Here within the orbit of Manhattan, masks are not merely tolerated; they are embraced. Obedience to Covidian biopolitics elevated masking to a sacramental act. It has become the secular analogy to sprinkling holy water or making the sign of the cross.
Merit accrues to a new ritual observance that effaces individual identity and desensitizes us to the complex role of faces in personal communication. This compulsive masking sharpens my memory of words that have stayed with me since girlhood: “By the time you are 40, you are responsible for your own face.”
That stern caution came from a woman equipped to offer it. Mary Jane Robertshaw, O.S.U., was the lively minded director of the art department at a Catholic women’s college from 1957 to 1997.