“The first rule of Fight Club is: You don’t talk about Fight Club.”
— My doppelganger, Brad Pitt
First rule of the pandemic: Pants on by 9 a.m.
Rule two: Don’t cut your own hair, ever.
Rule three: No reading or talking about COVID-19 after 7 p.m.
Rule four: Forget the first rule.
One of the best things about the pandemic (admittedly, this is a short list) has been the whole pants/no pants thing while isolated at home. After the first few days of pulling them on one leg at a time, you found yourself confronted by a question: Why? Unless you’re worried about losing your edge and slipping into Big Lebowski territory, why get dressed at all?
The answer: FaceTime. Or Skype, or one of those. Check your social media feed: it’s now FULL of brand new pee-your-pants-(or not)-funny footage of guys blithely wandering into the frame of their partners’ video conferences while drinking milk out of the jug and wearing nothing but a pair of tighty whiteys. I watched one such video just now, and the only thing better than the deer-in-the-headlights look on the man’s face was the “Oh lord how long am I going to have to be cooped up with this moron” look on hers.
Skype is also the reason for rule two. If you Google “Covid” and “haircut” you’ll find posts with titles like “Six tips I wish I knew before cutting my hair during the pandemic.” (Spoiler alert: Tip two is that you need to let someone else help with the back of your head.)
You can tell the home-haircutters in the video meetings. They’re the ones who look like they came second in a fistfight with Edward Scissorhands, or should be touring with A Flock of Seagulls, or forgot to use a mirror.
Neither of the first two rules is as important, though — at least to me — as number three.
That is, I have decided that as each day draws to an end (which, these days, is any time after Jeopardy) I will stop thinking about COVID-19. Stop talking about it. Stop reading about it. Stop watching stories about it.
Most of all, I will put down my phone, whose stream of content now overflows with post after post about the coronavirus — helpful information, solid reporting, less-solid crackpottery, toilet paper memes, pictures of empty shelves, photos of kids doing heartwarming things, Dr. Trump’s latest medical advice, on and on and on.
Really, this phone fixation feels like compulsively sticking a fork in a light socket, again and again. Maybe you’re in the same boat. Lift a (well-washed) hand if you have been incessantly monitoring the numbers from China and Italy, hoping for a glimpse of brighter days to come.
Now, an attentive reader might detect some hypocrisy here, noting that at the same time I moan about this overflowing pool of information, I have been guilty of adding to it from my own garden hose. I have written almost exclusively about COVID-19 for the past month.
This is true, but I would counter that the problem isn’t so much the depth of the water, but our seeming need to dive in and swim laps to the point of exhaustion. At some point, you need to get out and towel off, if only for a while. Think of it as a holiday from our open-ended staycation.
I tried to persuade other household members to follow my lead, turning the evening’s attention from The Virus Who Must Not Be Named to more constructive pursuits, such as turning the backyard into a putting green, say, or watching old Bobby Nystrom hockey fights.
As a counter-proposal, I was offered the choice between A) a Grey’s Anatomy marathon and B) an in-depth discussion of old boyfriends and how much fun they were then and successful they are now.
“You could cut my hair,” I suggested.
“Both of them?” she replied.
In the end, it was determined that instead of partaking in a shared activity, self-isolation would be the most prudent path. Or maybe that’s physical distancing. I get them confused.
Never mind. There’s really only one rule: pull up our pants, do what Dr. Bonnie says, and beat this thing.