It’s back in the headlines and the debate is intense: masks.

I’ve held my fire on it up to now. I pick opinions on a case-by-case basis, not led by the nose by people I always agree with, like a cow that goes into that special shed because all his mates did and what’s the worse that can happen?

But it’s time to heal this red-raw split in the populace once and for all. I’ve picked a stance.

You’re all wrong.

You’re being lied to about masks. Yeah yeah Covid blah blah blah, copyright Greta. I suppose there’s a chance that some infected particles are coughed out and caught on the cloth, in the same way that pants are partially effective against sharting. You can argue the science of masks either way: it depends on whether you’re reading peer-reviewed publications and comments from reputable scientists who authoritarian regimes invariably put up against the wall first, or a colourful Facebook post from an Australian housewife who keenly wants to give meaning to her life now her kids have moved out.

The dissonant reasons people give for not wearing masks have really benefited from their gestation on social media. The Nanny State can’t tell me what to do, unless it’s wear a seatbelt, don’t smoke or eat ‘drugs’ that grow naturally in woods and fields, don’t climb electricity pylons to recover your Frisbee etc. It’s a slippery slope towards gas chambers, because although Jews are the root of all evil I am somehow making myself the Jew in this analogy. My face is my calling card and telling me to cover it restricts my freedom of expression, plug ugly spectre that I am. I have breathing problems and can’t wear a mask, but I’m not wearing a badge to reassure people of that because yellow stars and oh look Jews again.

Others argue it’s a stunningly selfish decision to not do one simple thing that at least could protect other people. But to argue that, you’d have to presume people are willing to care about or even tolerate strangers and, come on now, nonsense like that gets us nowhere.

This is all rubbish. You are not being told the real reasons why you should wear a mask.

It’s winter, for one. I unadvisedly went outside in late November and it was so fucking Baltic I had to mug three old dears on the way to the football for extra masks for my knees and bollocks. Masks are a sensible winter garment; you wouldn’t go out without socks this time of year, unless you’re very fashionable. Every time I leave a shop or public transport, removing my mask makes me grimace like John McClane peeling off a makeshift bandage to pour random alcohol on a seeping bullet wound. Hans Gruber was Jewish by the way, did you know that?

And do you know what else masks give you? Privacy. For example, I’m an incorrigible self-talker when alone, jabbering away like a teenage girl from Massachusetts, but I’d yet to make the jump to doing it in public. Oh see me now. Wearing a mask I can stroll down any street rabbiting about Christ knows what without fear of being hauled off to the asylum. I can even talk to people without them knowing it, like saying “Put a mask on you fucking cunt” should the fancy take me, because my mask gives me more freedom of expression than I’d hitherto been allowed, ironically.

An unexpected bonus of all this mask wearing is that I’ve realised just how enjoyable it is to have my mouth open. I have just enough regard for my image in the eyes of others that I tend to roam the Earth with my mouth closed, and yet those simple folk who lollop about with their gobs gaping and eyes a-goggle seem to be so much happier. Dogs seem content after all, and now I can be a dog all day long, though the mask does make feasting on myself tricky. And given nobody can hear me , I can gain extra pleasure by emitting the constant low moan of the mouth-breathing imbecile, and if I dribble there’s a cloth right there.

There are countless other happy side effects. You never again have to tolerate a punchable face that got so much Movember sponsorship they’ve decided to drag it out into December. If you’re forced to be in the same room as your boss you can be mouthing “I will not do your bidding corporate scum” whenever they’re banging on about KPIs. You can even pull that face we all pulled at school that you’re not allowed to do any more, and nobody will ever know.

I understand it’s difficult to be seen to change one’s mind in the social media age. I’ve a suspicion that aged about 12 I once wrote something incredible like ‘No Pakis in our team’ on a school exercise book for reasons that entirely escape me now. I can apologise for this in the knowledge I’ve had no such views since the enlightenment of adulthood, but if I’d been able to put that on Twitter in 1989, no amount of anti-bigotry in the intervening 31 years would save me.

I mention this because I wonder if we could offer an amnesty to the anti-mask brigade. Never mind what you’ve said before; on this occasion we’ll ignore all your spurious online horseshit, and that you’ve somehow brought politics into the wearing of a bloody face mask, and let you enjoy masks just like a normal person.

Never mind whether there are countless studies proving masks’ very clear benefit in reducing disease transmissibility – so many studies you wonder whether we’ll ever again see an important paper like that one on why pedestrians do not constantly collide with other pedestrians, or the one on why pedestrians do sometimes collide with other pedestrians. Instead let’s focus on the demonstrable benefits of masks: they keep you warm, you can say whatever you want wearing them and they can make you as happy as an idiot.

These are the arguments that’ll easily convince the screaming herds of anti-maskers to consider backing a new horse – this can be the ‘new evidence’ they’re always hunting for. We can even job up a few amateurish Facebook posts to convince them these benefits are backed up by both Qanon and that pinhead from Lewis. Or let’s just say Trump came up with it.

A simple reset to take the fury out of face masks could be the silver bullet to end division and, potentially, save the human race from eating itself. And if in the process it stops one single microbe from prolonging this fucking pandemic, even forgiving morons must be worth a punt.

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