Mask Off?

Words by: Clarissa Boon

Covid-19 introduced many unfamiliar new practices into our daily lives, such as wiping down groceries and wearing masks out and about. To an OCD sufferer like myself, the government’s repeated emphasis on hand-washing heightened my fears of becoming unwell. Armed with some gloves and Dettol antibacterial wipes, I became obsessed with trying to hunt down and slay the invisible enemy.

I remember going food shopping a few days before the first lockdown began in March 2020 and using my scarf as a shield for my face. Entering Asda was like walking deep into the jungle. Everyone had seemed to turn primal in their sheer panic in this pre-apocalyptic time zone. Aisles were bereft of toilet roll and any form of tissue. Locating tin cans of soup or dry pasta was as easy as finding a golden ticket. There were rumours of hand sanitizer being sold on the black market, as everybody stockpiled their homes ready to burrow down into a bunker, as we entered this unknown territory.

Looking back, it seems bizarre to me that no one was wearing a mask inside the shops! Following months of mixed messages from the Government, it was finally announced in July 2020 that it would be mandatory to adorn a face covering in shops and supermarkets.

Clarissa Boon (writer) by Andrea Carrillo

Almost a year on and I would feel simply naked now without wearing one inside of a building! Now a handbag essential, the mask makes me feel more protected and safe when I am out and about. Forgetting your face covering feels like losing your wallet! Gone are the days when I’d sit un-masked, incubating germs from a doctor’s surgery waiting room.

You must’ve seen the iconic image of a frontline worker wearing a mask which has been published across the whole of Cardiff. Artist Nathan Wyburn created the display using 200 digital pictures of NHS workers. Wyburn captures the zeitgeist of the lockdown spirit beautifully with this powerful picture.

NHS by Nathan Wyburn

I never thought that in 2020 I would be modelling masks either. However, since the pandemic began Cardiff based milliner Andrea Carrillo started making exquisite handmade facial coverings and asked me to showcase them. Even the big fashion brand giants like Burberry and Adidas are now incorporating masks into their collections. By adapting their designs onto pandemic paraphernalia, these brands invoke the sense that “we’re all in this together”, and emphasise a sense of connectedness, and communal solidarity.

The introduction of masks has definitely shifted how our society views germs, illness and bacteria. I for one am grateful for the mask, because not only do they offer me safety, but now I can hide from people when I have a bad makeup day!