The Lighter Side of Pandemic Living: Loungewear to the Rescue

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When I think back to the last time life felt relatively normal, it was my eldest son’s birthday party at my house. It was early March, and news was just building about this thing called the novel coronavirus.

Within a few weeks, California was on a pandemic-induced shutdown.

Since then, like you, I’ve adapted to living life during a pandemic. That’s not to say I’ve accepted this life. Adapt and accept are two entirely different things. I know this is our new normal, but I hate it for all the reasons you do. But mainly, the biggest reason I hate the pandemic is how it’s caused our human connections to suffer.

Being at home so much, and being alone so much, I have plenty of time to ponder pandemic-related observations. I’ll share some of mine here today if you promise to share yours in the comments section.

• I’m learning to pay better attention to the floor when I’m in a store, because I’ve missed those arrows a few times, and found myself going the wrong way and getting some nasty looks. Oops! Sorry! 

Simple solution: When you’re become aware of your arrow error: walk backward.

• To all the good Karens of the world, I am so sorry for how your name has been used in vain during in the last few months on social media. A few bad Karens have given your good name a bad name, and that’s not fair.

Decades from now historians may take note that after 2020, very few baby girls were named Karen. In fact, 2020 might cause the extinction of the name Karen entirely.

• If you’re a stress eater, then you know that the COVID-19 15 is a real thing. Maybe even the COVID-19 20. Be easy on yourself. It’s stressful living in the middle of a pandemic.

Side note: I rue the day I learned that Der Wienerschnitzel has chocolate dip-top cones.

• Raise your hand if you have sacks and boxes of clothes piling up in the back of your car, and you’ve been driving around for months looking for a place that accepts donations.

One smokey day last week I went to Goodwill off Hilltop, but I left as soon as I saw the long line of cars waiting to drop off their donations.

I’m more ruthless when it comes to ditching my clothes lately because I wasn’t going many places. Of course, now that restaurants are open, that gives me some place to wear something other than lounge wear.

• Speaking of lounge wear, my son recently asked me why I wore my nightshirt all day. I was indignant, and told him no, it wasn’t a nightshirt, but a T-shirt dress. When he asked if I’d ever worn that T-shirt dress as a nightshirt, I couldn’t lie. Yes, I had worn that same T-shirt dress as a nightshirt. What can I say? It’s comfy.

Fun fact: Do you know the difference between pandemic day clothes and pandemic night clothes? Underwear.

• To deal with being cooped up and restless, I’ve started culling my stuff, room by room. This is stuff too nice to donate. The booth that I share with sister Shelly at the Vintage Market at Oregon Street (shameless plug) is already packed, so I’ve turned to Marketplace on Facebook to sell things.

It can be successful. It can also be a royal pain in the ass. I swear there are people who get their jollies from scrolling through the items and clicking all the “Is this item available?” buttons.

I respond yes. Nothing happens. It’s so bizarre. Why ask if you aren’t interested? I’ve learned to never hold an item – mark it sold – and wait, because nine times out of 10 I never hear from the supposedly interested person again.

I’ve met lots of nice people this way. I’ve also met some real jerks, and I’ve seen people at their most cranky. Last week I had a trio of little kitchen appliances for sale as a bundle: a two-slice toaster, a Black and Decker toaster oven and a single electric plug-in burner. A woman messaged me and asked if I could break up the set and just sell her the toaster oven. I said sure. I’m not a fan of extended back and forth communication, but that’s exactly what happened as she settled on the pick-up time. Finally, she arrived. When I opened the door I handed her the toaster oven, she held out the money and seemed angry.

“My daughter said she found a toaster oven at Walmart cheaper.”

Then she was gone. I felt bad that I hadn’t told her I’d take $5 less. It all happened so fast. Thanks to the pandemic rabbit hole, I spend much too much time thinking about interactions like that one.

• I order so much stuff from Amazon that sometimes when a new package arrives it’s as if someone else ordered it. It’s like Christmas every day.

• I return so much stuff to Amazon that I am a frequent visitor to Kohl’s, to the right of the maternity section, which is Amazon’s official return location for the Redding area. When the return transaction is done you get a discount coupon to Kohl’s. Nice gesture, but there are so many exclusions and exceptions that I always end up throwing away the coupon. I don’t know why, I’ve just never bonded with Kohl’s.

• December 12 was the last time I visited a hair salon. I have given myself two haircuts since the pandemic began. I think I’m doing OK. If things get really awful, I have lots of ponytail holders and hats.

Masks, masks and more masks

• For those who wear masks (thank you) during this pandemic, nonverbal facial communication has taken a huge hit. If I want to show someone that I’m smiling, I really push up the sides of my mouth to exaggerate my cheeks pushing up on my mask, so someone can tell I’m smiling. I’ve always been a winker (to my kids’ horror), so I can still do that. But I also find that for added emphasis, I raise my eyebrows in greeting, compensating for the fact that people can’t see my mouth. When the day comes when masks are no longer needed, I’ll have to retrain myself to refrain from those additional facial expressions to avoid looking like a combination of The Joker and Charlie Chaplin.

• I’ve already got a nice collection of masks. My early versions tied behind my head, which got tangled in my hair, which I hated. I prefer the masks with elastic ear loops. I’ve also purchased some plastic face shields, but honestly, they don’t seem like they’d provide adequate coverage, with all that wide open air space. I most recently bought some “Smile Masks” online that are part fabric/part clear plastic rectangle in front of the mouth. The problem is that that clear plastic area tends to fog up, which kind of defeats its purpose. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m heavy breather.

• I take public health mask mandates seriously, and I confess that when I am in a store and I see people without masks, I feel disappointed and even angry that they won’t comply with a public health request. “Come on, people,” I want to say. “Don’t be difficult. Just put on a damn mask for everyone’s sake.”

Despite my strong feelings on the subject, I say nothing to strangers. At this point, the divide is so wide between the mask-compliers and mask-deniers that there’s no point in saying anything. Most people’s minds are firmly made up one way or another. I know mine is.

• However, I think it would be easier to convince an anti-masker to wear a mask than the other way around. Forget about the public health benefits. Look at all the surprise benefits to wearing a mask.

  1. You can silently mouth the most awful things to someone you don’t like, and nobody will be the wiser.
  2. If you’re inclined to have facial plastic surgery, this might be a great time to it, especially if you get one of those turtleneck-type masks that you pull up bandit style. Any bruising, redness or puffiness would be covered behind the mask.
  3. Same with dental work that necessitates the removal of a prominent tooth for a few weeks. No tooth? No problem. Wear a mask and nobody will see the missing tooth.
  4. Face masks cover that soft underchin area beneath necks of people of a certain age. Wearing sunglasses and a mask can shave off additional years.
  5.  When I do go out, my make-up routine has been reduced to concentrating on my eyes. That’s it. Why bother with lipstick if it’ll just end up on the inside of my mask, and nobody’s going to see my mouth anyway?
  6. When I wear a mask, sometimes I can breeze right by someone who doesn’t recognize me. Sometimes, especially lately, this is a very good thing.
Life after the pandemic

I try not to dwell upon life before or after the pandemic. I feel sad and wistful to remember what life was like before March of 2020. I don’t dare think of the future, because my crystal ball is shattered, and expectations can only lead to disappointment.

I’ll do my best to live in the moment and do everything in my power to keep myself and others safe.

And maybe for a treat this week, to break things up, I’ll finally find a place to take my clothing donations. And when I do, I’ll celebrate with chocolate dip-top ice cream cone.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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