Of all the things I wear to protect myself, what sets me apart the most is a mask.
Most don’t look twice at someone wearing a wide brimmed hat, although it isn’t the prevailing fashion of New England. Even when combined with gloves and a coat, any number of logical assumptions are automatically drawn by onlookers to dismiss my appearance from their minds. Allow me to advise you from personal experience that if you really want attention, add a mask into the mix of your daily routine.
Disclaimer: not necessarily positive attention.
Finding a breathable, 100% opaque form of protection for my face has proved to be thus far infeasible. For years I used black, doubled-up cotton bandannas which were fairly effective. It was convenient to lower and raise the bandannas with my jaw to allow me to breathe easier for short periods of time. However, it was difficult to manage this after the cotton got clingy from my breath, drinking water, and sweat. It also had one major downside: everywhere I went, someone thought I was impersonating an 1800s desperado.
Yes, vigilante strangers with a hero complex have accosted me in an effort to prevent the next Great Train Robbery. Thanks, whoever you are, for keeping civilization as we know it safe from anomalous western bandits calmly walking past you in broad daylight who are apparently unaware that their disguise went out of fashion a century ago. If this had been an actual robbery, you would have been shot.
Moving on from the doubled bandannas was a necessary but frightening transition for me. I had used them for years and, although they were not perfect, I knew how well they protected me, and so they were comfortable in that regard. The downsides, however, were starting to affect me. They were difficult to work with when the knot tautened or loosened; my neck would ache from the strain to keep the mask tight on my face until I could retie the knot. No matter how I tied the two bandannas around my face, one of them always managed to slip down without my notice, exposing my face unknowingly to harmful light. The frequent comments from strangers and acquaintances were starting to wear on me, and I believed at the time that their actions and harsh words were my fault for choosing this manner of protection. This all led to the decision to try something else after almost two decades of using bandannas.
The fishing mask I now use from Mangrove is designed to protect from UV light, not visible light. It is definitely translucent, and trying it the first few times was terrifying. I am pleased to announce that, in conjunction with a wide brimmed hat, this mask works better than bandannas. It seems that its amber color filters some of the blue light that passes through it. Although I cannot wear this mask as a sole form of protection, it appears to be at least comparable in protection to my former method and is otherwise an improvement overall.
I still get a little nervous when I put it on in preparation for long trips, or when the sun is low on the horizon or reflecting off of snow, water, or ice. I have been safe for almost 4 years now, so I can accurately say that my clothing and lifestyle changes have improved my health significantly.
I still get comments because it is unusual to wear a mask, but lately the inquirers seem to be motivated mostly by curiosity instead of fear or prejudice. I can’t tell if that is because my mask is different, my perception of myself has improved, or because I moved to a more open-minded part of New England. Maybe it’s a combination of all of these.
Whatever it is, I am just glad that it’s been a while since I was last interrogated by police after depositing money in the bank…not exactly my idea of a hold-up.
To learn about my other articles of clothing, click on the related links below.