I walked out of my apartment last Sunday afternoon like a Pandemic Eve, leaving her quarantine garden, still blissfully unselfconscious about how I looked, which was ridiculous. There were the mud boots I’ve been wearing daily since November because they’re so easy, the frayed yoga pants, and a workout shirt that is the color of a traffic cone. But what really tied it all together was the fact that I found each piece on the same chair in my bedroom.
Maybe it was the wider distribution of vaccines, the mild weather, or both, but when the dog and I got to the park, it was a scene, a Brooklyn happening. There was a picnic grouping every ten feet–a rolling party that stretched for at least a mile of meadow with more humans in one place than I’ve seen in 18 months.
And most of those people were wearing clothes they’d chosen intentionally. It seemed like they cared about what they looked like. There was accessorization. And wine. You could hear wisps of music and smell the earth, freshly turned over by spring worms, and there was a hint of something sugary in the air, something new.
All those picnic blankets would have looked like clusters of flowers in an expanse of muddy not-yet-grass if you had an aerial view. There were bouquets of golden birthday balloons (mostly for people turning 30), and young moms who’d circled their strollers to contain wild, joyful babies. Dudes with porkpie hats sat next to their vintage musical instruments. And there were nuzzling couples with their limbs bent toward each other like fronds.
It was glorious.
<strong>But I felt like the ghost of quarantine past. </strong><strong>No one told me we were supposed to be wearing real clothes again. Or maybe there is some other park for the still-frumpy and confused?</strong>
I don’t know, but I’ll probably have to brush my hair before I go to the park tomorrow, maybe even wear hard-soled shoes and hard pants Just imagine doing that sort of thing every single day again?
In the before times, it was exhausting to keep recalibrating our social and sartorial capital to make sure we still fit in at work, at fancy events, at bars–everywhere. So as the crisis lets up, I’m wondering whether we have to let that superficial stuff reclaim its territory.
Sure, I’ll be thrilled when I can put on makeup and take my vaccinated self to see my friends in big huggy groups. But we don’t have to go back to keeping up with all the upkeep all the time, do we?
There has to be a way to hold on to some of our pandemic perspective even as we plan our bonfire of the stretchy pants. We shouldn’t forget what it was like in our quarantine garden and what mattered there. It’ll make the freedoms of the wide world all the sweeter.
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Did I Say That Outloud? Midlife Indignities and How to Survive Them by Kristin van Ogtrop, former editor of Real Simple, is a wise and very funny collection of essays about the grand swings of fate and small absurdities of life after 50. Ogtrop has had an incredible career, and her take on sexist corporate management is so satisfying. I also loved her hilarious and comforting lists of advice, like: “Things That Aren’t Worth It” and “Things That You Are Better Off Not Thinking About.” Still, the book is really a tender but not treacly meditation on family and how we spend our time. (There are also lots of dog stories, which is always a good thing.)
COPING KIT ⛱
Are you a Brood X cicada, or just someone emerging from pandemic isolation? The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri has this hilarious quiz that will lighten your day.
EVIDENCE OF HUMAN KINDNESS❤️
Here’s your weekly reminder that creating a community of generosity elevates us all.
Love for a Kansas City Baby
In December, Tanya, an expectant mother in her last trimester, reached out to Pandemic of Love Kansas City to ask for help with some essentials. “Just a car seat because I knew that if I didn’t have one, they wouldn’t let me transport my baby home from the hospital after discharge,” she said.
The KC Chapter volunteers did more than just provide Tanya with a car seat. They threw her a virtual baby shower by creating an online baby wishlist and reaching out to donors for new or gently-used large-ticket necessities, like a crib, stroller, and changing table. The team collected more than 100 wrapped gifts which they bundled into three cars and showed up on Tanya’s doorstep a week before her baby, Jake, was born, proving that it really does take a village to raise a child.
Story and images courtesy of Shelly Tygielski, founder of Pandemic of Love, a grassroots organization that matches volunteers, donors, and those in need.