Behind the Mask by Cheryl Harper

I'm a smiler. Around here, it's a thing we do. When you meet someone coming toward you on the sidewalk or down the hallway, you smile. It's not quite as common here as it used to be, but it's one of those habits I can't quit.

I can't quit it, mainly, because I have resting sad face otherwise. People worry. They ask me what's wrong, and I'm only making my grocery list in my head. So I smile.

Thanks to the pandemic, our rising case numbers, and the governor's better-late-than-never-but-sooner-would-have-been-smarter order to wear masks, I've gotten comfortable wearing one of my growing fashion mask collection at work and when I have to go out for necessities like dog food and Diet Coke.

The only problem is that I have trouble recognizing people I know sometimes with the mask on and no one can see me smile.

So now I've gone audible. I consider counting how many chipper "hey" greetings I make every day, but I'd never be able to keep that count up all day long.

I'm including visual evidence of my:

1. No expression behind the mask. This is what you might see if I'm trying to do math in my head and I forget to do my greeting smile.

2. Smiling with mask. Difficult to distinguish between this and number 1.

3. Me, "smiling with my eyes" aka smizing a la Tyra Banks. It's scary. Small children would run away in fear.

This is why I've settled on "hey" as an indication that "I see you. I acknowledge you. I am not crying on the inside or plotting to steal your liver (option 3 has dangerous undertones, like why are your eyes doing that, lady, and where is the nearest exit? I was not meant to smize.)

I hope you're all healthy where you are. What about you? Are you making changes to fit behind the mask? Got a cool mask collection going?


  1. So funny, Cheryl, and this was a great start to my day! My favorite is #2....I can see the smile in your eyes, but think #3 would be a good one to use if I saw someone without a mask. Thanks for some smiles today. :)

  2. Cheryl, this is a hilarious take on the life behind the mask. I hate it. And yet we have to do this in our office because we are dental and one of the most highly vulnerable health professions. My job is to comfort the patients to the best of my ability but I feel like the Lone Ranger at the very least, trying to hide my smile from them. It's soooo tough, but you have made it really fun for us all today. Great thoughts and yes, I like #2 as well. Be safe and well and keep smiling!

  3. I love this! I like your smile, too. I think I can feel it. I have a resting mad face, and I feel bad about it because I'm hardly ever mad.

  4. It's back-to-school time, so I suspect that they're a number of related masks to be had out there. I have a smirking resting face. Not cool.

  5. At least quite a few people are still looking at each other and reading faces and doing pleasant greetings. I'm not sure why so many people avert their eyes. Love you post--I needed a light take!

  6. My husband says my whole face smiles. He's even asked me what's so funny in the middle of the grocery store when I had my mask on and I had just seen something funny. I think it's a good thing for people to have to look twice to see if they know you, maybe they'll keep making eye contact after normal comes back, if it ever does! Love the post. Always room for one more smile!

  7. Love this. People seem to smile back at me even when I smile behind the mask. Maybe it's all those "smile lines" I've collected around my eyes. I'm smiling at you, now. Take care.

  8. Thanks for the post. You made me laugh and rethink my facial expressions when wearing a mask! Even if no one can tell, I'm going to keep smiling.


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