Let's Stop Attacking People Who Hate Masks

Missy Crystal

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Wearing a mask sucks. I’m not going to sugarcoat it or pretend it’s fun.

But I need to clarify some things before we continue even though I know some of you will jump straight to the comments anyway.

This is not an anti-mask post. If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If your doctor won’t let you in the office without a mask, wear a mask. If your grocery store only accepts masked shoppers and you need food, wear a mask. If your employer says you can either wear a mask or get fired, you should probably wear a mask.

I don’t need you to blow up my comments with statistics about the effectiveness of masks. I’m not saying you should never wear one. I’m not saying masks don’t do anything to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. I’m just saying that if you hate wearing a mask, I get it.

I believe you. I’m not going to attack you for how you feel.

I’m sorry that a large chunk of the Internet won’t validate your feelings. You’re allowed to dislike having a piece of cloth or other filtration materials strapped across your face. I can’t even wear a loose-fitting headband without getting annoyed, so I understand why you hate having fabric pressed against your mouth.

Unfortunately, attacking folks who don’t wear masks is the latest online trend. The good news is that you don’t have to listen to your friends argue about vaccines 24/7 anymore. The bad news is that people will call you selfish and dramatic if you hate breathing through multiple layers of fabric.

“It’s not that bad,” they say. “You must not care about at-risk people with weakened immune systems.”

They’re wrong. You can care about immunocompromised folks and still hate wearing a mask. Hating your face mask doesn’t mean you want Grandma to die or your neighbor with COPD to get the coronavirus. Your opinion about a flimsy piece of fabric has nothing to do with your feelings about elderly folks or people with autoimmune diseases.

“You’re probably a Republican.”

Not necessarily. Liberals, Democrats, Independents…they all have party members who hate masks. I’ve seen plenty of Trump supporters wearing masks and posting about how they can’t wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Research backs up this statement. In October 2020, National Geographic performed a survey about mask use. Results indicate that 2 out of 3 Republicans wear masks most of the time, and more than 20% of Republicans use a face mask sometimes.

The survey did find that Democrats are more likely to wear masks than Independents and Republicans, but face masks aren’t always the norm. Results show 84% of Democrats wear masks the majority of the time, though Democratic men are less likely than women to don one.

“You’re lying when you say you can’t breathe.”

Maybe not. My oxygen levels drop a few points after a quick trip to Walmart in a mask, but I have a lung condition. If you have one as well, your mask might make breathing difficult. The American Lung Association even admits N-95 masks can reduce carbon dioxide levels in lung disease patients.

You don’t know how anyone else feels when they wear a mask. It’s not your place to insist that someone is lying about their experience.

“Healthcare workers wear masks all day, and they’re fine.”

That’s great, and I give them mad props. I used to work in the healthcare field, and masks are the norm in some positions. Someone familiar with employer-mandated face masks might hate them less than someone who has never needed one, such as a grocery store clerk or architect.

“You’re overreacting. Masks aren’t that bad.”

You have no idea what someone’s physical or mental health is like. Some abuse victims hate masks because it triggers PTSD or painful incidents from the past. My autistic kiddo couldn’t handle his face mask for a while. Masks can also increase anxiety or trigger a meltdown in someone who is claustrophobic.

Let’s stop gaslighting people who hate face masks and help them find solutions instead. Next time a loved one gripes about wearing a mask, ask them these 3 questions:

Have you tried a mask made from different materials?

Some people hate cloth masks. Medical masks made from polypropylene annoy other folks. Experiment with different materials and styles until you find a mask you can tolerate, whether it’s a bandanna or a plastic shield.

Yes, I’m aware that some of these masks block germs better than others, so don’t come for me in the comments. I’m just letting you know that different options exist so you can help the people you love.

Have you talked to your doctor about this?

Physical or mental health conditions can make mask wearing difficult. Talk to your doctor if you feel like you can’t breathe with your mask, as anxiety meds or an inhaler may help.

You should also take regular breaks from your face covering. Remember, there’s no need to wear one in your car. You can also skip the mask in an empty parking lot.

Is your mask the right size?

A poorly fitting mask can chafe your skin, restrict airflow, hurt your ears or nose, or feel tight against your scalp. Your face may itch, or you might feel like you’re choking. You might also experience contact dermatitis from the fabric rubbing against your chin or cheeks.

Many of these issues can be remedied with a mask that actually fits, so try various sizes and styles before you give up hope. You might enjoy a mask that wraps around your head or one that simply loops over your ears. Maybe you need a mask with adjustable straps.

Everyone has different needs. When someone tells you wearing a mask bothers them, don’t bash their experience. Validate their concerns, then offer solutions.

These are tough times, and many of us aren’t handling things well. Let’s help our loved ones get through this pandemic instead of making things worse. We need each other.

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Full-time mom, student, and writer. I cover everything from parenting and personal finance to relationships and health.

O Fallon, MO
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