Décolletage but Above the Neck

Week before last I was in an office for an appointment. We each observed physical distancing and wore cloth face coverings. We had an animated discussion. As the young professional talked her mask tended to slip down along her nose, caused by her jaw moving no doubt.

In larger enclosed spaces, stores to be clear, I get offended by people being half-assed about their Covid-19 protections. It’s either on or off, buddy, any other way makes you susceptible to any of MY germs but mainly I’m worried, with your attitude, about what YOU might be spewing toward me.

That’s not what I found myself thinking about her, though.

My shy self so far has never confronted people in stores to mask up. I’m there for peaches not provocation. Get my groceries and get out. A couple of times I’ve just left for another store. The first rule in real martial arts is when facing a confrontation and whether to fight or flee, first choose the latter.

That earns me a black belt in the art of chicken.

My second feeling in her office turned out to be empathy. She had a lot to say, forcing her to keep adusting her mask to stay up. Can’t be helped, and she knows the need for all of us to follow health guidelines.

Actually, my inclination was to study her nose and cheeks. Nice skin. Do I remember what her lips look like, her chin, from previous appointments? So I tried to picture her whole face.

That brought on guilt. These face coverings turn out to cover bodily contours, rendering them interesting if not, ahem, attractive.

It brought to mind a great line from Seinfeld: “Looking at cleavage is like looking at the sun. You don’t stare at it, it’s too risky. You get a sense of it then you look away.”

Later, reflection. In the days since, while my wife and I stay home as much as possible, we risk excursions occasionally. I’ve been looking at people with a new focus: What’s under the mask? Would I like to see? Sometimes the answer is, oh yeah.

As far as I know, and I’ve been worried about this for years, face to face you can’t read my thoughts any better than I can yours. Unless you’re obvious with the drooling.

That appointment that brought the revelation that the novel coronavirus 2019 has brought something else to ogle. I know she saw me staring at the top of her patterned cloth mask, but for all she knew I was mentally criticizing her for not using a fully strapped-in, molded Puritan sort of mask.

I hope.

Never suspected the separation of nose to cheek is a form of cleavage (PG-13 Wikipedia entry). Ogling is a form of harassment. I’ve been guilty of it.

There are places where looking at bodies is normal and expected for anybody, both men and women — watching acting, music shows, beaches and pools. …

I saw the legitimacy of discrete ogling ages ago. We were in San Diego with my sister-in-law and her late husband, watching a suburban performance of Noel Coward’s Private Lives. One of the stars wore a tailored white silky dress. The production got boring, so I spent some time simply enjoying her dress. Shame on me I guess, but the costume was deliberate, to emphasize her attractiveness. Indeed. 

Until limits are crossed. At a grocery entrance yesterday, a mom, dad and two children walked past me with the woman obviously referring to our governor’s new face-covering mandate, muttering to her spouse: “Monday they’ll start making us wear them.”

As I continued through the store I spied two women, separately, with their masks covering only their mouths, their virus-aerosolizing noses fully exposed.

That is too much skin.

Copyright 2020 Ben S. Pollock Jr.

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