The Mask Mystery: What’s Going on in Students’ Heads When They Make the Choice to Wear a Mask, or Not?

“I’m scared of stares, not sickness!”

Millennium students, some masked and others unmasked, hard at work.

Millennium students, some masked and others unmasked, hard at work.

Today, one strolling the hallways of Millennium would notice a stark change from the days pre-March seventh. Because after months of masked-up learning, face-coverings have become optional – a ruling which has impacted students very differently. Certainly, there has been a big shift from what has become ordinary, but how do our classmates see it when the blue surgical (or the popular black cotton) layer of protection – perhaps not only one against COVID-19 – can suddenly be left at home? What does this really mean for Millennium’s student body? And who better to ask than my peers themselves?


Over the last few weeks, most kids at MHS have been choosing to wear masks, and while it’s rational to think that this is done as a health precaution, there also appears to be a more complex explanation behind the choice. When asked if they chose to wear their mask for safety reasons, a sophomore tells me: “I’m not scared of COVID. I don’t care. I just don’t want people looking at me; it makes me so self-conscious.” 

Many students I’ve spoken to have become so used to their masks that they feel uncomfortable without a mask, explaining how they “feel like a part of [their] face is gone, and it’s just…awkward. And I don’t want to be stared at.” This comes as no surprise as teenagers have been continuing to feel lower self-esteem.

MHS seniors during Newspaper club.

Sophomore Erin Bejasa explains how she takes her mask off around her friends or “when [she’s] around people with [whom she feels] comfortable.” Another classmate uses the same word, explaining how she simply feels uncomfortable without it.

In the end, many students feel the same way – that they’ve “gotten used to wearing a mask, and honestly it’s just super weird to take it off.” But fear of being branded as an ‘Anti-Masker’ also comes into play, especially considering how the polarizing discussion around masks has become increasingly political. “I just don’t wanna be, like, the only one not wearing one,” a student tells me. Another student informs me: “If more people took their masks down, I would too…But then my teachers would see me chewing my Polar Ice gum!” 

Those students who do take their masks off are seen as a sort of “brave minority” by those who keep them on. I’m told: “It’s hard to breathe, I feel hot, and if I get COVID, I’ll be fine, since I’m young.” Sophomore Kiren Mihael says,“I chose not to wear a mask because I enjoy the freedom…and the absence of acne.” A friend tells me: “I don’t care. I’m fine either way – mask or no mask. I feel like it doesn’t affect me that much, especially since the COVID rate is so low.” 

While it’s indisputable that there are some students who wear masks for protection, it’s interesting to discover the non-COVID related logic behind such a large majority of our student body’s decisions; “If I look good that day – no mask. If I look bad or I’m feeling insecure – mask!” I’m told, as I realize that the decision behind mask wearing appears to be emblematic of the teenage psyche — so much of which involves the opinions of others.