Life in the time of coronavirus. All of us have seen our lives turned upside down in this scary, unsettling time. We’re working from home, homeschooling our kids, and avoiding our neighbors in the name of social distancing, all in the hopes of keeping everyone well. Here are a few surprising side effects that have emerged during this historic time:
• Toilet paper has dominated the national discourse. One rarely hears mention of toilet paper in polite society, with the notable exception of the iconic Ann Landers debate about whether the roll should hang with the paper unfurling off the top or dangling down from behind. (I do have an opinion on this, if you care to join me in the great TP debate). But these days, after the store shelves were cleared out by panic buyers convinced that a shortage of toilet paper is the worst public health emergency imaginable, people feel free to inquire as to your toilet paper status. “Did you stock up?” “Do you have enough?” “OMG, what are you going to do?”
Sorry, honey, in the words of Elaine from Seinfeld, ‘I can’t spare a square.’”
• Helicopter parenting has taken on a whole new meaning. Rather than hovering over their children to keep them safe from all harm, parents are now finding themselves confined to the house with the little dears with no playdates in sight. In a bizarre turn of events, parents are no longer struggling to limit their kids’ time on screens. Instead, they find themselves nagging their kids to go online to do their schoolwork. When all else fails, desperate parents resort to those time-honored words, “Go outside and play.”
• Housecleaning has become a national obsession. In the battle to kill the virus, even the most lackadaisical housekeeper (me) has to rise to the occasion. I have been wiping off door handles, countertops, and microwave buttons until the all-pervasive aroma of Clorox reassures me that I haven’t lost my sense of smell.
My TV remote has never been cleaner. Pay no attention to the dust on the TV screen, however.
But it’s not just the sanitizing. You have to keep the clutter under control like never before. If you’re working from home by teleconferencing, be aware that when you enable your computer camera, you’re essentially inviting your boss into your house. Whatever is behind you in those teleconferences is on full display for your coworkers to see. Unless you have your own personal green screen (there’s a great idea!) you have to tidy up your house as if you’re having company.
• The man bun has come into its own. One of the side effects of social distancing is the fact that we can no longer get our hair cut. Barbers and hair stylists are facing the grim prospect of unemployment, and their clientele are left with few options when their next haircut is due. This is a lesser problem for women and girls, who can simply let their hair grow long or give in to the illusion that they can successfully cut their own bangs. Teenage boys can go for the sixties look and let their hair hang low. But the professional male faces a conundrum. Some have suggested the return of the mullet or a resurgence in the buzz cut, but some men will be forced to simply let their hair grow. How can they make their long, flowing hair look professional in those home-based teleconferences? They can’t slick it back with hair gel, which has all been combined with single-malt whiskey to become hand sanitizer. (I’m making this up — don’t try this at home. Come on, people, in a crisis, single-malt whiskey is for drinking!) So, what can they do? They must turn to the man bun. After studying a few YouTube demonstrations, the average male should be able to achieve a passable man bun. If he wears a striking necktie as a conversation piece and keeps the light low in his living room during those teleconferences, he might be able to pull it off.
In the end, it’s important to remember that this time of worry and sacrifice won’t last forever. Store shelves will be fully stocked once more, including a myriad of choices of toilet paper. Kids will go back to school, to the devout rejoicing of their parents. A little grime on the door handle will become the norm again. Barbers and hair stylists will open their shuttered shops, don their superhero capes, and rescue our society from the over-proliferation of the man bun.
• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.