Mulhall column: Eyes without a face

Mitch Mulhall

Who knew COVID would revitalize old Billy Idol lyrics? Yet here we are, dancing with ourselves.

For almost a year now, human interaction — wanted or not — has been crowbarred by the mask. Since I lack certain basic social graces, this has been unhelpful.

Part of the problem is that it’s at least partly true you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. Hence, for some of us, interpreting human mood by looking only at the eyes hasn’t come easy, if at all, and I’m not keen on mastery.

As expressive as some folk’s eyes are, I rely on the rest of the face for confirmation, and I think this is natural, which makes the government’s mask mandate a kind of required social interference.

If you’re contrarian enough, going maskless is treated like cheating. If you do happen to see a guy’s face, or even the end of his nose, it’s mercilessly brief.

Leave your buff down or your mask hanging from one ear for no other reason than you live in Colorado and the mountain air is gloriously crisp and clean and Katie bar the door: Let the mask-shaming begin.

I’m diligent about mask wearing, but I’ve been shamed a few times. Outdoors mostly. Once in a parking lot.

I can tell you that getting mask shamed never begs the confirmation of a frown, no matter what the eyes might say.

I sometimes wonder whether mask shaming isn’t a kind of Dutch Courage — whether shame words might go un-uttered if they couldn’t be spoken behind a mask — but I’m assured it’s warranted dishonor for being cavalier with someone else’s health, or something like that.

The mask is very much like the ski helmet — a brilliant, life-saving choice that quite effectively homogenizes the wearer.

There was a time in the 1960s and ’70s when skiing had a fashion allure all its own, when the very material used in ski attire accentuated, and in ways defined, human attraction. If you were lucky enough to survive skiing before the helmet, you know what was lost.

If not, perhaps you’re more open to adopting the mask on a more permanent basis.

The bottom line of a faceless public is that no one is in a very good mood.

And if I think about it, this may account for my inability to discern anything meaningful from faceless eyes — everyone in fact feels no better than neutral.

Meh, at best, and at worst?

Well, the people who don’t like wearing masks are miffed. The people who don’t like people who don’t like wearing masks are offended. And, everyone’s unhappy about some constraint on living that will in a matter of days have been omnipresent for a year.

But you better get used to it.

“There are things, even if you’re vaccinated, that you’re not going to be able to do in society,” Dr. Fauci now tells us, “for example, indoor dining, theaters, places where people congregate.”

No, Dr. Fauci did not invoke the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” — and not because that’s so almost-three-centuries ago.

If vaccines work, why continue the mask mandate?

Vaccines reduce the likelihood that COVID will cause you serious illness. You can still get the ick and give it away.

Hence, COVID-style is here to stay, which means government —federal, state, and local — will whip-saw you into varying forms of behavior compliance that affect how you see people for the balance of your time on earth.

If you let it.

I look forward to the day — a day I really don’t know how to define yet — when I can in a particularly ceremonial ritual immolate all the COVID masks in my possession.

I thought about defining that day at least in part by the likelihood of getting mask-shamed, but that’s undoubtedly years in the offing and may not actually come to pass.

Instead, I keep having this vision of a solstice Viking funeral on a bucolic, high-elevation lake — nothing ostentatious, mind you, just a miniature twilight of the face rags, providing, of course, I’m not violating any fire restrictions, inland waterway regulations, or clean water laws.

Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at

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