A word about my neck in this era of Zoom. In addition to the buckets of concealer I’ve had rushed to the house (also something called brightening cream, which begs the question: What exactly is it that I’m brightening?), I have also dug out a couple of turtleneck sweaters. If I knew how to wear a scarf, I’d dig out some of those too, but when I wear a scarf, I look less Parisian and more like I’ve had neck surgery and am walking around with a gaping floral bandage. But every time I facetime a friend or look into that dreaded Zoom camera, it seems that my own neck has suddenly been replaced by my grandmother’s neck. I loved my grandmother. I miss my grandmother. But I do not want to see her neck staring back at me. Hence, the turtlenecks.
I tell you this because we here are in week three of The Grand Quarantine, more or less. We finished two weeks to emerge full force into — severe social distancing. Although some of our children had envisioned giant dance parties with everyone they’d ever met, after which they’d collapse into a heap on the couch and all sit in close proximity and eat popcorn out of the same bowl, that was not in the cards for us — or anyone, really. We can leave the house to take walks or runs, but not really with who are not members of our family (of whom we are all incredibly sick and tired), and if we do we must stand six feet apart. We can still do no otherwhere socializing and go nowhere that is not essential. But because this is week three for us and week one for just about everyone else, I have been fielding texts and calls from people asking me for advice.
I have been waiting forty-something years to be an expert in something and now I am an expert in quarantine.
- So, my first piece of advice is go do something about your face and neck. You’ll be seeing a lot of it and you’ll thank me for it in three weeks when you try to buy makeup and turtlenecks and there is none left anywhere in the world because women are smart that way. (Also, if you’re a user, you’d be wise to get your hands on some of that root touch-up hair dye. Things are shitty enough already. Nobody needs to add insult to injury by having to go gray before she is ready.)
- Don’t go overboard on the cleaning. Take it from me. Sure, wipe a counter or two, but take it easy because two weeks is just the beginning and if you go nuts now you’ll run out of steam and in three weeks you’ll be living in a frat house and eating pizza off the floor with a family of fat roaches. Slow and steady wins the race.
- There is always room for self-improvement. Although I’ve slowed down in terms of wiping things down, I have decided that it’s time for me to make my bed. Previously, I was not a believer in bed-making. I like to think of myself as clean but not neat (although I have a rule about not having to shower on vacation — ask me about that another time). At the end of the day I am just fine collapsing on top of a tangled heap of blankets and sheets and fall asleep, knowing full well that M will come along and have to make the bed around me just to get some sheets for himself. (I’m nice that way.) This week I decided enough was enough. The kids are decamped into every corner of the house and I end up working in the bedroom. And really, there’s only so much staring at a messy bed even I can take. (Still, I’d rather look at a messy bed than my neck. Any day.) Next week I will be trying to fold my clothes. Until now, I have been more of a bundler. But enough about this…
- Be careful what you wish for. Several friends have told me they have put signs up in their kitchens instructing their family members to place all dirty cups and dishes in the dishwasher. I know better than to try any more signs in this family (fool me twice, kids — too many have been defaced and rewritten), but I did make a public service announcement: ALL DISHES MUST BE RINSED AND PLACE INSIDE DISHWASHER. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY! Several hours later I opened the dishwasher and it looked like that game we played as kids – PLEASE DON’T TIP THE WAITER. – where you basically make a tower of wobbly dishes until the whole thing tips over. In the time in took me to empty and reload the mess of filthy, food-caked dishes I could have made my bed several times over
- Week two is harder than week one but week three is easier than week two. I’m not saying this is easy. People have started to lose their minds around here. Teenagers were not designed to spend this much time in the bosom of their families. Younger kids need normalcy and order and they don’t need six hours in a row of shitty television and potato chips for lunch (maybe that was just my house). Maybe it’s because everyone else is in this with us and we are no longer taunted by faces on Instagram eating food outside of their homes, and of friends and family drinking coffee made by people in aprons. Welcome, everyone. The water’s just fine. (Not really. Not at all.)
You’ll note I haven’t said a thing about hand washing. (Four or five weeks ago I bought a large pump of hand sanitizer for the first time ever. I’m not quite sure what came over me. My eldest walked by the pump and said, “Oh, so now we’re one of those families?” Apparently we are.) I’m still washing my hands and telling everyone else to do so. So, go — wash your hands or take a pump of sanitizer (not as good, I know, I know)… I’ll be here when you get back.
A few surprises.
- I miss my minivan. Sometimes I climb out of bed, where I am spending an inordinate amount of time, and gaze wistfully out the window at the giant family wagon parked on the street — empty and unused. I think of all the dings and scratches I got squeezing that thing into compact parking spaces (compact, my ass), all the times I wished I drove something zippier and sexier, like a Mini Cooper (humor me, please). I think of all the hours I spent cursing the van, as I drove mind-numbing amounts of carpool and hauled myself in and out with groceries nobody would help me bring into the house.
- I do not yet miss grocery shopping. Get back to me on that. Also, go wash your hands.
