You are going to hate this, of course, since everyone and his brother, cousin, aunt, whoever, is bitching about places that make you wear masks. I have one that looks like a free floating turtle neck I can just pull up over my nose and mouth. It’s not approved by anyone, but it doesn’t make my nose break out or cause redness, which is a problem for those of us with sensitive skin.
As a long time observer of everything, I have noticed one thing about mask wearing that just touches me right in the center of my feel good center. I spend a lot more time looking at eyes now, and I proclaim them first, good, and second, absolutely beautiful in some cases. I’m not talking about sex here. It’s not that eyes release my inner beast (which has spent a lot of time at rest over the years).
I have noticed this as much in the eyes of men as in the eyes of women, so it has been an equal opportunity kind of observation for me. I get the same feeling when I stare into my dog’s eyes, which I try to do at least once a day because they seem so honest and soulful. But there’s no mask there to hide the other features, just lovely brown eyes and a nice black nose at the end of the muzzle and fierce teeth that could rip a big hole in you any time she wants to.
But back to human eyes and what they reveal.
It’s just something that I learned long ago as a reporter who conducted a lot of formal and informal interviews. I found the first important thing one had to do in those kinds of relationships is lock on to the person’s eyes, and stay locked there for as long as it takes to complete the questioning. It lets the person you are interviewing know that you are paying close attention, and that can’t hurt in many cases, particularly where you are trying to get honest responses.
It also makes some people very uncomfortable, which can work to your advantage sometimes. Your gaze has to be honest and open, a hidden tool that sends a hidden message to the person you are talking with. You expect them to be as honest and as open in return.
So I am trained by experience in that.
But I’m not a reporter any more, unless you consider this reporting. That would be quite a stretch because it’s mostly just what I think, an urge I suppressed most successfully over 30 years of journalism but feel free to blast forth on these days.
And what I think about this is that I am going to miss masks when we stop wearing them, at least a little bit, because they are an invitation to look into a person’s eyes, to see what you can see there. Nothing gets in the way of that, not lips, not hair, not chin, not skin.
It’s the eyes that count when someone is wearing a mask.
I know this because when I watch at a distance, I can see when people are expressing delight, humor, sadness, a whole notebook full of emotions, with their eyes. We see with them, obviously, but I would argue we talk with them, too.
I went to dinner at a very sunny restaurant recently and my wife and I both had to wear our shades. I didn’t tell her this, but I could not tell whether she was enjoying her pretty good meal because I could not see how her eyes were reacting when she talked to me about it. The chicken was a little dry, she said, but she loved the soup and the rice with dill. I liked mine too, but I wasn’t able to show it with my eyes, protected as they were by the very same kind of sunglasses President Biden wears, Ray Bans I think.
I have even noticed this on the rare events during the Covid crisis when I have been able to watch live music, or perform it for that matter. You can see when someone loves a song they are playing or singing, and where you see it the most is in their eyes.
Why does this happen?
I don’t know.
But I do know that poets have forever described eyes as windows on the soul, which means there is actually a soulful component to wearing a mask; not only are you protecting yourself and anyone nearby, you are opening the windows of your soul to anyone who wants to pay close attention.
I will be happy to see the masks go, of course. It’s hard to work out in them, its hard to talk and hear in them.
But I think I will try again to train myself to look into people’s eyes when I talk to them, even when they are not masked. There is genuine beauty, truth, anger, whatever emotion you want to find, when you look into those eyes.