Back in March when the reality of this pandemic first hit, my anxiety was at its highest. As we approach month three of isolation, two things have happened for me. One, all this has started to feel less strange, and two, I’m extremely unsettled by that. While some of what I’m doing and thinking feels like classic me, my altered mental state is truly shocking when I recall who I was circa February, 2020.
The best and worst part is that all of what I do and think is completely clichéd. Generally, I’m not someone who likes to blend into the crowd. I become instantly uncomfortable if I enter a room and feel indistinguishable from the pack. But when the pack starts cutting its own bangs and getting drunk on Instagram Live, things get a lot more interesting.
People are getting really creative to find joy and pass the time, and thankfully posting it to social media so that the rest of us are able to benefit from their inventiveness. I, for one, have thoroughly enjoyed watching and selectively attempting these trends, not in spite of their trendiness, but actually because of it. Knowing my crazy isn’t so far off from everyone else’s crazy gives me the only inkling of camaraderie and connection I can find these days.
In the spirit of paying it forward and helping others feel less alone, I’m sharing my personal experience with quarantine clichés, which have gotten progressively more extreme as I continue to not only lose my sanity, but also come to accept said loss.
Early March: Downloaded TikTok.
It started innocently enough, when I succumbed to a trend that I felt far too old to participate in. It wasn’t permanent. It was intended as a harmless new mode of entertainment. It did not let me down.
I found myself losing hours scrolling through TikToks, which is actually something I appreciated in these times. It was perfectly mindless. Even when I was hate-watching Wayne Brady attempt the same dances as Gen Z influencers, TikTok made me laugh and kind of appreciate the strange state of humanity. And while I haven’t yet gotten to the point of making my own, I’m sure that’s not far off. I have toyed with the idea by trying to teach my brother the Savage dance, and subsequently reenacting it with his dog.
The most dangerous part of TikTok, perfectly captured by Hannah Berner and other honest millennials, is that I’ve become infatuated with numerous great dancers who also happen to be teenage boys brimming with swag. I swear they did not look like that when I was in high school.
Mid March: Briefly entertained a toxic old flame.
Not much more needs to be said here. He’s still the worst, but I was bored and weak. I realize that this contradicted some advice I was given in a previous article about dating in isolation, but I am only human. If you can keep it strictly in a zone of entertainment rather than emotional investment, I kind of recommend. Get it out of your system now. Just stop once you start to feel gross about it, as I did. An exhilarating 48 hours, though.
Late March: Baked bread. Lots and lots of bread.
I had never baked a single loaf of bread before this moment in time. I had never even thought about yeast. Who has yeast? I do, after a ruthless scavenger hunt.
Pre-yeast acquisition, I had whipped up some banana bread, Irish soda bread, and naan. Once I got my hands on that rising agent, things escalated quickly. Focaccia. Challah. Mediterranean olive. Baguette. You name it, I baked it.
It did not take long to understand why so many people were on this bread bandwagon. Not only was it a challenging adventure, but it also occupied my hands for many a day. Every time I said the word “proof,” I felt like I was on The Great British Bake Off, and I loved every second of it. It was nice to be able to try something new that was fairly low pressure, made me feel semi-productive, and often resulted in praise from the recipients of my loaves.
The bread-making has since ceased, but it was a delightfully exhausting and delicious few weeks. A couple packets of yeast remain, so it’s highly possible that a relapse will occur.
Early April: Considered tie-dying. Thought better of it. Ordered unnecessary skincare and loungewear instead.
Zero judgement for all of you tie-dyers out there, but it just felt messy and likely to end in disappointment. I also came home to the suburbs from my apartment in Manhattan at a more optimistic time, when it only seemed necessary to bring one small duffel bag of clothing.
Rather than attempt to make my limited supply of old clothes feel trendy by splashing them with color, I opted for buying new clothes that I absolutely did not need. Spending too much money on loungewear is a favorite pastime of mine, so why not bring joy in the form of a monochrome bike short and long sleeve T-shirt set? And if I was already indulging in clothes to feel comfy and fresh, I might as well throw in some skincare. I could easily rationalize investing in things that promised to help me exfoliate and naturally glow and all that good stuff.
