Masking-up in Western Australia has been with us on and off for months. After a year of freedom from this practice, at first we found it hard. And it continues to be a difficult duty we perform for our own good and that of others. However, older women seem to have a more difficult time than most.
For the first year of the pandemic, we relied on lockdowns, social distancing, washing our hands red raw and cleaning ad nauseum. We stayed home when sick and got tested for the disease. Bemused, we watched the citizens of other, less lucky, countries. They wore masks everywhere.
Times changed. Health advisors to the Australian government recognised the benefit of mask-wearing in preventing the spread and flattening the curve. Those were catch-words we came to know intimately.
The World Health Organisation advises as follows.
If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay safe by taking some simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue. Check local advice where you live and work. Do it all!
There is more useful advice on their website.
Good manners, good luck
Now, when directed, we mask-up indoors and out, in our shops, workplaces and churches. We tell ourselves how lucky we are that we can go freely about the town, masks and all.
We dutifully don approved face coverings when in restaurants and cafes, clubs and pubs. Except, of course, when we are eating and drinking. And isn’t that most of the time we are in those places? Otherwise, what would be the point?
If you’ve read my blog posts for a while, you’ll know that I don’t often whinge. Even if I’d like to, I try to put a bright face on as I type my 600-700 words each week. But masking-up has really got to me. Here’s why!
Why masking-up is hard for older women
No one likes wearing a mask, but older women have more problems than others.
EYES. We wear glasses because without them our eyes can’t see as well as other people’s and we fall about. Even when not drunk. Glasses and masks are a bad combination. Trapped inside a mask with nowhere else to go, our breath fogs our glasses. That makes us fall about even more than usual.
EARS. Ears can cause lots of problems for older women when masking-up. The hearing aids some of us wear help us hear stuff like conversations and bird-song. I love my hearing aids, and wrote about my personal miracle here. But all the masks I’ve seen have loops to go around the ears.
That’s a slight improvement on having to tie them behind the head. Putting a mask on and off becomes particularly difficult with hearing aids. We need to make sure we don’t drop our them on the ground and tread on them. They cost too much to replace when shattered.
We need constantly to worry about pulling one hearing aid out and leaving it dangling beside our masks. It looks funny, and no one our age likes to be laughed for such a silly reason.
Earrings catch in masks. Not just an old woman’s problem, I know. Youngsters wear earrings, too. But I don’t know how they manage, especially with the ones that dangle. It hurts when they get tangled in the loops of a mask! Some of us tend to panic when the loop of a mask tangles in both a hearing aid and an earring at the same time.
Then there’s another problem, related to vanity and rarely talked about in polite circles. I’ll whisper: ears of older people tend to be bigger than when they were young. Masks make ears look worse.
Mouths and makeup can be a special problem especially for vain old women. There’s nothing worse (maybe) than catching a glimpse in a mirror of your face smeared in lipstick. My daughter Jenny bought me a new lipstick. It stains the lips and doesn’t smear. Magic!
But makeup of any kind inside a mask when you take it off? Yuck!
Other problems with masking-up
Fashion. What colour to wear? I have black, blue and a variety of florals which somehow never look quite right. Too frivolous. Not suitable for winter. Don’t match what I’m wearing. So mostly I settle for black. Very dramatic, and like so many other people.
Hats and umbrellas. In winter, these obvious must-haves protect us from the rain. Hard to juggle, with everything else going on.
Bags and purses. Especially necessary these days because of the need to carry a mobile to check in. Everywhere. They make life even more difficult when juggling a mask on and off. See above.
Walking aids. Things like walking sticks, half-crutches and walking aids of any kind can make life particularly difficult. I like walking with my Nordic hiking sticks. But I’ve given up for now.
In light of all the difficulties related to masking-up, I’m considering putting myself into constant lockdown. There’s much to be said for giving up on the world, and cuddling on the lounge with a good book until it’s safe to go out again.
Of course I’d love to read your ideas about wearing a mask. Leave a comment on the bottom of this post.