Full-Frontal Covid-19 Fashion

CJ Grace attempts to look good in a gas mask

My police surplus gas mask was recommended by Jeff who lives upstairs. He would wear the same model as mine in grocery stores even before lockdown happened. “I don’t care if people give me ugly looks as if I’ve just killed their dog,” he declared. “I don’t want to breathe in their microbes.”

Gas Mask Shopping

When I first put mine on and ventured out into the germosphere, it felt like I was playing a role in some B-rated Armageddon movie. I had taken advantage of the early bird senior hour in the local health food store — one benefit of being an old fart over sixty. As I navigated around the store, failing in my attempt to keep six feet away from other shoppers in the narrow aisles, the eye lenses began fogging up, affecting my vision. Then when I tried to tell the assistant in the meat department what I wanted, she couldn’t hear me. I later discovered that there is a “voice emitter diaphragm” already installed on one side of the mask that is meant to make speech more recognizable. It didn’t seem to work very effectively. My voice was muffled and garbled by the thick rubber around my mouth. I got around this by pointing a nitrile-clad finger at the ground turkey that by this time I could barely see, and then holding up two fingers to show that I wanted two pounds of it. Good thing I wasn’t in England, where the gesture has the same meaning as holding up one finger in America.

Blind and Dumb No More

I suppose that those gas masks weren’t really designed for grocery shopping. But I didn’t want the thing to make me blind and dumb. I fixed the fogging problem with the same soapy solution I used to defog my snorkeling mask — one part baby shampoo to ten parts of water. I also made sure that my nose was properly seated in the nosepiece of the mask to reduce the amount of my breath getting to the eyepiece lenses. I managed to get people to just about be able to hear me by a combination of shouting and voice projection I’d learned when studying classical singing — who knew the technique would be useful for shopping in the Covid era?

Gas Masks and Guns

I was heartened to read that the cheek filter inlets of my mask were designed to allow for the easy use of rifles to be shouldered by left and right handed shooters, so it would even work for my southpaw son. Even though the mask was first made back in 1995, it’s apparently still used by the military in Finland, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Kuwait. So all I’d need to be fully equipped for action is the rifle, if I knew how to use it. I can even go and buy one if they aren’t sold out. Several counties near me have allowed their gun stores to stay open as essential services. I’m disappointed that hairdressing salons haven’t been considered essential too. I’m in need of an emergency haircut as my fringe (or to translate into American, bangs) is so long that I can hardly see. It isn’t only the mask that is affecting my vision.

Gas Mask Accessorizing

When you wear a gas mask, there’s no need to brush your hair or wear makeup. Earrings, unless they’re extra-large, will be barely visible. If you’re accessorizing with nitrile gloves, you can ditch the nail varnish and diamond rings too. So you can leave a lot of your jewelry at home. Choose necklaces and pendants instead for your bling.

I prefer wearing brightly colored clothing as a contrast to the black rubber of the mask, but black attire might work better for the full Armageddon look. There’s no point smiling at people as no one can see it. A mask makes human interactions rather odd as we read so much from facial expressions, even at social distancing range. With a disposable surgical mask, only half of your face is covered, but my black mask hides the entire face. I’m totally expressionless. It’s as if I have become Darth Vader’s Sith sister (try saying that fast) from the Dark Side.

Filter Cartridge Felony

Along with the gas mask, I had to invest in filter cartridges for them. They work for chemical and nuclear agents too, so I’m prepared for mustard gas or sarin attacks, as well as nuclear war, while I go shopping. Actually I’m not. I’d need some kind of whole-body covering for that, I suppose. Plus I embraced my Jewish roots and bought canisters that expired in September 2019 because they were on discount at less than half-price. I was told the HEPA filter in them doesn’t expire, and that was all I would need against the coronavirus. The unexpired canisters for the mask were sold out anyway. Probably a good thing, as you can easily become a felon with the things. To quote KommandoStore.com, where I bought my mask and filters from, it would be illegal to sell the filter cartridges “to nice Chinese men offering 3 times market price on eBay.” The canisters are subject to very strict export restrictions, and you are not allowed to transfer the filters to foreign nationals, take them out of the country or even allow foreigners to inspect or handle them. So if my British boyfriend were here with me in California, rather than under lockdown in London, I might have committed a felony by displaying myself to him in my mask with the filter cartridge attached. How sad that I can’t do that. It would have been a sexy new look to cultivate — after all, fishnet stockings and suspenders are so passé.

Originally published at https://www.adultererswife.com on April 20, 2020.

Ex-BBC journalist | cancer warrior | author of “Adulterer’s Wife: How to Thrive Whether You Stay or Not” | sarcastic Brit in USA | Founder, Rentabrit Voiceovers

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