The mask maven of Vineyard Haven

Lorraine Parish has found herself acting like Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" when it comes to her masks. — Courtesy Lorraine Parish

Updated, Sunday, 4:30 pm*

“Move along and keep your head down. Don’t touch any of the masks, just take the mask she gives you, and if she’s in a good mood, she’ll let you buy two, maybe three. Remember to say thank you, then get out quick before she changes her mind.”  –Conversation heard outside the entrance to Lorraine Parish’s store in Vineyard Haven

Early in March, when the pandemic first began to dominate the news, and the wearing of masks seemed inevitable, I took notice. And being in the clothing design and manufacturing business, mask making was an obvious thing for me to do. 

I had yards and yards of unused fabrics, in nooks and crannies all over the place. The one ingredient I did not have and could not order, even back then, was elastic. But I found a way around that — I made my own out of very soft, expensive rayon/spandex jersey, of which I had an abundance.   

So my mission, if I chose to accept it — sew as many masks as humanly possible with the goal of covering as many faces as were willing to shell out 10 bucks a pop for them. Hell, if I could make three-layered bias-cut silk organza gowns, this was going to be a cinch! In actuality, it became quite grueling as time went on.

At first I thought this on-the-fly venture would be a neighborly, community-minded gesture by me. I was trading beautiful, handmade masks in exchange for pet food, for pet owners out there who I assumed as time went on would have trouble buying food for their beloved domestic critters. Wrong.

What I found was virtually no need for pet food, but a dire need for masks. After weeks of amassing bags and cans of dog and cat food, I found moi and my poodles needed help ourselves. So I sucked up my pride and took the cash. And BTW, I immediately announced this new deal to the now steady stream of customers lining up at my door. Surprisingly, no one even cared where their $10 went; what they cared about was getting masks for themselves, their friends and family.

Well, finally after 40 years of slugging away, always hoping I’d hit it big with some fabulous product I had created and that all the world desperately wanted, I had found it. Truthfully, it had found me; it had laid itself right at my doorstep. Like many entrepreneurs, finding that elusive Pet Rock (for those old enough to remember that zillion-dollar product) had always been lurking in the back of my small-scale capitalistic mind. God certainly works in mysterious ways. 

Within weeks, not only Vineyard residents, but my regular summer customers, now in their winter homes, were calling for my masks. They had heard this news from a story in this very paper, and were unable at that moment to get masks where they lived. The word spread, and I began shipping masks all over the place. I even shipped a handful to a customer in New Zealand. They certainly had plenty of masks down there, but my long-ago customer Joan had to have a few LP masks of her own.

As I was sewing one day, I realized I had begun to get quite possessive of my new precious commodity. One well-known therapist on the Island kept coming to my store’s door almost every day, until I said to her, half-joking, “I’m cutting you off for a while, no more masks for you!” I really did say this, and something at the time seemed very familiar about it … What was it?

One lady called and said, “My masks need to be 100 percent cotton.” To which I replied, “You don’t really need 100 percent cotton, it’s the weave that’s important. I have what I have, and some may or may not be all cotton; it’s up to you if you want one of mine or not.” Hmm, more familiarity.

Customers line up for the “Mask Nazi” Lorraine Parish.

My new in-demand product obviously was going to my head. Who or what did I remind me of? OMG, I am the “Soup Nazi” of masks! For anyone out there who has never heard of the famous Seinfeld episode “The Soup Nazi,” you must watch it. I did a refresher watch recently, before I wrote this, and yes, I was becoming the chef in the episode, but way, way nicer, of course, at least I think. LP mask customers out there, I am nicer than him, right?

Anyway, as masks have become more available, and my fledgling business has subsided, I have become much more casual these days toward the selling of my masks. They now have become just what they are — swaths of fabric to cover your face in order to protect anyone within earshot reach of your cooties. And, as we all know, you have to be much closer to hear these days when wearing a mask.

Warning: I still can be somewhat controlling when it comes to my little darlings, so if you come to buy one or two, be grateful and polite, or you might hear a bellowing voice behind the beautiful mask say,

“No mask for you today; NEXT!”

P.S.: I did find two local pet rescues for all the donated pet food, and a bit of the cash. And BTW, as of this week I’ve made over 900 masks!

Lorraine Parish is a Vineyard Haven clothing designer and writer.

This post has been updated with a change in title. 



  1. Let me try again: For someone like me, whose relatives were massacred by the Nazis, I am offended by the frivolous use of the term in this newspaper that purports itself to be so woke.

    • I gotta agree with you on this one. I read this story a couple of times, and other then the writer getting to toot her own horn, could find no point in it.
      Plus, Seinfeld was an awful show…

      • Fielding– I agree that this looks like the Times is giving her a whole lot of free advertising. There is nothing of any “great social {or} political import” here –Janis Joplin–
        Quite the contrary, I can see how many people would be offended by the frivolous use of the hate the nazi party embraced. I agree with Jackie — I find nothing funny about using the most hateful and destructive political force the world has known to sell face masks. I even agree with seaman’s comment. I really don’t know what the editor was thinking when they allowed this to go to print.
        Having said that, I thought Seinfeld was true genius.
        We all have our sense of humor, I guess.

