Let’s Keep The Masks Forever

No wait hear me out

Quinn Norton
Jul 21 · 5 min read

Masks have been contentious and strange for the whole pandemic, but they’ve also been secretly wonderful. Not all masks, not ill-fitting masks without good filtration, not worn-out surgical masks which spent their lives as chin straps, not bulky and uncomfortable N95s, they weren’t great. But wearing a well-fitted-and-filtering mask out in public — that has been wonderful.

We didn’t catch Covid-19, which was great, obviously. We didn’t spread it if we had it, and we didn’t become accidental murderers. But it was more than that. We also didn’t catch any colds or flus, no sniffles, none of those mysteriously listless days of maybe-this-is-a-bug-I-dont-know. No autumn stuffed noses or random aches and pains from a possible virus around the office, the library, the bus, or whatever the hell we brought home from school.

Seasonal allergies barely happened, and for some they didn’t happen at all. The 365-day bottles of Wal-itin off-brand antihistamines got to expire before we used it up. Kleenex packets in our pockets and bags became ratty from neglect. Beautiful neglect! How unred have our noses been!

Then there’s the smells of modern life. I, personally, didn’t have to smell anyone on a French train, and no one on the New York Subway had to inhale nearly as much of all that MTA eau de toilet. Why on earth should anyone have to be painfully familiar with the musk of BART, DC Metro, and basically anywhere in Philly, if they don’t have to be? (Sorry Philly, it’s not fair, but I couldn’t resist.)

Fires and pollution had a much harder time reaching our airways in 2020/2021. Those who have, or are seeking not to have, pollution-induced asthma, got a year off lung damage. Why not take two years off? Or all the years off?

Here’s an absolute gimme: we all wore masks in hospitals and doctor’s offices. Why weren’t we doing that all along? I neither want to acquire what you’re visiting the doctor for, nor share with you what I’m visiting for.

On the topic of what I might be sharing, I have in the past worn masks on planes because I was ill, but I mostly stopped because I was harassed for it. In my own head, I said to myself, fine — if you want to get sick, be my guest, asshole. But what about the asshole’s aging parents, young neighbors, or innocents sitting next to him on his flight back? They didn’t harass me, why should I make them part of the miserable train of transmission that keeps whatever is clogging my sinuses, shutting down my brain, and making me a meat lump that won’t get out of bed, why are we keeping that alive and circling the globe? Why on Earth are we keeping flus and colds alive and evolving and plaguing all mankind when maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to?

What about all those sickdays we wouldn’t have had to take if we lived in a masking culture? What about converting them to actual vacation days when Americans can have actual leisure?

I’m not saying that if we wear masks in congregate settings all flus and colds will vanish. I’m saying they will get a lot better, have fewer chances to mutate, and might not have a chance to turn into another respiratory pandemic one day.

I’m also saying that if we’re going to have civilizational pollution, skyrocketing pollen counts from global warming, and a fifth season just called “Fire” why not just permanently keep it out of our lungs?

All of that is a win for humanity. It was a win before the pandemic, and it will be a win after the pandemic is over.

But, I hear you cry, I HATE WEARING MASKS. Well, maybe you do, but maybe you don’t. Maybe you hate wearing badly fitted, uncomfortable masks, churned out in factories with substandard materials and even worse quality control, because that was all the was available during the sudden emergency of a global pandemic.

That’s not what masks have to be like.

I spent much of the pandemic designing, redesigning, and making nearly a thousand masks for friends, family, activist communities, immigrants, queer communities, and so on. In short, my people. My people come in all shapes and sizes. In the process I worked hard on making them durable, appealing, and most of all, damn comfortable.

Why should comfy masks be boring? And yes, that is a gay D&D dice mask, thanks for asking.

If one person with a sewing machine, colorful cotton, rolls of meltblown polypropylene, and a lot of paper cutouts can do that, I’m pretty sure a market can do it as well. My design is here and CC0. That means if anyone from an Etsy artist to Dow Chemical wants to copy or iterate on it, they can. But my design is just one proof of concept — comfortable masks are out there, waiting to be found and worn.

I know masks can be comfortable and pleasant to wear for long periods of time, because I and many dozens of my friends and friends of friends just tested it out for the last year and a half. I’m currently supplied for my next thousand masks, after some debate on whether anyone would want them. They do, because nice masks are nice. They solve a lot of problems, and cause few beyond people being assholes about it.

Let’s keep the masks forever. Well, not the same masks. Some of you… you know who you are. Throw that ratty face rag away and get a real mask. Your sense of smell, lungs, and fellow passengers will thank you for it.

Thanks to my Patrons, who make this possible. If you’d like to support this work, head over to my Patreon account.

A Side of My Own

A serious of unpopular opinions

A Side of My Own

Saying unexpected things since the 1980s. I often don’t fit into the political milieu, and people sometimes get angry. But even when I’m right, it never helps.

Quinn Norton

Written by

A journalist, essayist, and sometimes photographer of Technology, Science, Hackers, Internets, and Civil Unrest.

A Side of My Own

Saying unexpected things since the 1980s. I often don’t fit into the political milieu, and people sometimes get angry. But even when I’m right, it never helps.