Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: it’s been over five months since I posted photos of my initial masking possibilities for navigating our broken pandemic world. At the time, masks weren’t yet mandated by state or city ordinances. They were simply among the best ideas for reducing your chances of catching The Virus, besides simply quarantining at home and bricking over all your doors and windows from the inside like a reverse “Cask of Amontillado”.
Effective July 9th, Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett began requiring us all to wear masks whenever we enter buildings outside our homes, and whenever we’re outside among too many people that we can’t easily escape. There were a few loopholes in the ordinance until July 27th, when Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s Executive Order 20-37 required all residents statewide, not just in Indianapolis, to wear them virtually anywhere and everywhere off our property. The governor’s version was stricter than the mayor’s and clamped some of those loopholes shut. That phase was supposed to last a single month, but because American society can’t get its collective act together to reduce infection rates and nobody’s fairy godmother wished the pandemic away, Executive Order 20-42 extended the mask mandate another month. So masks are all the rage in the interim normal among those who support the idea of a positive survival rate.
For the sake of simplifying life and work for my coworkers and clientele, I’m still reporting to the office full-time every week, along with a tiny handful of others. Apart from a few momentary exceptions still allowable (e.g., lunchtime), that means I have to wear a mask several hours per day, five days a week. Like many local businesses, we’re complying and coming in masked because we’d sincerely like to keep each other alive rather than discover we’re an asymptomatic carrier whose surprise contamination ends up putting a friend or family member on a ventilator or on kidney dialysis. I’m aware there are some organizations that begrudgingly comply to the bare minimum extent because they don’t want to get in trouble, and that’s their primary motivation. Like, if they could get away with doing less and allowing more opportunities for contagion in exchange for pretending everything’s back to normal, they totally would. That attitude does not impress me.
When my wife Anne and I went on our road trip around the state in early July, we had more opportunities to take off our masks in some settings until restrictions tightened on July 9th. One mask was enough to get me through the week because Anne was assiduously hand-washing our masks at the end of each travel day. When I had to start wearing a mask full-time, we would’ve had to spend a lot more time on the Caroline Ingalls laundry method, and probably would’ve worn out the one mask from incessant scrubbing.
Fast-forward to today: now I have a mask collection of sorts. For a few months during the pandemic, Anne’s sister and her daughter/our niece took it upon themselves to hand-sew thousands of masks for family, friends, and a few local charities. They were responsible for the first masks that got us through vacation. Later in July they graciously sent us each a packet of new designs so we’d have more options. They’ve since discontinued that generous service, so the masks in our next three photos are unique items not available in stores or even online unless you track down the fabrics they used and sew your own. Which is possible! Mask-making patterns and tutorials are out there. I can’t sew because sausage fingers, and remain deeply grateful for these blessed handicrafts I don’t deserve.
Even before the citywide mandate, Mayor Hogsett’s administration made arrangements for Indianapolis/Marion County residents to obtain masks free of charge, especially for those who couldn’t afford their own. The fabric seems a bit small for people like me cursed with big heads, but they’re light and comfy, and fog up my glasses a bit less than all the other masks.
Fun trivia: when I posted my blue Indy mask pic on Facebook, it sparked the biggest fight on my FB feed in years. I keep forgetting I live in Indiana and know people like that. I revved up a dusty part of my brain that once ran an internet geek message board for nine years, wrote an overlong rejoinder gently dunking on a particular debater, and then deleted a few responses after that until everyone shut up. It’s extremely rare that I have to moderate anything anywhere these days, but the muscle memories are still there. And I was not renowned for being light-fingered with the admin controls.
As I said, the four previous masks were free to me. The rest came with prices. But it’s my understanding that the internet loves it whenever would-be social media influencers post a video of themselves trying on all the clothes they bought on their last uncontrolled shopping binge. Several components in that last sentence have absolutely nothing to do with me, most of them for great reasons. This gallery, then, is my version of an entrance into that sub-subgenre of content creation, which is another phrase I can’t stand because I have euphemism sensitivity issues.
Last weekend my collection doubled in size with the arrival of a package I’d been awaiting for weeks: a four-pack of Marvel Comics masks from Disney’s official online shop. Feel free to click that link and see if they’re still available; I don’t do affiliated links and stand to earn precisely zilch whether you do or don’t click. Disney offers a variety of designs for their various IP factions (Pixar! Star Wars! Disney Princesses! Mickey Mouse! And so on!), but the Marvel versions aligned most closely with my longest-lived hobby set. They had to be mine.
Unfortunately acquiring the Marvel masks took two tries. With the first order placed back in May, I didn’t realize they came in sizes. As it turns out, some sharp clothing designer realized heads come in different dimensions and created a full array of sizes instead of alienating millions of potential wearers by upholding the one-size-fits-all myth that should be abolished for all human products forevermore. Disney’s shop goes to great lengths to explicate their mask sizes, complete with specific measurements and defining head parts. They were a lot more thorough than I was, which is why my first order didn’t fit. The mask portion just barely covered my face from upper nose to the edge of my chin, but the elastic straps were as tight as guitar strings and threatened to snap my Howdy Doody ears off.
It didn’t help that the first order took months to arrive. One reorder later but in size XL, and with faster delivery this time because our local chapter of the United States Postal Service is behaving better now that they’re being harshly side-eyed nationwide, now I have four new Marvel masks to brighten up each work day and my weekly 90-second trips to the comic shop. One is the mask in our lead photo, covered in hero heads like someone stalked and killed a collection of Marvel bobble-head dolls.
Then there are the other three mighty Marvel non-medical masks:
Unexpected sidebar: I’ve had the idea for this entry in my head for months. That last photo was taken Friday afternoon around 4:30 p.m. Eastern. Later that same night came the heart-rending news that Chadwick Boseman had passed away after a four-year battle with colon cancer. He was five years younger than me, talented and courageous in far more ways than I can count or imagine. I already spent the last two days on Twitter working through my shock and abject sadness and don’t have anything original to offer. The Virus has ruined nearly all of 2020, but leave it to cancer to pop its head in the door just to remind us how it’s been around a lot longer, ruining lives for centuries and beyond. Cancer was tired of The Virus getting all the attention and had to go and pull this horrid, wretched stunt.
…and in conclusion, between all my off-topic digressions, sudden mood swings, buried ledes, and off-kilter expressions made worse by my uncooperative aging eyes, this entry demonstrates why I shouldn’t post my try-on hauls. But the main idea remains: masks can make a difference as to whether society stands tall again someday or else crumbles like the Roman Empire. Also, masks can be a nifty canvas for personal expression while we’re working to keep each other alive.