It’s Been 12 Months, Can We Please Go Back to Not Wearing Masks and Only Pretending to Wash Our Hands in the Bathroom?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been unlike anything that any of us have seen in our lives. There’s the obvious things: the deaths, the long-haulers who have been sick for months, those who have lost their jobs and businesses in the name of public safety, and the countless others who have had their lives ruined by this virus. Less talked about, however, are the little disruptions to everyday life. These stressors are destroying normalcy for the hundreds of millions of perfectly healthy Americans. It’s been over a year already, and I think it is about time we go back to the way things were: not requiring masks and only pretending to wash our hands when we go to the bathroom.

Do you remember how good things used to be? Before you’d go outside, you wouldn’t have to worry “am I forgetting my mask?”,  or “will everyone be following the proper hygiene guidelines at the store?” or “do I need to use soap and water after using the bathroom, or can I just wait twenty seconds after I flush so everything thinks I’m actually washing my hands?”. It used to be fine to just turn turn on the faucet in the bathroom so it sounds like you are washing your hands, then go prepare your family’s dinner and then stroll outside without your mask on. I mean, I’m not even sick, so what really changed? Will things ever go back to normal? 

It’s not even washing the hands that’s a big deal. Honestly, it probably takes about as long to wash them as to pretend to wash them (it has to for it to be a realistic pretend). It’s the mental burden that is wearing on me. After using the bathroom, I would never think “better actually wash these hands this time”. I would think my normal thoughts, like “better remember everyone’s name at this meeting so I don’t look like an asshole when I shake their hands”, or “this fruit salad I’m about to prepare is going to rock everyone’s world at the potluck”. Now, it’s all cleanliness all the time. I swear my brain is breaking down working overtime juggling my normal day-to-day thoughts and this new basic human hygiene thing that everyone suddenly cares about.

And what about scratching the inside of your mouth? Like let’s say you are on the subway and you have a canker sore that is bothering you? It used to be perfectly acceptable to just scratch the thing. That’s why God made fingers smaller than mouths, am I right? We could scratch our canker sores on the subway and then resume holding the poles so we don’t fall down. Now, I have no idea if this is still cool or not. I mean, it doesn’t specifically say not to in the CDC guidelines, but it certainly is in some sort of gray area. My commute home used to be my downtime, when I could shut my brain off and blend into the crowd. Now, I’m doing the mental calculus on whether I’ll wind up in some viral video being called out for doing something that I’m pretty sure used to be just fine.

What gets me the most is the loss of innocence in our children. Kids used to get to be kids, and not have to worry about the problems of the adult world. Now, kids as young as 4 need to wear masks, and that means they need to know about deadly viruses. It’s not just the masks. My two sons were out in the yard and one of them dared the other one to eat some old gum off of the sidewalk. Kids being kids. Well, I had to tell them that it wasn’t ok, because now, since it’s 2021, they might get sick. Talk about innocence lost! Last year, totally fine, but I guess everything is different now. If the first thing a 15 year old is thinking about when he’s playing with his older brother is germs, I’m pretty sure the next generation is going to be doomed to fear and germophobia (look it up, it’s a real condition!).  

I could stay here all day and list the millions of terrible ways this pandemic has affected me, the healthy American everyman, but I’ve been sneezing and coughing all morning, so I need to go find a box of tissues. I guess those are suddenly super important now. As far as I know nobody gave a shit about them or used them before…

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