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Masking Etiquette: How ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’ Can Save a Life

Barbara Arnold

The writer, in one version of a homemade mask.
The writer, in one version of a homemade mask.

To mask or not to mask? That is the question, it seems, for most people I’ve run into in the Chippewa Valley. Hopefully that will change soon, considering some businesses (such as Menards) are requiring anyone entering to wear masks, and the fact that most grocery store and all pharmacy workers are wearing them, too.

On Friday, April 3, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said “the general public should be wearing cloth masks if they cannot keep a safe distance from others” based on “recent data indicating that COVID-19 can be spread between people who are simply speaking to each other.” Dr. Fauci has also said there are cases of people being diagnosed with COVID-19 who have no symptoms of the virus.

My mask protocol has evolved from “no mask” to “bandana and goggles” to “Easter Cat using kitty-face tea towel, leopard print hijab, and kitty ears headband” to “an officially handmade sloth cloth mask” that arrived in the mail “sewn with love” by my childhood friend Eve in Madison.

Ever since March 20, when the office where I work closed, I’ve followed the 6-foot physical distancing guideline. Masks were another challenge. Like a preacher’s kid gone wild, I’m the daughter of a home economics teacher (now known as “family and consumer science”) who is NOT a sewer – at least not with my mom’s sewing machine. After she passed away, I was more than happy to hand off her beloved Bernina sewing machine to my older brother, Dean, a civil engineer who lives in Chicago. He claimed he would teach himself to sew on the complicated machine, which I thought was too sophisticated for me.

Dean kept his word. He recently revealed that not only had he taught himself to sew on the Bernina from YouTube videos but he was also making masks from old pajamas and nightgowns with filters made from Electrolux vacuum cleaner bags cut down to fit (a trick he also learned on YouTube). Meanwhile, my sister-in-law in Columbus, Ohio, called and asked me if there was any elastic left over in mom’s sewing stuff that she could use to make masks.

These calls prompted me to visit the crawl space where I stored my Singer sewing machine and the five remaining totes of mom’s 50 totes of sewing, fabric, needlepoint, and knitting stuff. I hauled out the totes and began to sift through them. I found some Bernina instruction booklets and set aside for my brother. I found a couple of packets of elastic for my sister-in-law, but they were too old to be any good. I also passed by the Singer a couple of times, looked at it, and wondered what would be involved in sewing masks. Next, I wondered if I could sew a mask by hand.

These thoughts quickly evaporated when I took a break to check Facebook. Lo and behold, my friend Laura Hookom had posted a video of how to make a mask out of bandanas. Thank you, Laura! I also was referred to the U.S. Surgeon General’s video on how to make a mask out of an old T-shirt.

Homemade face masks. (Photo by Barbara Arnold)
Homemade face masks. (Photo by Barbara Arnold)

Thoughts of sewing my own mask vanished. I pulled open my drawer of bandanas in every color of the rainbow and went to “work.” Easy-peasy! Just my speed! I experimented with rubber bands versus hair ties. I chose rubber bands for short, essential trips. Hair ties might bring more comfort when working eight hours. Better yet for long periods of time would be an additional piece of fabric over the back of the head to reduce wear and tear on the ears. Another YouTube video taught me how to use a tea towel, similar in size to a bandana, to make a mask.

My mask protocol has evolved from “no mask” to “bandana and goggles” to “Easter Cat using kitty-face tea towel, leopard print hijab, and kitty ears headband” to “an officially handmade sloth cloth mask” that arrived in the mail “sewn with love” by my childhood friend Eve in Madison.

The “official” one is really cool. It drew compliments of “nice mask” from the Mayo Clinic Health System professionals I encountered during a recent blood draw. It features a moldable nose piece and a replaceable “filter” insert. It’s also adjustable and washable.

I’m awaiting another cool mask from former Eau Claire resident Patricia Quayle Wickman, who now lives in San Antonio. Her design resembles a bird’s beak such as one might imagine being worn by Papageno in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Her masks are truly works of art.

What has remained constant throughout this shelter-in-place, stay-at-home, and safer-at-home timeframe, however, is my singing. And I credit another childhood friend, Ingrid, for sharing her idea via Facebook video: Rather than us suspiciously staring at each other and furtively darting around each other and giving each other dirty looks to ensure we are 6 feet away, she suggested we sing that old Motown favorite, “Stop! In the Name of Love,” made famous by The Supremes. Not only should we sign the song, but we should move with the spirit of soul made famous by the trio of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard.

The first few words of the song are: “Stop! In the name of love, before you break my heart.” Ingrid suggests her own version (complete with gestures):

“Stop! in the name of love” (outstretching your right or left arm and hand with palm out and upwards to indicate stop);

“Before you spread the virus” (snapping fingers and bringing your hand to your heart);

“Think it overrrrr!” (bringing your right or left index finger to the side of your head).

All the while, swivel your hips as only The Supremes could and did.

See you around, Chippewa Vallians! I look forward to serenading each other – wearing masks, of course, so the words and tunes may be somewhat muffled. James Corden’s “Crosswalk the Musical” and “Carpool Karaoke” ain’t seen nothing yet!