Wearing a mask, a little shameful pleasure

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Michael now walks in the street like a “happy ghost freed from all anguish”. The obligation to wear a mask in public places, introduced by the authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus, facilitates his daily life as an introvert. “In fact, under the mask, I find a refuge making urban life smoother, I walk around without having to get involved in the image that I send back”, says the thirty-something.

Like him, many people secretly appreciate this piece of tissue that covers the mouth and nose, contrary to the general feeling. Broadcast on social networks, our call for testimonials on the positive aspects of the health measure triggered an epidermal reaction. The mask scratches, misting the glasses, slows down social interactions, symbolizes an endless health crisis. “The pandemic has imposed this habit in Switzerland in the general annoyance to the point that it becomes for me a guilty pleasure”, adds Michael, who reduced his social anxiety.

“Anti-harassment shield”

There are many reasons for this shameful well-being, from practical convenience to psychological reasons. The historian Alain-Jacques Tornare confides having difficulty in parting from the mask, even on the steep slope that leads to his home, which always surprises his relatives. “This will sound unusual to you, but I feel a bit like naked after taking it off and almost embarrassed.” I will regret it a lot when it is no longer compulsory! ” he says. “In a time when we are under significant stress, masks can offer us a respite from what occupies our mind in public. We have more freedom to meditate or think about what we want, ”says Kathryn Stamoulis, educational psychologist and mental health counselor in New York City, interviewed by BBC.

The mask also makes it possible to disappear in an urban public space most often designed for men. Several women testify to their feeling of insecurity and the usefulness of the mask in certain uncomfortable situations. For Eva, a 23-year-old student living in Geneva, this piece of fabric becomes an “anti-harassment shield”. “To get home, I have to go through a pretty nasty street, especially at nightfall. Sometimes I got hailed by funny numbers that never seem to leave their corner. I never found myself in danger, but it is not pleasant and it has already happened to me to be followed for a small distance, deplores the young woman. I have noticed that when I put on the mask, I am much less challenged. I don’t know if this is due to the concealment of expressions or the inability to assess whether the face behind the mask is worth the effort. ” The absence of hugs also satisfies some people, like Macha: “The kiss is no longer compulsory. If this practice could disappear, what a relief for females. “

Cracked appearance standards

In a society attentive to aesthetics, part of the population appreciates the relaxation of standards of appearance. Some people give up makeup or their shaving habits, saving time, stress and money. Others take advantage of the period to hunt their complexes. “I’m happy to wear the mask,” smiles Audrey. Aged 30, the Genevoise has embarked on an orthodontic treatment that she did not want to start in full professional life. “My mother was opposed to braces during my teenage years and when you become an adult, wearing one undermines you, it tends to rejuvenate you a little,” she judges.

An unexpected freedom that is also found among professionals in the tertiary sector, accustomed to displaying a smile in front of customers. Today, that possible emotional burden is easing. “For my part, I made myself a mask with the image of my small business, so I wear it proudly and without restraint whenever it is necessary to wear it. This obligation allows some to create a distance that was not possible when we could distinguish all the facial features in the interlocutor, ”says Raphaël Weisskopf, craftsman handyman in Nyon.

What will happen once the pandemic is behind us? Should we be wary of this adaptation mechanism? Will we be irritated by the constant social demands? Kathryn Stamoulis is reassuring: “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for years and years, in terms of development and emotional connections, but during this time of widespread distress and anxiety, it can, for some people. , be a comfort. ”