Last Friday night I sat on the stoop outside my building enjoying the warm weather and a glass of wine. To my left, a couple approached, his hand wrapped confidently around hers as they walked step in step down the block. As my eyes scanned up I noted white fabric covering her nose, mouth, and chin. Mere inches away, her boyfriend’s face stood bare except for a light stubble, mouth grinning wide as he spotted the dog sitting at my feet. Before finishing my glass of wine, I saw three more couples where only the woman had bothered to put on a mask.
If you’ve suspected there are more women wearing masks than men, you’re correct. According to a recent study, men are less likely to wear face masks than women despite being more vulnerable to coronavirus. In New York City, where coronavirus has killed more than 17,000 people, men are dying of COVID-19 at twice the rate women are. Yet, walking around, it’s hard not to wonder if they’re living in an alternate universe where having a Y chromosome makes you invincible to disease.
In the past few weeks, there’s been great writing done about why men aren’t wearing masks. It’s emasculating (aka e-MASK-ulating), it shows weakness, it’s unmanly to cower to a disease that’s already killed more than 100,000 people in this country alone. A couple of weeks ago, the actress Rosie Perez joined Governor Andrew Cuomo and the comedian Chris Rock to announce a new PSA program encouraging young people to get tested for COVID-19 and to wear masks. Perez called out the young men she said she was seeing in her Brooklyn neighborhood going mask-less. “I see hipsters and yuppies walking around without a mask,” the actress said. “What is it, arrogance? Do you think you’re not going to be affected? Okay, fine, but you’re affecting me too. That I really do not understand.”
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