Barney Stintson, on “How I Met Your Mother” had the catchphrase, “suit up.” This comedic phrase referred to his incessant need to wear a suit for any occasion.
During winter in Beijing, “suit up” refers to the 5-10 minutes that must be added to any outdoor activity as one prepares their body to deal with the inclement weather. (read more about how one would “suit up” in Beijing)
But during the time of COVID-19 (previously known as “Corona” virus), “suit up” takes on a whole new meaning and an extra few minutes of work. In the past 4 weeks, I’ve learned a lot about the art of “suiting up” and wearing a protective shield over my nose and mouth. I thought I would be remiss if I didn’t share my “knowledge” with you.
WARNING: My expertise is not medical in nature. Any information shared here is just an expat’s experience of this phenomenon and a light-hearted way to bust the boredom. This is all in jest.
Too Many Choices
There are many different kids of masks. Reusable and disposable. Cotton and fleece. Medical and gas. There are also thousands of “invented” masks or techniques to wear masks. To get the legit scoop on mask wearing, listen to the WHO, but if you want a laugh, check out Bored Panda.
For this illiterate-in-Chinese family, once news about the virus hit the 24-hour news cycle, sourcing masks became a challenge and we’ve had to make do with whatever we could get our hands on. Our collection of masks include those which should be used when the AQI is high and those which should be disposed after each wear.
Create a “Safe Space”
It is important to create a safe space for any items that may be subjected to COVID-19. We have created this space near the front door of the house, where our shoes, jackets, scarves, hats, boots, gloves, and dog leash rest between jaunts outdoors.
Our “Safe Space” includes (from top to bottom):
- hand sanitizer: because it’s the perfect way to further dry out your winter skin
- wet wipes: a good way to clean your hands before/after/while touching something outside
- our Lego family: because neither Rob nor I have hung it on our front door yet
- masks: in various colors, sizes, and materials
- tissues: for the inevitable nose blowing that commences once one enters from the cold
- breath mints: the only way to avoid the question, “Does my breath REALLY smell this bad?” once you’ve put on an over-used mask on… again
- headphones: so you can avoid the teen squabbles that may be included on your outdoor excursion
Who Does It Belong To
When your family has a collection of masks by the front door, it’s important to make sure you can identify whose mask is whose. There are countless ways you can organize this: bins, baskets, hooks, and labels. I have invented my own organizational trick which I have dubbed: “the Lipstick.”
The Art of Mask Wearing
To know me is to know that I love to communicate. Whether friend or foe, stranger or neighbor, I have an insatiable need to communicate. This need is difficult in a country where my language skills are limited to basic greetings, thanks, and apologies. What does one do? Well, they learn how to communicate with their face. The art of non-verbal communication served me quite well until… well, until COVID-19. Below are four ways to help you “read” the mask face.
Smiling With Your Eyes: notice the squinted eyes and even fatter cheeks
Damn It’s COLD Outside/Why Do I ALWAYS Have to TAKE the Dog Out At Night?/My Kids are Fighting Again: observe the arched eyebrows and cold, dead stare
The Neutral: there’s nothing going on. Not. A. Thing!
The Don’t-Make-Eye-Contact-With-Me-Because-I-Don’t-Speak-Chinese-And-I’m-Nervous-You-Might-Ask-Me-A-Question: observe the eyes darting a way to look somewhere. Anywhere.
I hope some of this helps you the next time you decide to “suit up.”
Be safe. Suit up. Wash hands. Live life!