Relationships through a mask

My first attraction to people has always been through their eyes. Whether it was romantic relationships or lasting friendships, my initial glimpse into a person I met was by looking into their eyes.

Suddenly, I’ve been faced with how that has become a reality for not just me. As we move into a masked society for the foreseeable future, we don’t get to see as much about a person as we once did. Gone are smiles and frowns, white or crooked teeth, dimples and wrinkles.

These thoughts went through my mind as I passed through the building my doctor is in last week. They were practicing excellent social distancing, to the point where everyone remained six feet apart, masked, and tested for temperatures. People politely nodded without acknowledging each other in any other way.

What exactly we are supposed to do in these situations is new to everyone, but the effects are really going to be felt in new relationships. I can’t help but wonder if they will become fewer and far between.

I’ve always been an outgoing person ready to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to me in a waiting room or in line at the supermarket. I once even enjoyed my conversation with an uber driver so much I invited her to dinner. We are still friends four years later.

I’ve met men in bars and restaurants, stores and wineries, and at the pool. We’ve conversed and looked each other over, as single people always do. It was (at least for me) that combination of physical and emotional attraction that would-or wouldn’t-lead to something else.

We are now being told, for our own safely, to change the way we interact and view pending relationships. How much will that change the relationships themselves? Will we be less involved in the physical when all we can see are the eyes? Will we be more cautious about who we risk (literally) getting close to?

The truth is we’ve been easing into this with online dating. There are photographs, but we all know how honest most of those pictures are. The real goal is to form some type of bond before you actually get a good look at the person.

Gone are smiles and frowns, white or crooked teeth, dimples and wrinkles.

I’ve heard some success stories from online dating, but it never worked for me. I always felt that you can only know someone you meet and it’s more likely to get honesty in person. It’s easy to hide behind a computer screen. Is a mask the same thing?

I guess that’s my real question: Do we change when we put a mask on? Does it protect us against more than a virus?

I am certainly less likely to wear face makeup with a mask since it will get all over the fabric. On the other hand, I do pay more attention to my eyes and eyebrows. My glasses tend to fog up with a mask on, so I don’t wear those as much.

I have to admit there were times lately when I wasn’t 100% sure if I was looking across the hall at an acquaintance or a stranger. Between my nearsightedness and the mask that covered their face, it’s hard to tell. If I was sure it was someone I knew, I would walk over there, but if I’m not sure… do I want to take a chance?

Is it possible that we could finally become less concerned with appearance and making quick judgements to who is and isn’t your type? It may finally be time for relationships to be built on more than a perfect smile, or end because of a double chin. Maybe we can finally give meaning to becoming “friends first” as we slowly navigate through the new rules.

In some cultures, women are still forced to keep their face covered from everyone but their husband. At least with masks it’s a level playing field of men and women having their face covered.

Maybe we will have a better shot to relationships. After all, the eyes are the window to the soul.

A lifestyle journalist who was forced to slow down tennis, travel, food & wine coverage when chronic illness changed her life & career. MarciaFrost.com

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