The Face Mask I Actually Don't Mind Wearing
My favorite kitchen gear company came through with a silicone mask that's comfortable, cute, and easy to wear.
Like most human beings who give a crap about the wellbeing of their fellow humans, I've followed CDC guidelines and I cover my nose and mouth with a mask on the rare occasions that I venture from my Brooklyn home for supplies or dog walking. The thing is, most of the versions I've tried over the past few weeks—scarves, paper medical masks, a super cute knitted number from a clothing designer—have irked me for one reason or another. They're hard to keep in place, the fibers go into my mouth, they activate my already pandemic-heightened claustrophobia. But I'm not a big, dopey baby and I've sucked it up. My mild personal discomfort is infinitely preferable to putting the lives of my neighbors at risk. Plus I knew that something better was on the way.
I ordered reusable silicone face masks from GIR within minutes of finding out that they existed. Over the past couple of years, I've fallen in mushy love with the kitchenware company's vibrantly colored, perfectly designed silicone straws, spatulas, spoonulas, coasters (that pull triple duty as potholders and trivets), and bottle stoppers. Each item I've tried has spoiled me for all others in its class, and if GIR (which stands for Get It Right) announced that they were making furniture, shoes, personal dwelling spaces, or starting a cult / religion I'd be right there on my knees. When I got an email saying GIR was selling PPE, I couldn't wait.
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And then I had to for several weeks, because the response to the masks was overwhelming. Within 24 hours of the announcement, the company—which offered a Buy A Kit + Donate A Kit option—announced they'd received 5,000 pledges to healthcare and essential workers, and I sure wasn't going to get fussy about it. What is time these days, anyhow? Just moments between thinking about food, eating food, and taking my dogs out to poop.
But the masks arrived yesterday and o frabjous day, callooh, callay, they were even better than I'd hoped. Maybe it's strange to put so much emotional energy into an inanimate object but we've gotta take pleasure where we find it, and this thing will essentially become part of the architecture of my face for the foreseeable future, so I'm cool with that. Here's the deal: They're made from platinum-cured, pharmaceutical-grade FDA/LFGB silicone; are BPA and BPS free; can be cleaned in a dishwasher, microwave, oven, autoclave, or with soapy water; and require a single-use filter that fits snugly inside. They even come in a smaller size for kids, and those glow in the dark. The company takes great pains to note that this is not a medical device and that you can either reorder filters through them or craft your own from HEPA filters, vacuum bags, or air purifier or air conditioner filters.
What's also key is that it's hella cute, and comfy to boot. Though I obviously observed protocol and wore face coverings before this, I wanted to rip the blasted things from my head within the first few minutes of my errand, and deeply internalized the dread of having to feel that way for months on end as New York City comes off quarantine and I must once again wedge myself onto the mobile petri dish that is our city's subway. This mask is a buttery yellow (I got black for my husband on account of him being a business dude who is also a stealth goth), and loops softly behind my ears to mold the silicone to my face like a benign alien parasite, or someone's COVID-specific medical fetish regalia. Even if I use the enclosed clip to join the loops behind my head for a tighter seal, it doesn't dig, and I'm not panic-gasping because I feel closed in. (Seriously—my claustrophobia is so bad in regular times that I have had panic attacks when my hair got in my face or I was stuck while taking off a dress. Yes, I have addressed this with my therapist.) Rather, I test-drove it sitting at my desk and walking around, and until I caught a glimpse in the mirror, I forgot I had it on.
And again, back to the cute. This matters. I know it's frivolous, but I placed another order for colors that would go well with my wardrobe, because this needs to feel like—obviously not pleasure, but at least not punishment if it's going to be an essential part of my ensemble until god (or Dr. Fauci) knows when. It needs to feel what passes for normal right now. Like I recall flight attendants reciting on airplanes, way back in the time before now: you have to put your own mask on before helping others. Now that's literally how you help others. Might as well gear up right.
Reusable Face Mask Kit with 5 Filters, $15 at gir.co