  2. It’s never a good idea for anyone to make light of Nazi cruelty. Anti-Semitism in this country and around the world is rising, and no part of it is funny. Lorraine is a smart and talented woman but there’s no need for this kind of unfunny joke. Seinfeld was largely a parody of the self-loathing Jewish shtick.

    • Well Jackie, common ground we have here. Let’s take a walk someday and find more. Masks on, of course.

    • Jackie– thanks for the link– It is good to remind people of the racial and ethnic hatred that still exist. It seems that the hate-jockeys on wxtk radio and fox news have some competition. According to them, liberals are to blame for all the ills of the world, but they are just one step from blaming everything on a variety of people based on race, ethnicity , and religious beliefs. Four more years of trump and they WILL get rid of the dog whistles, and be straight up racist.

  3. 50 likes, wow, helped cover 900 faces with masks, what have you done today to help out in the pandemic? Seinfeld was a very funny show that helped people laugh by seeing the absurdities in life. I for one along with millions loved this show. To each their own.

    • Lorraine– let me clarify my comment– I was not criticizing you, or your product. . I was criticizing the Times giving you so much free press.

  4. OMG — you folks need to lighten up and find a sense of humor. Quit taking everything so seriously personal. Thank you to Lorraine for her work and for understanding the point of the joke.

    • The point of the joke? One fourth of my family was burned alive in ovens. Genocide. Infants shot in the head at their mothers’ breasts. Zyklon B. Extermination camps. Explain the joke.

  5. Jackie, so you do agree there is such a thing as a ”self loathing Jew” Seinfeld was popular due to its refusal to be politically correct. You who are dismissive of fairy tales like God existing. I wonder what it means to be Jewish? Is it a religion or is it born of the seed of Abraham? It would be interesting to know what you as a Jew stand for. Are Jews who are conservative not really legitimate Jews? Are Jews who worship Yeshua not really Jews? Those who are descendants of Abraham are Jews and one cant not be a Jew.

    • Andrew, time to get out your grammar book and your Yiddish dictionary. I used “self-loathing Jew” as an adjective to describe what is (Larry David’s) shtick. Shtick is performance; it is not real. As for the rest of your comment, allow me please to be the first to tell you that you are going to have to ride that anti-Semitic, apocolyptic cuckoo train all by yourself on these pages. No way am I getting on board.

      • Also, Andrew, your frequent blaming of “secular humanism” for the ills of this country are sounding kinda hollow these days, with yet another creepy evangelical leader, Falwell, exposing himself, pun intended. Secular humanism is working a whole letter better than that old time cult religion, that’s for sure. Imagine how badly behaved evangelicals would be without all their bible thumping hypocrisy, as if the current blathring nonsense was not scary enough? Luckily for all the bad boys, you can all behave as badly as you like since you’re assured of that heavenly future fantasy by simply saying you accept your guy and, hey, people sin because they’re born that way. You don’t actually have to even pretend to be a decent person. #PayYourDebt to Don anyway, Andrew.

      • yes Jackie . not getting on board is a technique used by many looney liberals when they are faced with an inconvenient fact. You dont want to debate because you dont have an answer and if you do have an answer that follows a deductive reasoning you simply decline and say ” I am not going to answer hypotheticals”

  6. Rewatching some classic movies and TV shows lately have made me cringe; and by classic I include films and shows from the 1930’s through the 1990’s. The rampant sexism, racism, and even expressions of violence (slapping an emotionally upset woman across the face to “knock some sense in to her”, etc.) that I might have uncomfortably laughed a few decades ago are no longer acceptable to me in 2020.

    I commend Ms. Parrish for her creativity and community spirit during the pandemic, and for her previous volunteer work. It is clear her efforts are borne from the best intentions. I also value the work that the MV Times has done to communicate information during the pandemic and their coverage of anti-racist and anti-violence events like the on-island BLM protests and Stand on the Seawall.

    I would note that Ms. Parrish’s choice of words, and the MV Times decision to publish them, are at best ill-considered.

    • While a great many cultural norms are no longer “acceptable” in 2020, it is still worth considering that perhaps they needed to be expressed before we were willing to discard them. I am surprised so many people don’t seem to understand that comedy is about putting a spin on ideas that may be painful or simplistically stereotypical, but it begins to help society self-correct its thinking and point-of-view. Without comedy we would remain shallow and intolerant. Comedy is MEANT to get a pass on this . . . Donald Trump does not.

      • Juleann: Your post begs the maxim – “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” If humor is acceptable with Nazism, why such an outrage for blackface?

      • Growing up Jewish in the 60’s, much of your religious education is holocaust-focused; it’s hard not to bristle at the cavalier usage of the word “Nazi”. whether you personally lost family, or were fortunate to have had them escape this genocide, this discomfort is almost instinctual. Then again, the use of humor can be a powerful and positive commentary. See Jo Jo Rabbit , a beautifully acted movie with a heart-warming intent. I guess it’s all about the nuance.
        I’m certain there was no element of bigotry or racism in this comment. But it is an example of racial insensitivity, something we surely are all “guilty” of making…

  7. The Soup Nazi was one of the few jokes I felt missed the mark on that show, but I would support telling people they’ll never be sponge-worthy until they embrace masks.

