With compulsory masking looming up, we decided on a final shopping trip on 20 July, choosing Kingston upon Thames as a nice place. We managed to enjoy the family day out for some of the time, with shopping, browsing, river and sunshine.
Perhaps one fifth of the people were masked, outside as well as inside, despite the bright sunshine and fresh breeze. I wore a wide-brimmed floppy hat to limit what I can see, but it wasn’t only the masks: the constant signs and warnings and arrows, people in hi-viz jackets standing at entrances to tell you where to go, on and on, it built up until I felt as I had been assaulted – it was actually a physical feeling as well as mental.
However – our first stop was John Lewis, still an attractive department store with many lovely things beautifully displayed. On my own to the lingerie department, where the staff were older ladies and accustomed to distressed customers. None of the staff wore a mask and they interacted with me normally. However, I was in need of a new bra, but they weren’t allowed to measure me. Male readers might not be aware of just how difficult it is to find a well fitting and comfortable bra.
Then I discovered that we are not allowed to try them on. So ladies take a selection home and bring back those that don’t fit. And then the clothes have to go into quarantine before they can be put back on display. So there was little stock and few in my (approximate) size. Under all these circumstances you’d think there would be pretty and feminine bras available…oh no… what is this latest thing and why, are ladies supposed to be androgynous? Smoothed over, encased and no personality, and since when was a natural breast shape, nipple and all, an object of shame?
Next stop was Boots for hair care, make up, etc. Hair accessories, designed either for young girls or exceedingly ugly. Not unlike the bras. Nothing for actual women. Here the staff were all masked and also behaving very oddly. Jumping and dodging around me as though I were unclean. Clearly the masks made them frightened, not ‘comfortable’.
Needing help with the makeup, I asked for the assistant and then asked if she were allowed to remove her mask. Yes she said, in theory, but she had better ask. But then took it off anyway, and as she did so, taking a large step towards me. This happened without thought, it was simply her natural reaction, and then she too interacted perfectly normally with me. She seemed delighted in fact, poor girl, to have a nice friendly chat. What will it be like for her to spend her day seeing only masks and not human features? I am appalled for her and the many thousands of shop staff like her.
As we turned to go, my son spoke to me about it all, advising that I get used to it.
I replied that I don’t want to be used to it. My son understood, yet advised that would be best for me if I did. After we returned home I spent some hours thinking about this and made up my mind: No. I don’t want to be a person who is ‘used to’ such inhumanity.