DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please help me form a polite response to people on the street who feel they must tell me to put on a mask. I, like many others, suffer from medical issues that make it very difficult to tolerate a face mask for more than a few moments. Ironically, these same medical issues cause me to be at a higher risk for infection and serious consequences from COVID-19.
I self-isolate as much as possible. I sincerely appreciate others wearing their masks, as this helps to protect me and people with similar issues. I want those who are expressing concern about my going without a mask to know I'm not being a jerk; I'm just doing the best I can.
GENTLE READER: One could say that this is the unfortunate, but predictable, result of mixing politics with public health.
But it is actually the result of an older, equally pernicious trend: telling other people what to do, and feeling justified because the ends (in this case, containing a virulent disease) are laudable.
Miss Manners would prefer to believe that the speaker is trying to be helpful -- citing a rule of which you might not be aware -- rather than rude. As such, she recommends a legalistic-sounding response, namely: "Thank you, I'm aware. I am actually in one of the medically exempt categories."