I am genuinely excited by these two product categories, and it felt okay to grab hold of excitement in whatever form I could get it. If the lack of anyone to impress is holding you back, I challenge you to ask yourself: How will I emerge from isolation my best and brightest self if not for Drunk Elephant polypeptide cream?
Mid April: Finally acquired a foster dog.
I’ve wanted my own dog for years, but my intense emotional attachment to animals and the enormous responsibility pets require held me back. In the months just before the coronavirus took over, I had actually fostered an adorable puppy through Social Tees and had begun to fill out adoption applications with various New York City rescues, just in case.
After entering self-quarantine and an indefinite period of working from home, I had the same thought as literally everyone else in America—that this was the perfect opportunity to get a dog. Not only did I have all the time in the world to care for a new pup, but I was also craving that unconditional love and companionship more than ever.
Since this was by far my least original idea to date, I was faced with hefty competition. It wasn’t until my aunt connected me with a friend who runs a rescue in Westchester that we were finally able to temporarily take home a little guy who had been abandoned somewhere upstate. Getting Buster (better known in our house as Buster Scrugglas Buscemi a.k.a. Busta Scruggs a.k.a. Scrugglins) is definitely the best and healthiest quarantine cliché I have encountered.
Mid April: Toxic old flame returns.
I would like to thank my friends and family, whom I could not live without, and who I know will find it in their hearts to understand that I had temporarily lost my mind, to appreciate my honesty, and to not be too hard on me for this. I love you all.
If it in any way strengthens my case, I think some good did come from it. My no-fucks-given approach to life right now allowed me to feel like I had the upper hand in a situation that has historically crushed me. I knew I was not going to see this person again. I knew nothing would come from it. I knew he was trash, and it felt pretty amazing to casually call him out for that with confidence. This resulted in some much needed closure, so please don’t yell at me.
Late April: Bleached hair.
This is where things get really crazy. It’s important to note that I have had virgin hair for the entirety of my 26 years. I accepted my plain brown locks without dye or highlights or balayage. The prospect of upkeep was daunting to me.
When I saw others on social media changing up their look with cuts and dye jobs, I thought it looked fun. The temptation swelled after laying eyes on Dua Lipa’s pink strands. Eventually I got bored enough to seriously consider trying something new. Then someone challenged me that I wouldn’t, so I did.
The first step was bleaching the front chunks, since my hair is dark and had to be stripped for any other color to show up. After two rounds, it was still pretty brassy, so covering that up with bright magenta seemed like a good idea. And that’s where I’m at!
The pink will wash out, and I’m sure I’ll dye the lighter parts back to brown at some point, but the mini-makeover definitely shot some much-needed adrenaline into my life. It was nice to have something new to be anxious about. I also quite enjoyed shocking my friends. Who knows, maybe this will just be the beginning of my alt hair journey.
This timeline would not be complete without acknowledging the many other constants that have prevailed throughout my quarantine. I have binged exclusively trashy reality television, from the cultural phenomenon of Tiger King to Too Hot to Handle to a little British interlude with The Only Way Is Essex. I took a stab at becoming a runner. Failed at becoming a runner. Tried again. Tuned in to countless Zoom happy hours, soaked in many a bath. Live-streamed yoga and pilates classes, since the pre-recorded online videos were too easy to turn off. Mastered the ideal rotation of sleep sweats to day sweats and back again. Enjoyed listening to people try to explain Animal Crossing without ever actually playing Animal Crossing.
The past few months have somehow been scary and stressful and painfully boring all at once. I know that there’s no right way to feel or proper steps to take to get through this, so I’m just doing my best, which sometimes means acting impulsively and falling victim to the influence of the masses.
Participating in these trends has helped me to feel a bizarre kinship with strangers. It has also distracted me from and gotten me through some of my worst periods of restlessness. Now that I’ve gained the courage to push myself far beyond my comfort zone, there’s truly no telling what’s next. Please keep posting about your crazy isolation ideas so that I can keep scaring my loved ones.