I’m not necessarily fashionable. I don’t try to follow clothing trends; I gain and lose weight so often that I’d surely get caught up on what’s “in” just about the time my body made the purchases impossible to wear.

But I find myself getting excited about a necessary item of apparel we’re all (I hope!) wearing now.

I am falling in love with masks. 

Yes, I hate wearing them, just like you. They’re hot and they look silly. I forget them and have to trudge back to the car. I lose them and buy new ones. I struggle with foggy glasses and straps that are too loose/tight. The inside gets covered with makeup and I’m constantly washing them and hanging them up to dry like Grandpa’s old handkerchiefs.

But after all these months of having to wear one every day, I have noticed that they’ve evolved from cloth and elastic to an accessory I kind of like buying.

It may be that I’ve become mask-obsessed because I’m suffering from new-clothing deprivation. We can’t try things on at the stores anymore and it’s just too tiring to buy, take home, try on, and return.

But masks? They’ll fit. 

Retailers, always ready to sell what we’ll buy, are shoving bins of masks everywhere we plod past. And these masks are actually not bad.

Sure. If you go to any store, you can find generic boxes of masks. Ugly, white and blue masks that look like you’ve escaped from a waiting room. They’re fine for a feeling of protection, but why be boring?

From Wal-Mart to Old Navy to Dierbergs—you can shop for masks to match your outfit and aesthetics; every color and pattern you can imagine. 

I’ve learned that the thinner ones with pleating are more comfortable than some others. I look for ones that have wiring around the nose so I am fog-free. And I check the straps for adjustment beads.

But I’m most interested in the design on my little strip of prevention. It should be unique, colorful, and “me”.

I can be found digging through piles of masks, looking for flowers. American flags, pretty designs. Color is important; I want black for formal moments.  Purple, because I love purple. And a variety of colors to match anything I wear. 

If they’re sold in a 3-pack, I’m crimping and crinkling the plastic packaging to see the one in the middle. My experiences with piles of pork chops on a Styrofoam tray have taught me the trick of putting an ugly, unsellable item beneath prettier top products.

I scour Etsy for masks with witty sayings. I have one that has the Grinch in a mask, saying: “EWWW. People”. My work mask is a library card filled with stamped dates. I bought one with my name all over it in varying colors and fonts. 

We may not need them forever. Boy, I hope not. I know I’m spending money on an item may be as useless as Beanie Babies in a year or so. But for now, I am coping with this situation the best way I know how. By shopping.

The guy at Taco Bell had a mask that flashed “H-E-L-L-O” in an LED pattern. I leaned too medically close to the drive-in window and grilled him:

“Where did you get that mask??” I hissed the question like a gambler begging a bookie for a tip. His eyes narrowed conspiratorially, and I knew I’d met a fellow mask-lover.

“Amazon,” he mumbled. I smiled beneath my American flag mask, grabbed my bag of Bean Burritos, and boogied home to buy my own flashing mask.

Contact Robin at robinwrites@yahoo.com PO Box 5301, Quincy, IL. 62305