Nompilo Kunene
Senior online journalist
4 minute read
27 Jul 2022

Opinion | Not ready to let go

Nompilo Kunene

So if you’re like me and prefer to remain masked, just remember that you’re entitled to make choices about your own body and health.

Nompilo Kunene

If I’m seen walking around not wearing my face mask while Covid-19 is still a thing, it will be purely because I’ve finally succumbed to peer pressure, not because I think it’s the right time to stop wearing it.

Yes, I was that child growing up. I always succumbed to peer pressure, and here I am again, now in my adult life finding myself battling with my stance of continuing to wear a mask despite the government saying it is no longer mandatory to wear it.

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I’ve grown accustomed to wearing my mask when I go out in public, we all have.

Besides the safety the mask provides, I’ve grown to love how it hides my face. I’ve also figured that people tend to think I look prettier hidden behind my mask than I actually am …. Okay, maybe the last part is just all in my head.

On the day that masks were dropped I went to the Scottsville shopping centre in Pietermaritzburg to run a few errands and, I swear I’m not making this up, to buy my mother-in-law more masks. When I walked into the shopping centre I was honestly surprised to see how many people had ditched their masks.

Initially, I was shocked because for a few seconds I had forgotten that masks were no longer mandatory, then when it hit me, I was just baffled and had to fight the urge to take off my mask in order to blend in with everyone else. That urge has become one of my daily struggles since the scrapping of masks.

I was in the shopping centre for not longer than 15 minutes and I swear I saw only about five people wearing a mask.

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When I went into one of the stores to purchase my mother-in-law’s stash of masks, the boxes were no longer right at the entrance where they were usually kept.

When I asked one employee where the masks were, he legit laughed at me, then asked: “Masks? Really?’’, as he walked me to the back of the store.

The masks were priced at R30 for a box of 50 masks, but I managed to talk them down to R20 after arguing that people won’t be buying them anymore. Walking out of the store I figured I could have pushed my luck further and got an even lower price. Oh, well.

We’ve come a long way with masks. I remember when we started wearing masks how annoying and close to impossible it was for many of us to get used to them.

We struggled to breathe, they fogged our glasses and even gave some of us a mean face rash. We even struggled to recognise friends and relatives hiding behind face masks, not to mention making out people’s facial expressions.

But after some time, the masks became part of our daily lives and we all found a way around the challenges.

In May I had a work trip to Johannesburg. At the airport, my boss and I were waiting for our luggage, and everyone was wearing masks. It was still mandatory. There was a woman who was carrying her toddler who was probably two or three years old.

My boss smiled at the little girl, mind you my boss was wearing her mask, and the child immediately blushed and tried to hide her face in her mother’s chest.

It just made me see how accustomed we had become to masks, even children were now able to make out a stranger’s facial expressions behind a mask.

Covid-19 is not totally gone, there are still reports of deaths from the virus every day. Yes, the numbers are extremely low and deaths vary from one to two per day, but those are still deaths due to Covid-19.

What harm would wearing masks until we’re in the clear and every trace of Covid-19 is gone do?

Many people across the globe, myself included, have lost loved ones to the virus. The smallest report of a possible Covid-19 resurgence still leaves my heart racing from fear of the trail of havoc it may leave behind once again.

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Although it feels extremely uncomfortable to be the only masked face in the room, I’ve decided that I will carry on wearing my mask in public places and at work for as long as I can.

I will brave the stares I get at the stores, church and other public spaces from the masses who have ditched their masks.

I just hope I have outgrown my old stupid friend named peer pressure. So if you’re like me and prefer to remain masked, just remember that you’re entitled to make choices about your own body and health. It’s all about your comfort level. Everyone makes their own choices, don’t be afraid to make yours.

• Nompilo Kunene a senior online reporter at The Witness.