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How I’ve missed seeing people smile, and how much I appreciate the unveiling of facial expressions on strangers’ faces after more than a year!

Psychologists tell us our interactions with casual acquaintances are vital to our well-being, but Covid curtailed those connections for so many of us.

Strange how behind my mask I feel more tension and less conviviality, almost as if by wearing a mask, I become more suspicious of people…and they of me. Fear drove some of the masked sternness: Was my mask tight enough to keep Covid away from me as well as keep others safe?

Discomfort made me quieter: Could people hear what I had to say behind my mask? Could I understand the muffled speech of others or would I have to ask them to repeat everything they said?

And did you notice that masks grew in size over the year, some hiding three quarters of the wearer’s face, making it even harder to read people’s eyes?

One of my baristas at Starbucks has a loud, exuberant voice that conveys good feelings even as her mask hides her expressions. Other coffee servers sound embarrassed or mumble or fail to make the kind of eye contact we read as friendly. Truth is, we aren’t used to emoting behind clothed noses and mouths.

Masked, we smiled less and worried more. Unmasked, we can begin, again, to use our smiles to change the world.


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