When the Mask Comes Off

June 11, 2021

Almost Naked.

A month ago I removed my mask for work. Walking across the parking lot, I looped my mask over one ear.

“Just in case I have it wrong. Perhaps this is not the day,” I thought. Opening the employee entrance door, I covered my mouth and nose as I always had done. I was early. No one lingered in the hallway except the screener associate and me. I stopped for the usual six health questions along with temperature-taking. Overnight the screening procedure had added the inquiry of whether or not I had my vaccination.

The anticipation of working without a mask was too great. “Yes,” I replied in a voice akin to an overeager puppy. “Plus I have my card!”

Yikes, Steph. A little decorum, please. The health screener nodded as I excused myself silently. But such is the state of being naked unless a person is used to it.

I wasn’t.

Stepping into the building further, I peeked around the corner. Were there other unmasked faces? I stood, watching for a few moments. Yes, there were others, but not everyone. A coworker laughed. She caught my hesitation. I glanced at her face. “Yes, Steph. It’s today.”

I both laughed at her and chided my own peculiar, rather adolescent insecurity. Somehow the images of high school mockery at my different clothes flashed through my mind. “Cmon, Steph. Be bold.”

I unlooped then removed my mask. With a largely unnecessary big breath and an equally ridiculous smile, I headed toward the office to begin my day. Is this a new normal or a getting back to normal? The answer may or may not be reality. I do not notice that equation of normalcy, but I rather enjoy the awkwardness which pervades my psyche. When the pandemic began, I wore disposable masks. Depending upon my mood, I had painted fish or trees or flowers on them. As the restrictions increased with the unfolding of the health crisis, I bought homemade, artisan masks to match the season. They became an accessory of fashion and a necessity of health.

And now I was naked. Most of the time that meant I could smile and see others smile in return. I could see inflection in conversations. But it also meant that my lunches of any green vegetable needed to be followed by a mirror check. (No more could I shrug off the possibility of teeth baring a piece of trapped bright green broccoli or the stain of a funky blue-colored jelly bean).

For the first time, many times over, I saw the expressions of associates I had hired but I had never seen . People paused to stare at one another, if even for a few seconds. Human faces gloriously revealed to one another.


Happily stumbling without my mask.

Stumbling, naked truths.

I strode through a department at work yesterday, just as I have thousands of times. I caught myself touching my face, feeling for my mask. In one of those personal, automatic ‘checks’, I wondered “Was my nose covered? Where were my glasses?” Just as everyone has, I became rewired to include ‘mask check’ among other self-checks such as “Is my skirt riding up?” and “Am I buttoned up appropriately?”

Every day I notice those moments of stumbling. As I catch myself in those moments, I wonder at the impact of masking, of a society being so careful, for fourteen months. As an individual, how does that change expression? How does the unmasking change the participation in society?

I am grateful for the sentiments of the return to what society has been. But even if there had been no pandemic, time would have passed. We would have changed even without the efforts imposed by a pandemic. My son’s college experience was profoundly altered with social distancing and remote classrooms. The care for my mother and my family became a critical part of life. In the past year, we, as a society, faced terrors in realms of politics, health and among our human races. Terrors.

From the ‘before’ to the ‘now’, my stumbling naked truth is rather intrigued by the new unknown.

Naked, with flowers.

Conceptually, flower gardening in the nude is rather a hilarious – and dangerous – notion. (I imagine bees and such!) Unfortunately, I have not attempted the condition of naked gardening.


Five years ago, I claimed to not like roses. “I am a daisy person.” Over the years I enjoyed the splurge of buying cut roses for the house. And this year I decided I might be crafty enough to grow roses.

I might be indeed. I have discovered, with the magic of stumbling nakedness, I might be indeed.

“Glacier Rose”


New Blue Hat.

And hats. I think my journey needs roses….

Even though I am deep into discovering more about being a heavy woman, I am just as equally interested in finding out about simplicity. Instead And hats.


(Did you know there is actually quite a provocative song about leaving your hat on?)


Lots of love, Love.


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