I have watched as little children innocently ask their mothers this very question. The answers vary from a mother suddenly noticing that I have a mask on and answering I don’t know to a mother replying maybe she is sick and doesn’t want to get us sick. My chemical sensitivities are such that to be able to go into the grocery store for a short period I must wear a charcoal mask to lessen the severity of what I breathe in and lessen my reactions to those chemicals. I have had people see me and suddenly veer off in a different direction for fear that I could spread some dreaded disease to them when in fact they are the ones I am protecting myself from (the cologne, laundry soaps, fabric softeners, etc.). When I was in Dallas in 2003 a friend and I who also wears a mask had made an excursion to window shop at a store we had seen that had very nice clothes in the window. We decided to stop because she wanted to see if she thought she could tolerate the clothes or if the store would be too fragrant for her to be able to get the smells out of the clothes. I write about this in my book.
By this time Lisa had begun gaining weight and needed clothes. We had driven by this store that featured clothes in the window that she thought might be safe for her. We decided to stop by there one morning. So here we were both in our masks knocking on the door to get the clerk’s attention. We finally got her attention and asked her to come to the door. We wanted to ask her if she would be willing to bring something out for us to look at. She cautiously opened the door; the whole time she kept looking at us in our masks and back to her register. I think she thought for sure that we were going to rob her. When we explained why we wearing the masks, she was very accommodating. There was also a time when we were standing outside another store waiting for a clerk to bring something out and a man approached us and asked why we were wearing masks. We tried to explain it to him. So, he said you are allergic to perfume and we just said yes. As he walked away he asked if we were sisters because we both had on masks. That generated a good laugh by both of us.
The mask presents many issues. In winter it causes my glasses to fog up. In warm weather the heat from wearing the mask is so stifling that I feel as if I could pass out.