"I don’t want to be the only one wearing a face covering in a shop"

Sussex student Jenny Bathurst has been writing for us about pandemic life since lockdown began back in March last year.

Jenny Bathurst
Jenny Bathurst

She has now turned those columns into a book Lockdown Observed: Becoming an Adult Without Leaving the House.

The pandemic robbed Jenny of the chance to sit A levels. But she ended up with three As and is now studying journalism at the University of Brighton (Eastbourne campus).

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Here is her latest contribution.

"At what age do you have to reach to suddenly stop caring about what people think of you? Some suggest that by the time you have reached the geriatric years and your favourite pastime is daytime television your will to care subsides, however some seem to skip through life from start to finish entirely unphased by any misdemeanour placed before them. I feel that as I begin adulthood I am becoming less and less embarrassed of the stupid things that I do. Perhaps it’s because I spend a great portion of time humiliating myself, (i.e., ripping my jeans in public and dancing as a six-foot banana in front of over one-hundred kids whilst helping at a holiday club) but it just seems that I am developing more of an immunity to caring massively what others think of me.

"I am sure that we can all remember one time in particular where we have made an absolute dog’s dinner out of a situation and as a consequence would want anything less than for the ground to swallow us whole. I very regularly say stupid things (“Would you like a bag?” “You too!”) and trip over in the least appropriate settings, but I certainly have a few stand-out situations that stick out like a sore thumb in my mind. The idea of potentially thousands of readers knowing about these embarrassments is one step too far for my self-esteem so I’m afraid I’ll have to leave it up to your imagination but sharing humiliating stories with friends is perhaps one of my favourite hobbies.

"When considering awkward situations, it seems to be that we measure the embarrassment felt by who is around us and how we think they will judge the situation. If I fall in the street and only my mum and a pigeon is there to see it I couldn’t care less, but if I am waiting for the tube at Oxford Circus and take a tumble in front of hundreds of London commuters, I might just want to stay face down on the platform floor until the crowds clear. I have found that this theory has become particularly significant during the pandemic. None of us really know what we’re doing, so we instead look to each other for guidance only to see another pair of shrugging shoulders.

"I don’t want to be the only one wearing a face covering in a shop, but if I feel uncomfortable I shouldn’t be shamed into feeling unsafe and mask-free. It can seem embarrassing to go to hug somebody who declines because they don’t yet feel ready for social contact, but surely a few seconds of awkwardness beats causing that person to feel anxious that they may have contracted something potentially life threatening. We will continuously come across difficult and uncomfortable situations in our lives, and a lot of the time many of us are just as in the dark as each other about how we should go about it. Spending time trying to imagine how others feel towards us is a waste of time and energy but caring how our actions might affect them mentally or physically certainly isn’t."