Life After Lockdown: Masked with a Vengeance

These giant stuffed bears are all over Paris, and these days are employed to create social distancing at cafés. ©Lisa Anselmo

Oh boy, oh boy, fun times in France! Over 2000 new cases daily (100K+ active cases)—numbers not seen since April—with most new cases in people 25-35. And Paris is a red zone again.

Mon dieu, Lisa! Say it isn’t so.

It’s so. Social distancing is not as enforced as it once was, even on café terraces, sadly (and you’re lucky if your server is wearing their mask properly). Large groups gather at the péniches on the Seine (which Mme Mayor decided to keep open, though she herself tested positive without symptoms). And of course, with borders open, travelers from the UK and Spain—two countries where the virus is not under control—are coming here for their holidays.

Mandatory Masks in France

What to do, what to do? Well, if you’re the French government, you roll out an ordinance that masks must be worn at all times, even outside. But because you’re the French government, you’ll roll that out slowly, in a very complicated manner.

Here’s the first map of mask zones that was announced. This was published with a long list of specific streets.

Courtesy of the Prefecture of Police

A few days later, this revised map was issued. And they threw in joggers, cyclists, scooter-riders, and motorcyclists citywide.

Courtesy of the Prefecture of Police

Why not just make the whole city a mask zone, you ask? Well, sure, but this is France. Apparently, they need to ease people into the idea. Some of the zones make sense—the center of town, heavily trafficked shopping zones—but many other areas just as congested were not included. My bustling neighborhood in the 11th, for example, is a sort of mask black hole. “It’s politics,” my neighbor joked. “We didn’t vote for them, so they don’t care if we live or die.” This confusion has lead to a lot of maskless Parisians, and that could mean a lot of €135 fines.

Life, Masked

Wearing a mask all the time does have its issues—from medical side effects such as headaches and maskne (mask acne) to beauty challenges, like how the moisture from my breath makes my eyelashes uncurl—quelle horreur! And for someone who loves her makeup, having most of my face hidden leaves me little canvas to work with. Am I me without my signature red lips?

Like my veiled sisters in the Middle East, one thing I’ve been doing is amping up my eye makeup to compensate. When you can’t use your face to emote or attract, your eyes really have to work extra hard. I’m even toying with false eyelashes, like a reality TV star, but I can’t seem to get the hang of them just yet. I end up looking like Lambchop.

My dramatic “mask” eyes. Not quite ready for false eyelashes yet.

The Newest Accessory

My mask collection is growing, too. Mostly, I use the ol’ blue medical masks, because they are lighter and I can breathe easier. But back when masks were scarce in Paris, I received a few care packages from abroad, including a couple very special handmade masks from a friend in New Jersey.

Homemade masks from a friend in the U.S. (Thanks, Grace!)

And, courtesy of my best bud Matthew, in Tokyo, I now have some pretty cutting-edge versions. I’m not ready for the mask-with-matching-dress combo I’m seeing advertised in my Facebook feed, but now that we need to wear masks (nearly) everywhere, I do have to consider it part of my total look, like it or not.

Friend Matthew sent me masks from Tokyo. They took three months to get to me.

The city of Paris gave out free masks, made in partnership with well known clothing manufacturers. This one was made by Coco & Rico.

A few surprising upsides of masks (beyond the obvious): many woman find it liberating, taking the pressure off how they look. Some note that they are no longer targets of leering eyes, and can go about their lives undisturbed. Journalist and friend, Caroline Harrap, wrote this piece for the Independent.

Our masked faces are also confounding the face recognition apps and systems in place, which makes me very happy, indeed, since this is being abused far too often, like cities using facial recognition to I.D. and target groups of protestors (now not possible due to masks). Social media, too, relies a lot on facial recognition to auto-tag, and to geo-target us for advertising. I wonder how long before Facebook tells us that we can’t wear a face mask in our profile picture “for security reasons.”

All Parisians are masking up. A concerned citizen put a mask on this statue. Georges Courteline was a satirist, so he gets the joke, I’ll bet. ©Lisa Anselmo

So, for the foreseeable future, Paris will be masked. There’s enough evidence to support that wearing masks helps slow the spread of Covid-19, so we all need to do what we can to avoid another lockdown, maskne or not. I guess I’ll just put that lipstick budget toward some extra eye shadow.

Masked avenger! A designer friend Photoshopped a mask onto my Facebook profile pic.

Paris mandatory mask interactive map, here.


In the market for a mask? Be safe while celebrating your love of France!

My friend Patty of Genuine France is creating masks featuring her gorgeous photos of Paris and France. More than 30 styles to choose from. If you’re a Francophile, this is the Covid equivalent of wearing your heart on your sleeve. Order yours, here.









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9 responses to “Life After Lockdown: Masked with a Vengeance

  1. Sigh! The entire world needs to take a lesson from the 💩show going on in the U.S. Be proactive, aggressive, clear, and resolute in your response to the pandemic…and don’t let up until it is under control worldwide! Don’t be like the U.S.!

  2. I have been reading and thoroughly enjoying your blog during the entire pandemic, but this is the first time I’ve left a comment (silly me). I love the details you share about your life, the photos you include, your clear and engaging writing style — and in this post, the interactive map of where masks are obligatory. Thank you for sharing that. Keep it all coming (and skip the false eyelashes; your eyes are beautiful without them)!

  3. In addition to a virus surge here in CA (although it seems to be abating somewhat) we now have unspeakable heat (108!), accompanying humidity–no more, ‘but it’s a dry heat!’–and raging fires, making the air even more unhealthy to breathe.

    Wearing a mask when we have to go out is the least of my issues. Although, I’m hoping for some small level of filtration from the ash and other smoke particulates.

    Welcome to sunny SoCal!


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