Lupus and Mask-Shaming

It's been over 2 years since the start of the pandemic, and the world is starting to get back to normalcy. Restaurants, schools, airlines, and many more places have lifted their mask and vaccine mandates, and many are now going on about their lives without masks on. But as a lupus patient, I've worn masks even before the pandemic and will continue to do so when I go out. Unfortunately, I've had a couple of bad experiences when going out with my masks and have felt mask shaming.

Shamed at a comedy show

The first was at a comedy club. I didn’t think they were going to say anything since they got covid twice themselves, and NYC was pretty pro on masks/vaccines. When they broached the topic, I didn't think I was going to be so affected. Whether it was meant to be a "funny" joke, I just felt like it should not have been said at all. The comedian started thanking the audience for coming, except for the people who were still wearing masks. They mentioned that we should have just stayed home if we were so afraid of getting covid, and they basically did not want us present at their show. They didn’t need people like us. It made me so upset. As someone living with lupus, I know we are not only thinking about covid. We are thinking about our fragile immune system and how one bad flare can send us to the hospital.

Feeling awkward at the arcade

Another experience was at a local arcade with my family. Looking at the demographics, 75 percent were not wearing masks, and 25 percent were wearing masks. We were outnumbered, and I could feel the stares. I overheard some people and saw little kids pointing and wondering why we still had masks on. One family even had the audacity to start coughing on purpose. I walked across the room so fast. Little children learn from their parents and the older people in their lives. To see them at such a young age to mask shame someone felt so wrong. It was incredibly disheartening to see how people were treating us and for it to be of people that were so much younger. We were just another spectacle at the arcade, and people just didn’t care.

No shame in masks

Pandemic or not, people should not be shamed for wearing masks. It's hard to judge a cover and know what people are going through. Lupus patients, cancer patients, and other chronic illness patients have to be very careful. We have very fragile immune systems and can flare up in an instant. Are we scared when we go out? I’m not going to lie and say No. Some of us are hesitant to go out because of all the unknowns.  

But that's why we mask up to be preventative. We don’t want to stay just stay all our lives indoors and miss out on experiences. I wish people would just let people be. As a mask wearer, I'm not forcing my belief of wearing masks or getting the vaccine onto others. Everyone has the freedom to do what they want, and we can still coexist. There will always be people living with chronic illness, and we should all be mindful and compassionate.

Have you experienced mask shaming?

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