- I miss not being hungry. Before this, I was the kind of person who could skip lunch without knowing it. I’d even been known to say super annoying things like, “Those cookies look great, but I’m not hungry right now.” Now, all I am is hungry. I’m hungry when I wake up. I’m hungry when I go to bed. And it’s not for a lack of eating. All I’m doing is eating. I’m eating things I don’t even like (tortilla chips = cardboard, sue me.) I’m eating just about every hour on the hour and if you could see me (which you can’t because you can’t come over, nobody can), you’d know that I spend just about every minute of the day with a mouth full of food. Speaking of which, I’m hungry again and there is a vegan ice cream bar with my name on it (judge not, people). I’ll be right back. Go wash your hands while you’re waiting.
- I miss tights and boots and I’m worried that by the time I’m allowed outside again tights and boots season will be over and I’ll be launched into the season in which I’m forced to worry about the condition of my feet. I do not, not even for a minute, want to talk about the current state of my legs.
- I miss not worrying about people in my community who may be sick.
- I miss unloading the dishwasher and then not IMMEDIATELY loading it with all the filthy dishes which have accumulated in the sink. Also, the three thousand glasses my family seems to go through in one day. While I love a metal straw, I’m sort of wishing that we hadn’t jumped on that bandwagon until after the quarantine, because ask me how fun it is to clean 100 of those a day. Speaking of soap and water, go wash your hands. I’ll be here when you get back.
- I miss my friends. It turns out I am not an introvert after all. Or perhaps I’m just not the kind of person who can be trapped in a house with her children for 10 plus days and not lose her mind.
- I miss not having to see my face in a Zoom camera several times a day and getting the SHOCK of my life when I see the crypt-keeper staring back at me.
Forget toilet paper and Lysol wipes. If this thing goes on forever, I’m hoarding concealer.
Mostly, I miss the sense of normalcy of life before we were all indoors. My kids are starting to look like the children from the Flowers in the Attic, and not in that adorable tow-headed (yet incest-y) way. The only winner has been our cat Lois, who hates to be home alone (also, not apparently much of an introvert) and thinks she has died and gone to homebody heaven.
Hoping you all have good, restful weekends, that you are doing a better job than I am of fighting off the snacking demons, and that you did not (as I may have) pull a child by the ponytail this week. #winning.
Now, go wash your hands.
Before I start, let me just say this: This is a scary time and some people in my community are sick. My kids’ schools have been closed and they are all under a two-week quarantine. Because I teach in one of the schools, so am I. While most of us are scared, many more have it FAR worse than I have it at the moment.
Having said that, this effing sucks. I love my husband. I love my children. I do not, under any circumstances, need to be trapped in the house with them for going on ten days. Here’s what else I don’t need —
- To ever wipe a counter again. I basically stand in the kitchen from 8-6 and wipe the counters. Inevitably, I wipe some crap from the counter onto the floor and have to go looking for the broom which is in a supply closet along with 2,000 bottles of foaming hand soap. Also, bleach.
- To paint, glue, or do any crafting of any sort. There are many hours to fill, even with Zoom-classrooms and spurts of screen-time. But my oldest child is almost eighteen, which means I have basically aged out of playgrounds, sippy cups, and just about any crafting of any sort. But quarantine knows no age, and I spent an hour outside today painting rocks with my youngest, who is nine, and for whom this all may be the most difficult. I have also gotten busy with a fuse bead board and while we cannot breathe air that has come from anyone else, we are all inhaling the sweet-smelling fumes of the Shrinky-Dink.
- If you’re reading this, it’s time to wash your hands. Go now. I’ll wait.
- Lunch. If I gave you breakfast, and I’m giving you dinner, find your own lunch. Just remember to wipe the counters and wash your hands, and fine, I’ll do it for you.
- To ever know what time or day it is. I am an infant when it comes to Daylight Savings and it normally takes a good week for me to adjust. Now that I never leave the house, not only do I never know what day it is, I also never know the time. The only thing I do know that it is always time to for someone to stand in front of an open fridge and ask what’s for lunch.
- To listen to any more fights. People — this could go on forever. Let her choose the channel. Share your snack. Stop touching her. Take your foot off her leg.
- To spend any more time in sweats. Like bed-rest, quarantine was the kind of thing I once may have wished for — time at home (the children did not factor into my fantasy), clothed in an elasticated waist and a sweatshirt I’ve likely had since college. But ten days in, I think my sweats are even sick of me. I tried to put some makeup on and get properly dressed today (look! a bra!) but then realized that I was about to spend the day wiping counters and yelling at people and thought the better of it.
I’m wishing everyone good health and peace of mind to get through all this time inside. I hope you have better snack food than I do. I hope your children clean up after themselves, but if they do, I really don’t want to hear about it. Also, no posts please about chore wheels.
It’s time to wash your hands again. Go now, I’ll wait.
PS: Here I am after I spent time outside painting rocks. I’d like to thank the child who took time away from fighting with her sister to memorialize just how glamorous I look.