Yes, Virginia, There IS a Bright Side of Life

Choosing to Find Humor Where It's Least Expected



If laughter is medicine, then maybe a good dose of Monty Python's gloriously silly humor is just what we need in 2020 to lighten things up. So many great movies and TV sketches to choose from, but I think we could all use a little wry humor, as in their song "Always look on the Bright Side of Life."


We're experiencing what can seem like a modern version of the ten plagues. We have a pandemic, civil unrest and societal upheaval, rioting and looting, earthquakes, destructive hurricanes, record high unemployment, psychological fallout from months of quarantine (depression, anxiety, rising spousal and child abuse), bankruptcies, murder hornets, and dangerously unsustainable national debt. Gulp. Lots to worry about and for very good reason. It makes me think of R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World" - a great song, by the way. Yeah, everything seems to be going wrong; what are you going to do about it?


But rather than wallow in our problems, I prefer to work towards the positive and try to see the absurdities in these situations. Yes, by all means, right the wrongs that can be corrected, deal with nature's challenges as best we can, and manage the emotional ups and downs we're all experiencing with clear and rational thinking. Remind ourselves that just as all good things come to an end, so do the bad. We know we'll eventually get through this.


Humor helps us through even the most painful, trying times of life. I recently read Let There Be Laughter by Michael Krasny, a wonderfully funny book about great Jewish humor, where it came from, and what it all means. Jewish humor is based on centuries of living through pogroms, prejudice, and attempts at genocide, as well as the immigrant experience, and the fears, anxieties, and even pride that accompanies it. We see it throughout modern entertainment, as so many Jewish comedians and TV writers took this cultural pain and spun it on its head and into their stories of American life. Once a coping mechanism, now a release mechanism.


So, while I'm not a comedienne or even particularly funny (I'm not!), I thought I'd take a sideways look at this whole mask business. The mask has become the symbol for the Covid experience. It doesn't matter if you're for or against them. It now represents so many divergent ideologies and arguments about individual freedoms, compliance for the sake of a greater good, personal or financial sacrifices by necessity vs. choice, the state of healthcare today and where it's going, etc. OK, enough with the serious, how about a wry observation or two? Here are a few of mine.



The Cosmetic & Skincare Industries


* Masks are just killing the lipstick industry. I mean, REALLY! No point wearing lipstick, no one can see your lips, and that lovely color you normally love to wear will just stain the inside of your mask anyways. As if retailers aren't suffering enough.


* Come to think of it, masks aren't doing much for the cosmetic industry as a whole. Even for those who venture out of the house once in a while, the mask covers the lower half of the face, so what's the point of bothering much with makeup? And it's certainly a non-issue for those still hanging out at home in their PJs or sweats or who have nowhere they need to go. A boon to women everywhere who spend a lot of time each day just fixing up before heading out the door.


* On the other hand, especially for teens who may be going to school all day in masks, it's been a boost to the skincare business, particularly for treating acne. In a sterile environment, such as during a surgical procedure, the mask is supposed to be changed every time it is touched by an unsterile object, such as a finger. During the long school day, kids adjust their masks and touch their faces multiple times, even if it's just to free themselves to eat and drink. Bacteria breeds on these masks and, exacerbated by the lack of fresh air circulating directly onto teens' faces, acne becomes a problem.



Dental Care ... or the Lack of It


* How many people will be less concerned with bad breath or food stuck in their teeth? Those little disposable flossers that we used to find littered everywhere, well, they've become rather scarce. And chances are that teeth aren't being brushed as often as they should. Let's not even talk about bad breath once the mask comes off.



A Boon to Women of a Certain Age


* Wearing a mask is like wearing a face veil. Just not as pretty or - for those of us raised on stories of Scheherazade - having the same sense of mystery and allure. But the mask can do wonders at hiding signs of aging: fine lines, sagging skin, brown spots, and the like. Voila! Play up the eyes and pretend you look ageless, "dahling....."



Forget Facial Recognition


* It does not work. Period. Facial recognition software on your smart phone was designed to identify your unique features even when you wear sunglasses. But an opaque face mask? Sorry. You'll have to manually enter your password or slip your mask below your nose for it to work. Another challenge for Apple.



A New Fashion Accessory


* OK, we women are staying mostly comfy cozy while we nest (and work) from home. Most of us are wearing the same old things; except for the occasional Zoom meeting, there's not much need to dress up. And then it's usually only on our top half. Few opportunities to enjoy trotting a favorite bag, shoes, or special outfit ... assuming we like to dress up. Most trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, and the like are made in very casual clothes. But ... now we are required to wear masks everywhere. Home-based crafters are creating beautiful masks out of all types of fabrics and materials. It may rank as an all-time favorite fashion accessory, but the face mask is something new by which we can express ourselves.


* Some people are wearing masks to show their individuality, affiliations, and personal beliefs. Just be aware that if you're wearing something with a political statement, you may get punched in the nose by someone who disagrees with you. Well, at least you have a nice handy piece of cloth to wipe up the blood.



Another Way to Be of Service


* Masks give us more opportunities to be of assistance to others. My sister is a hospital social worker and when she and other healthcare first responders were first required to report to work in-person, they were expected to provide their own masks. Masks of any kind were in very short supply at that time, so these healthcare workers, who were already putting in great amounts of overtime, had one more thing to worry about it. It felt great to do my small part to scrounge around and send a nice package of masks to my sister.


* This isn't directly related to masks, but the pandemic has offered so many ways to be of help to the elderly, those with compromised immune systems or other health issues, or anyone just fearful of venturing into public places. Like others, I've been helping an elderly couple down the street with their grocery shopping, providing a bit of socialization when I stop by to chat a few minutes while unloading their items. We've grown closer, each of us enjoying getting to know the other a lot better, sharing in our respective families' news, and just keeping an eye out for each other.



Halloween - It's Gonna Be Frightful


* Who knows what Halloween will look like this year? Forget about costume parties, but hopefully the kids will still be able to enjoy trick-or-treating. Of course, the teenagers will have a better excuse to ring doorbells looking for candy long after the little ones have gone to bed. This year, they'll actually have a mask on - instant costume: the year 2020 - to accompany their pillowcases.


* Kids won't have to worry about wearing face masks. They can just don the regular Halloween mask that comes with their costume and voila! they're covered. Literally.


* And here's a scary Halloween costume idea: run around with no mask. Guaranteed to send people screaming as they run away in fear. Should provide more reaction than wearing a Halloween mask with the face of a Presidential candidate.