Dear Pandemic: Here’s three things you can take with you when you leave.
P.S. I’m keeping my covid hair
Last Spring — I was just as busy as everyone else, running ragged from this to that without much time to think about the other. Then, when the whole world went into lockdown — I was forced to stay home and sit with my awkward self. At first, I was bursting with nervous energy working on my sourdough starter and Zoom happy houring with everyone from co-workers to old high school friends.
But now a year later, I find myself making excuses for why I can’t join my sister’s Zoom birthday party.
I’ve realized there are parts of my life that I don’t want back when the pandemic ends.
My sister’s just one of them.
1. Family isn’t everything
One thing that became apparent early in the pandemic was there were people in my life that I really missed.
Then, I noticed after a while — there were people in my life that I really didn’t miss.
My sister and I are 8 years apart. We grew up in a broken home where the grown-ups sometimes broke things. While some sisters bond during difficult childhoods. We didn’t. She left home when she was 17, pregnant, and without a high school diploma. I graduated high school, went to college, and got married in my thirties. We were always doing different things at different times and never on the same page. We’ve tried for years to find things in common but it always feels like work.
Our relationship with our mother is sticky. My sister blames her for making bad choices — I sympathize with her. Our mother is in her eighties and lives in assisted living. This year has been incredibly isolating for her. She calls me a lot, usually while I’m making dinner or going to the bathroom — I always answer.
My sister mostly ignores my mother’s phone calls and instead spends her time with her maskless friends in bars and restaurants living her best life.
Politics is another place where we collide.
We’ve always been on different political sides — but the pandemic made the divide more like a crater than a line in the sand. She went deep down the rabbit hole of Qanon conspiracy theories. She’d repost lies on Facebook about Dr. Fauci and share misinformation about the pandemic. Then one day, I noticed all the “likes” her friends were giving her in support of her views. At that moment something occurred to me. Something that has taken me 40 years to figure out.
We are not friends.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to do with my new revelation. Did this mean I wanted to completely cut her out of my life? Which would be complicated because there are cousins and other relationships to consider.
I decided to demote her.
A demotion to me means spending less time together. It means changing her priority status from platinum to silver. She no longer gets the priority phone line with calls answered on the first ring by a live person. She gets voicemail. Her calls will be returned by the next available agent — which may be my 13-year-old daughter.
I’ve realized this year that the list of people that I want to be closer than 6 feet to is a small one.
My sister will always have a place in my life. She’ll just have fewer perks.
2. Goodbye Martha
I used to describe myself as someone who loved entertaining. I’d volunteer for every holiday, book club, back to school BBQ — you name it, I hosted. I wanted my parties to look effortless and perfect like an issue of Martha Stewart Living.
They never quite turned out that way.
First I’d stress about the guest list. Since social media destroyed the covert dinner party — I’d end up inviting way too many people.
Next, I’d obsess over menu curation — which today requires a degree in food science to accommodate everyone’s specialty diets. I’d spend days browsing Pinterest for puffed pastry dessert recipes and cured meat charcuterie board ideas. While I consider myself a good cook — let’s be honest, I’m a good cook for 4 people, not 18.
Things went downhill from there.
While the party would usually start off well eventually, my social anxiety drinking would kick in and I’d say something I’d later regret — sometimes in a British accent (No, I’m not British). Or worst of all, I’d hear that voice in my head that tells me I’m a really good dancer.
Inevitably, I’d wake up the next morning with a pounding headache and piles of dishes in the sink. Then, I’d roll tape inside my head all weekend long of every stupid thing I’d said.
“Caroline, was it you or your sister who had the three-some?”
Small gatherings will be my new way of post-pandemic entertaining. Less focus on the tablescape and more focus on who is at my table. Spending time eating take out with my best friend, sharing stories that make us laugh until we pee a little — that’s how I want to party in the post-pandemic.
3. Covid hair. Don’t care.
I have had blonde or blonde-ish hair for over 25 years. Every 6 weeks, I’d make my appointment at my neighborhood hair salon, spend $175 and two hours getting my hair cut and colored. When the pandemic began, I had short blonde hair. Today, I have long, brown hair. And you know what I’ve decided?
What a huge waste of time and money!
I haven’t been to a hair salon in over a year and I’ve saved $1500.
I can’t say that I love my new brown hair but I can say that I don’t hate it enough to justify the financial and time expense of coloring it anymore.
Guess what is worth my time and money?
Until we mask again…
Eventually, the pandemic will become a chapter in a history book that I’ll be able to say I thankfully lived through.
My conversations will have before and after pandemic bookends for the rest of my life.
I am grateful for the time the pandemic gave me to hit the pause button on my overscheduled life. When it leaves it can take my blonde hair, big parties, and complicated relationships with it.
I’ll keep my brown hair, my best friend and a plane ticket.