I’ve begun to notice certain habits begin to emerge six weeks into my isolation. I am still making sure to talk to people on the phone, but the manic urgency of the first few weeks of Facetime calls has now abated to the calm curiosity of occasional texts. I now cook most all of my meals at home because I’m terrified of delivery men, take-out containers and unsanitized lemon wedges. I now look forward to my daily afternoon aerobic workout followed by meditative yoga, like some kind of sociopath. I clean up after myself as I go about my day, a marked shift from waiting for my place to grow mold before bringing out the mop. Indeed, so into floor shine am I that most days you’ll find me squatting on the floor – “takee” style – waddling side to side while swiping the floor with a towel doused in disinfectant for no other reason than because it kills 15 minutes of the day.
Next to deaths, decay and daytime television, perhaps the most disheartening seismic shift from the pandemic is the realization we can never say “If I only had the time” ever again. Six weeks on I can say with a concrete certainty that I will never finish War and Peace. Its just not going to happen. Same with Paradise Lost. In fact, in no particular order, these are just some of the many things I have NOT done since the quantize started: written my screenplay, finished my novel, hosted an Instagram live session, become the new, less problematic Ellen, lost 15 pounds, repotted my plants, hung the large mirror thats been on the floor for a year, learned to sew, bought plants to begin with, or learned how to fix a toilet.
Now that travel posts have faded away with the last grounded flight, and sponsored posts are on the wane, influencers big and small have taken to making isolation instagrammable
Perhaps you’ve come to some hard truths as well. Maybe you now know definitely that baking isn’t for you, or that your patience with childhood education had some pretty hard limits. That’s OK. It is perfectly fine to survive rather than thrive right now.
I tell you this so you can avoid the smugsolationers – smug practitioners of social isolation who spend their quarantine proving theirs is better than yours.
There is one smugsolater I hate-follow on Instagram named ‘M’.
Now, M has spent every waking moment of the last six weeks figuring out ways to make everyone else feel shitty. Week 1 was all about showing off a mastery of baked goods. Sentences like “Any excuse to break out the tarte tatin pan, guess I can kiss my six-pack goodbye…” were routinely posted without irony under pictures of sour bread. Baking led to cooking posts. I don’t mean simple recipe ideas, I mean theatrically produced food novels, beginning with labelled diagrammatic shots of things like tomatoes and pasta in the off chance that we ever confuse a tomato with a spatula. Cue the artful picture of them standing in front of a steaming pot of water wearing bespoke clothes and makeup. Invariably this all collapses into a book-cover-style photo of now severely overcooked pasta on a chic plate inexplicably resting on a bed of twinkling Xmas lights and two basil leaves. In the last two weeks alone, M has repainted three rooms in their house, held five Zoom parties, launched three charities, planted a lemon tree, made a mask out of silk damask and sipped ginger tea in their immaculately manicured garden no less than 16 times.
M is not alone. My feed is filled with smugsolaters. There is the didn’t-even-know you-could-get-promoted-while-working-from-home Investment Banker from my high school. There is the we-are-now-on-lockdown-in-our-villa-in-the-Contessa-Islands-so-hard-to-be-hundreds-of-miles-from family Art Gallerist. There is the i-guess-i-wont-be-going-to-the-barbers-anytime-soon Middle-Aged Tycoon who thinks no one knows it’s a wig. All are less infuriating than I’m-so-happy-I’m-not-single-here-is-a-picture-of-my-fiances-hands-interlocked-with-mine-lest-he-escape Recently Engaged PR Associate.
My venom aside, humble brags serve to get the same two things we all want during this quarantine: sympathy and praise. The only difference is they don’t want to be seen as craving them, and in doing so, betray their want even more. Now that travel posts have faded away with the last grounded flight, and sponsored posts are on the wane, influencers big and small have taken to making isolation instagrammable. And that’s fine, as long as we all remember that on the other side those perfect family pictures and steaming pots of artisanal soup bowls are real people with pimples and burps who are just as unsure as you or me. Even on Instagram.
Though, to be perfectly honest, I’ve haven’t been on Instagram since I hit 250k followers because the pressure can be so overwhelming, you know?