As most people are getting on with their lives - boarding planes, eating in restaurants and gathering with friends - I am not there yet. Not even close. Part of my reticence admittedly comes from being germophobic. I have been a closeted one for a very long time (if you’re my friend and we never hung out during cold & flu season, now you know why). But part of it also stems from the fact that I have gotten very good at living with our new covid-era protocols. After all, as anyone with OCD or a background in Catholicism can attest, rules are everything.
Don’t get me wrong. I won’t say this time has been easy. Or enjoyable. Being stuck under one roof with the same four people, day in and day out for 15+ months, has been grueling; particularly since our home inhabits a teenage girl, a rambunctious boy and a toddler. In all honesty, being cooped up with my little family has put me on the brink of insanity more times than I would care to count. And yet…and yet…I am still not ready to reenter the land of the living. So, why not?!
The reason is very simple: no one in our house has been sick for over a year! As any parent knows, it’s a damn near miracle to have that many healthy people in a house for that long! Usually there is at least one person to bring back germs to all the rest, followed by a communal sickness that is shared by everyone. As much as I teach my kids that “sharing is caring,” I always kick myself a little over the fact that this is the only way in which my philosophy is honored.
Some people, like my husband, can get the flu and sleep it off in a day. But I am not one of those people. Even the slightest cold sends me to bed for a couple of weeks. Have you ever coughed with such force that you’ve cracked a rib? Or so profusely that you’ve gagged/vomited/peed in your pants? I have, with every single hacking cold, and it’s not much fun. Call it “weak white girl genes” or whatever, I am always the sickest damn dog in our house. Every. Stinking. Time! And, since Momma doesn’t get any days off, I have come to focus on good health as our family’s goalpost. That is why I have taken covid so very seriously! And why I have implemented so many rules to help us navigate this pandemic safely (albeit maybe not sanely):
RULE #1: Don’t leave home. Period.
Is it ever really necessary to leave home? Not for us. As a stay-at-home mom with a husband whose job is remote, we don’t need to go anywhere in order to get our work done. Our opportunities to leave the house are merely for leisure. And, I mean, how many trips to the mall must we take before we realize all the “good” sales are scams, all the giant pretzels are gross and the fight over a parking space is never worth the struggle?! My teen loves shopping – the mall is her refuge, I get it. But it’s not a holy shrine and we don’t need any more stuff. In fact, there’s nothing we need that can’t be found online. And so, the necessity of us leaving the house is nil, despite what she seems to think.
RULE #2: Relish curbside.
Years before covid hit, I remember thinking about how great it would be if someone could just grab the two things I needed from Michael’s and run them out to my car. And look, it only took a global pandemic to make that happen. Now, here we are, popping our trunks, working those apps, living this dream/nightmare together (while remaining behind glass and/or at least six feet apart)! As much as this this time sucks, who else agrees that the uptick in curbside options has been a silver lining?!
RULE #3: If you have to go out, take the n95 out.
Occasionally, one of us will have an unavoidable appointment which draws us out of our cave. So, when that time comes, why on Earth would we follow the typical trends of wearing a meager cloth mask?! I feel like if I were to follow the herd on this, I’d be letting my awkward, inner geek down! And, anyway, how likely is it that a breathable cotton will somehow repel something as small as a virus? I’m pretty sure they’ll sneak their way in despite the cute graphics or cool logos. Call me crazy but when I found a medical supply shop that sold n95 masks in bulk, I decided to stock up! I don’t care how it looks. It gets the job done. And since we only live through a pandemic once (hopefully), it’s important to do it right!
RULE #4: Glove up or shut up.
Remember being a child following the AIDS crisis?! I do. Condoms were pushed on us at every turn, and we were constantly being reminded that every time we got intimate it was like we were having sex with every person our partner had ever had sex with (yikes!). In a similar vein, that line of thinking can work with literally anything else, too. Take an average doorknob; if I open a door, I should also consider how many people have opened that door before me (double yikes!). Who were these people? What did they touch before touching the door? Did they cough into their hands? Change a diaper? Pick their nose? I don’t know how clean or dirty they were or just how many germs they added to that surface. All I do know is that gloves are a thin veil of protection that I choose to adopt. And I don’t care what the other dirty birds out there think about it.
RULE #5: Quarantining is a verb, and it isn’t just for people.
When we order anything, and it makes its way into our house, everything must be quarantined. Groceries. Mail. Amazon packages. Whatever. It all has to sit and chill out for a week before it’s deemed “safe,” because, again, we don’t know who has touched it or what they have done previously. The only difference with perishable food is that, instead of letting it sit and rot for a week, we transfer it to clean plates and cups prior to eating. I would rather lick the pavement than eat directly from a styrofoam box or drink from a Starbucks cup, but maybe that’s just me. And maybe that’s because pavement doesn’t collect the same number of germs as plastics. (*Don’t quote me on that.)
RULE #6: Always have a “clean” hand and a “dirty” hand.
Eventually we will start to run out of gloves. Or the desire to wear them. And sometimes it just seems unnecessary to put them on just to check the mail. That is why it behooves anyone to get in the process of possessing a “clean” hand and a “dirty” hand. Many parts of the world have done this for centuries – ask some folks why they refuse to eat with their left hand. But, as in tattoo parlors and medical facilities, everyone knows the key to sanitation is to adopt this practice. One hand is for shit, the other is for babies. A solid rule for life!
RULE #7: Always do cardio, but never at the gym.
I can’t believe it took a pandemic to make someone like me give the gym a side-eye. Having spent the better part of my adulthood partaking in workouts, joining different health clubs, putting in the work, I am frankly surprised I was never repulsed by the skanky, cesspool of germs that I now see before me. Sweat. Heavy breathing. People. Yuck! It’s all the worst things rolled into one. So, my cardio workout will now be running in avoidance and skipping the healthful activities…because, you know, we’re all going to die from something, but if I die from going to the gym, I’ll be pissed!
Of course, we don’t really stop at only SEVEN rules. Like Columbus, from Zombieland, there are many, MANY more, but this is where attention spans start to die. Yours. My family’s. And, some days, even mine. That’s why I keep it simple and stay away from everything. It’s hard to break any of the other rules if we are all stuck at home.
I know many people think this behavior is crazy, especially since everyone over the age of 12 in our house has been vaccinated. But here’s the thing: I never feel like we’ll be this safe or this healthy again, and so I’m clinging to that just a little while longer. I have something I’ve always wanted – a family. I trust them and they trust me. And though we don’t yet trust the outside world, we are learning to slowly fold back in and enjoy the little things. So, until we return to playdates and plane rides remember: gloves, masks and a little sunscreen never hurt anybody.
I’m Cindy from Covidland, ripping off the ending from one of my favorite movies, because I’m not really sure how our story will end (but hoping we won’t turn into zombies).