If you shame people for wearing masks, you only succeed in making yourself look ridiculous

My husband was working out in our front yard, wearing an N95 mask, when a man driving by gestured to his face and yelled, "Take it off!"

I've seen anti-maskers. I've heard their arguments for not wearing a mask in the middle of a viral pandemic. I know they think they don't work, or that they actually make you sick, or that they're a way for the government to control our behavior, or [fill-in-the-blank conspiracy theory]. But I wish I could bring that guy back and show him what he was actually yelling at.

My husband wasn't wearing a mask for COVID, you see. He was mixing concrete to fix our front steps. He's always worn an N95 mask when he does home improvement projects that involve fine particulate dust, as he values his lung health. In fact, that's why we had a stash of N95s that we were able to donate to medical workers early in the pandemic.

Telling my husband to take off his mask in that case was just flat-out dumb. But honestly, shaming people for wearing a mask for any reason is dumb.


We're in a weird time of the pandemic where mask-wearing for COVID reasons is a question mark for a lot of us. On the one hand, the CDC says those who are vaccinated can ditch the masks. On the other hand, those who aren't vaccinated are also largely ditching their masks—if they ever wore one to begin with—which means the virus will still spread. We also have new variants emerging that pose a greater threat to unvaccinated people, including children who can't get the vaccine and immunocompromised people for whom the vaccine may not produce as strong of an immune response as desired.

And while we're making good headway in mitigating the pandemic in the U.S., it's certainly not over. It's not like masking is a bad idea at this point; it's just not necessary if you're vaccinated and healthy. If people still want to wear a mask for themselves or for others, more power to them. Unlike NOT wearing a mask during an uncontrolled pandemic, wearing one poses no harm to anyone. It's nobody's business if someone else chooses to wear a mask.

Plus, there are many, many reasons people might choose to continue wearing a mask, even if they are fully vaccinated. Maybe they have other health issues. Maybe they have a condition that makes the vaccine less effective.

Check out the experience of someone who has been wearing a mask in public since 2014 due to health issues.

"Pre-covid ppl were nice about my mask," they wrote. "In the past year I've been yelled at, coughed on and spit at for wearing a mask"

Absolutely ridiculous.

And approaching a stranger's child, who not only isn't old enough to have gotten a vaccine but who also has immune issues, and telling them they don't need to wear a mask anymore? Uh uh. Nope. Not okay.

Someone else wearing a mask does not impact you in any way. If someone wants to or needs to wear a mask, they are free to do so—and they don't even have to explain their reasoning.

You would think that after a year and a half of global pandemic and 600,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, there wouldn't be any controversy over people masking. I even know people who say they're going to continue wearing masks during cold and flu season because it was so nice to not get sick this year.

I lived in Japan more than 20 years ago, and it was commonplace to see people wearing masks in public places because they had a cold and didn't want to pass it on to others. That kind of thoughtfulness and concern for others' health completely blew my American mind. The contrast with people here now shaming others for wearing a mask is really something.

Maybe the key is to wear a mask that the even most hardened anti-masker can't complain about, like this American flag mask.

"Why are you wearing a mask?"

"Because I love my country. Why do you hate America?"

Maybe it could work.

The bottom line is there are dozens of reasons people might be wearing a mask at this point, pandemic or no pandemic, and it is none of your business if they are. The guy who yelled at my husband made himself look like a fool, but honestly, so does every person who shames someone for wearing a mask. No one needs your opinion on choices that don't affect you, so just stop.

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