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Hate them if you want, but masks can cover up everything from morning coffee breath to that zit growing on the end of your nose

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jason ChaneyNot long ago, on an early Saturday morning, we were short a few essential breakfast supplies in the kitchen, so I needed to make a quick grocery trip.

I haphazardly switched out of my bedtime duds and into clothes more suitable for the public, slid on some shoes and headed out the door. It wasn't until I had reached the store parking lot that I realized I had not only forgotten to brush my teeth, I had recently downed a cup of coffee. Morning breath would be on steroids.

An uneasy self-conscious feeling crept over me, and I was suddenly dreading any moment of close proximity with other people. Did I have a breath mint, a piece of gum? Shoot, even a cough drop would work? No luck.

But then I remembered I had to wear a mask. Yay! Problem solved.

Masks – someday they will probably be remembered with the same disdain as a routine dental procedure or a flat tire on an empty rural road. But right now, they are a begrudgingly accepted way of life. Where we go, they go, stuck to our faces, stifling each breath like a blanket draped over our head. I wouldn't be surprised, when this pandemic ends, if communities across the country hold public mask-burning events.

But, contrary to what you might think, I'm not here to rain on the whole mask-wearing mandate. Instead, being the beacon of positivity that I am, I would like to point out some of the good things about wearing a mask – in addition to the whole COVID-prevention thing.

One obvious benefit, proper oral hygiene is not as important as it once was. I can hear dentists around the world passionately disagreeing with me, but let's face it (pun intended), with our mouths always covered in public, does it really matter all that much if our breath is horrendous? So what if our teeth are the wrong shade or there's a piece of your last meal lingering between your choppers. Who's gonna know?

Similarly, we can hide our noses from the public. If you think your nose is too big or too small, if a zit sprouted on the end of it, if your nostrils happen to be misshapen, so what? Nobody else will see. Gone are any concerns about untrimmed nose hairs or any other escaped inhabitants of the nostrils that leave us sheepishly accepting a tissue from a stranger.

And if you are having a bad day and just don't feel like smiling at people, you really don't have to. In fact, to a certain extent you can make whatever face you want at people. Perhaps there's a risk that your furrowing brows will give you away, but the odds are much more favorable that you'll get away with it.

This mask era also gives us yet another opportunity to show our style. What does your mask say about you? Do you prefer a floral pattern? Maybe a skull and crossbones motif is more your cup of tea. I've seen a number of bandana masks that make me wonder what stagecoach is about to get robbed by horseback. Some folks keep it simple with the basic blue disposable model while others go all out and enter the store wearing a full-blown respirator-style covering that would make Darth Vader jealous.

So, you see, it isn't all bad. Sure, few things are more irritating than returning to the car because you forgot your face covering. And if you're holding a beverage and you forget you have a mask on, it might not end well. But is there a better feeling than taking off that mask when you leave a public place? It's like loosening a tie or sliding off your shoes. It just feels fantastic – and without a mask mandate, we would never know that pleasure.

Someday, the mask-burning will happen. Eventually, we will be able to flash our smiles at the world again. A time will come when brushing your teeth in the morning after a cup of coffee before going out in public will matter again. But until then, focus on the positive parts of wearing a mask. Try to turn that frown upside down – even though nobody will get to see it.


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