in public has become so taboo.

What do you think?

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I write about relationships and parenting, life, society, people, and sometimes also beer.

Connecticut State
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