    • Interesting Aquinnah, I wasnt upset about the Soup Nazi but I was about the sponge worthy Elaine who was tramping around promiscuously. That part could have been taken out of the show. I liked the scalping tickets and indian giver and Kramer having the totem pole. I suppose stealing the marble rye from the elderly woman was offensive–nah!

      • Andrew, Elaine’s sponge escapades were not in keeping with the message of ’90s safer-sex ed. It was just amusing within the heightened world of a sitcom. The funniest part was that Jerry’s wholesome girlfriend had a secret closet full of sponges.

        The boy characters were written the same way. They changed partners all the time. Sex with the maid. With the secretary. George even left a “prophylactic wrapper” in his parents’ bed.

        The show was great with satire at a time when others went for more straightforward laughs. I think they made most topics work.

      • Elaine, a fake character, upsets Andrew but Jerry Falwell Jr doesn’t? The worshipped, Chosen One REAL character President pays off a hooker to keep her quiet about their affair while his 3rd wife was having a baby, but Andrew writes it off as “we’re all born sinners”. The sickening hypocrisy of fake Christian cultists is legendary.

    • Where is the humor in a death camp, or, for that matter, a plantation? Aushvitz and Sobibor are punch line to you? “The Malmedy massacre was a war crime committed by members of Kampfgruppe Peiper (part of the SS Division Leibstandarte), a German Waffen-SS unit led by Joachim Peiper, at Baugnez
      crossroads near Malmedy, Belgium, on 17 December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge. Eighty-four American prisoners of war were massacred by their German captors. The American prisoners were assembled in a field and shot with machine guns; those still alive were killed by close-range shots to the head.” (wikipedia) The bodies of the frozen maerican soldiers were found in frozen in the snow.
      “”In most cases, shortly after their shipment had come in, and when they were being interrogated, they would be beaten, partly upon their bare bodies, with rubber cudgels, horsewhips, sticks, ox lashes, and other objects. In many cases they had to lie down over a special caning bench, or were forced down onto it by guards, and their mouths were kept shut or they were gagged with balls of paper, pieces of cloth, bags, or similar things, in order to prevent them from screaming.” (TRIALS OF WAR CRIMINALS

    • Downislander: Wouldn’t you agree that there are many jokes that use the forbidden N-word? All in humor? (A word, by the way, which IS used in public and private by one group of people, while its use by anyone else in any context ends careers.) That was part of my point in my post that began this thread. How is it that one “N-word” can’t even be printed or spoken (it would never pass by the editors of this paper) but the use of Nazi is tossed about like a beachball?

      • Seaman, why do you feel entitled to call for sensitivity about a topic that affected your relatives while constantly dismissing, denying, and insulting a minority group that also has a history of enduring atrocities? I don’t see how your refusal to acknowledge the data on systemic racism in America is different than Holocaust denial.

        You won’t even talk about Obama without mocking his heritage and bringing up debunked claims that were based on prejudice.

        I’m not arguing that anyone should be insensitive about Nazis. I understand why some find those jokes unfunny. But you’ve posted many offensive and stereotypical things and now want to lecture on respect? When it’s directed at a group you do not identify with, empathy is seen as virtue signaling or “wokeness”. Now you feel the same quality has merit and a place here. Which is it? And does that mean you intend to change your own approach to discussing the suffering of others?

        • Aquinnah: Please cite what you conclude to be my “insults and mockeries.” And do provide that “data” that proves your belief in contemporary systemic racism. I try to write plainly. What are the offensive things I’ve written about that are on par with levity about the Holocaust? My point remains: If a Broadway show like “The Producers” can continue to garner giggles and applause, (not to mention cash) why not minstrel shows in blackface? You seem to want it both ways. I don’t.

      • Those who don’t get why Nazi jokes are not funny, on TV or in an article about protecting us from COVID, have not had relatives slaughtered by Nazis. They did not grow up with survivors and witnesses to the slaughter. The worst thing you can do to a survivor or one who witnessed what the slaughter did to the survivors, is tell them they don’t have a sense of humor about it. You don’t have to be Jewish to recognize that it is always inappropriate, in bad taste, and “too soon” for a non-Jews to make light of the torture, cruelty and human slaughter that took place under the Nazis.

    • jaymvy, just for laughs, what was D-Day all about? Elaborate on the political bias of Germany declaring war on the United States. Yuck it up. Go ahead. “The Three Powers have therefore concluded the following Agreement, which was signed in Berlin today: “In their unshakable determination not to lay down arms until the joint war against the U.S.A. and England reaches a successful conclusion, the German, Italian, and Japanese Governments have agreed on the following points: Article I. Germany, Italy and Japan will wage the common war forced upon them by the U.S.A. and England with all the means of power at their disposal, to a victorious conclusion.” As recorded by the Monitoring Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation. C’mon, jaymvy, tell us all about political bias. Let’s all hear you laugh.

      • D Day was about exchanging the hegemony of Germany over Europe with that of the United States.
        A hegemony Trump is quickly losing.

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