Are We Supposed To Cover Our Mouths When We Yawn? Some Dude On The Subway Today Almost Punched Me Over This Issue

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On the subway this morning, I yawned. I yawned because I was tired. Didn’t even realize it was happening, just thought I was breathing and stretching my face at the same time. Felt pretty good, honestly. When I yawn, I feel like I’m pumping more oxygen into my lungs. It reminds me that I’m not breathing enough. It’s like opening up the vents on your car’s AC, or cumming after a long period of not cumming. In the course of writing this paragraph about yawning, I’ve yawned no fewer than 6 times, and I feel oxygenated, refreshed, cleansed. Yaaaaaaaaaawn. Did you just yawn? Me too.

It was a nice, normal moment until this tall guy standing nearby pipes up and says, “hey man, cover your mouth.” Immediately, my yawn snapped shut. I was only 70% of the way through the yawn, leaving me with aching mouth blue balls. My brain quickly clicked through a slideshow of various emotions, from self-consciousness to mortification, to confusion, and finally settling on indignancy. Since when is one required to cover one’s mouth while yawning? And is it such an established social courtesy as to justify this referee’s admonition?

I cover my mouth for coughs and sneezes. I’m extremely generous in how I do this, too, because I often pull my shirt over my nose and sneeze all over myself so nothing escapes. In other words, I dutch oven my sneezes and take the scatter shot in the chest, martyring myself for the the sake of humanity. By contrast, people who sneeze into their hand or their shoulder are doing the bare minimum to escape the judgment of those around them. How does a shoulder trap all the germs flowing out of your mouth? It’s not a tractor beam. If anything, it’s a trampoline that bounces that shit back out into the world like a game of bacterial squash. Needless to say, I take pride in my charitable, self-sacrificing sneezes. Anyone who knows me knows that I do my part, and then some. I’m the Gandhi of sneezing.

After a moment of haughty reflection, I responded to our germaphobe’s misplaced enforcement of a home-cooked rule.

“Cover my mouth for a yawn? I’m breathing IN.”

I’ve got him now, I thought. I’d brought science and mechanics into our now-bubbling confrontation. Who could argue with that? Surely, this antagonist would throw up his hands in defeat, apologize, and offer me a fist bump because he never shakes hands, like Howie Mandel. But I was wrong…

“You still gotta cover it. We’re all in here together,” he said, holding his ground.

Ok. This is real now. I’m dealing with a force of nature. Time to call in the heavy artillery.

“Dude… you’re holding on to a subway pole. That thing is infested with germs. I’ve seen homeless guys masturbate and finish on that pole. And you’re taking issue with a yawn?”

Boom. Scissors, meet rock. Goodnight, good sir. I hope you find peace someday at the bottom of a bottle of hand sanitizer. But I should have known better. He wasn’t going down without a fight.

“We can’t prevent that. But you can cover your fucking mouth during a yawn,” he huffed. But I could tell there was no venom in it. He’d lost his footing, had removed his hands from the pole, and was clearly thinking about all the dried homeless sperm that was swimming into his cuticles. I put my headphones on, the hint of a smile on my face. I thought about yawning again, but I didn’t want to dance on his grave. A few stops later, I stepped off the subway and didn’t look back. Winning gracefully is the mark of a gentleman.

But I couldn’t help but wonder… was he right? I know people sometimes cover their mouths during yawns out of embarrassment (humans have a strange self-consciousness when it comes to our mouths). But is there a school of thought that says we should cover yawns for sanitary purposes?