There are things I miss from The Pandemic Years that I don’t miss. I don’t miss Zoom quizzes or Googling if certain amenities are within a 5km radius, or the flakes on my palms from overuse of hand sanitizer. i will tell you what i miss I miss the snacks.
know we (heavy air quotes here) have moved on to other things together, but allow me a brief moment of nostalgia. In the first few weeks of lockdown, things took on a sort of festive Storm Ophelia glow. We were traveling in these areas over Christmas. We could stay in there for two weeks, no problem. It would be like Christmas Day or old Good Friday. We would simply stay away from family and friends and stave off boredom by eating and drinking our way through our domestic exile.
Except that it didn’t quite work out that way. Two weeks turned into two years, as you know, and somewhere along the way I forgot to break the habit of ending each night with the kind of feast worthy of a visit to the Cineplex. We were concerned. We were bored. We quashed all those awkward, anxious feelings with Haribos and Doritos, night after night. Soon the clothes began to pinch in the wrong places. Buttons and buttonholes didn’t want to meet. Body parts became softer and rounder. But maybe for the first time in my life, I really didn’t care. With the bigger things going on in the world, my body seemed to be among the least important things to worry about.
The two people I lived with didn’t seem to care either. Ever since we exchanged vows, one of them has been pretty much contractually obligated not to vomit when I undress. The other, three years old, has no idea what a little extra weight means or doesn’t mean. She happily pounces on my body, this new bouncy castle with arms. She nestles into the lumps of my body because it’s warm and safe and comfortable.
Something interesting happens to a woman and her body when she’s excluded from the scrutiny of others, or at least that’s what happened to me. I’ve spent the last few years feeling like a brain in a jar. I didn’t care either way if everything about me was the shape and size it was supposed to be, because… well, when a tree in the woods grows bingo wings and nobody’s around to see it, that’s what happens that at all?
Whether they liked it or not, women have entered into this unspoken social contract and therefore it is their duty to stay “in shape”. As a woman, you only really grow up properly if you eat “right” and exercise enough. For years, not keeping your end of the bargain was tantamount to moral failure.
Lord knows, when it comes to getting skinny and staying skinny, I’ve tried over the years. I sweated for hours, seven days a week. I choked down the foods I hated because a well-meaning person told me to eliminate the ones I liked. I counted down the minutes between glasses of “miracle” juices. There was always a bit of mental math—calories, food groups—to do before I ate. Really, it was exhausting.
Not caring about any of that was new to me, to be fair. It’s not a body positivity thing. In fact, disguised as a kind of emancipation from the tyranny of thinness, “body positivity” simply means exchanging one body ideal for another. The body, big or small, is still politicized and still a topic of conversation. No, the real freedom here would be to make peace with our bodies, regardless of their shape and size. Not caring about how we look or what others might think about how we look, or knowing that we might never look the way we want to.
But now, like everyone else, I’m going back to the big wide world. For two years I didn’t have to worry about how I looked to others, and now scrutiny from others — friends, co-workers, strangers — is back on the table. I will be in the world and I will be looked at. Estimated. perceived. An unwelcome thought keeps popping up when I see someone I haven’t seen in ages. “Are you thinking about how much weight I’ve gained?” For this to eat into my mental bandwidth again feels like a huge step backwards.
I can only hope that the body neutrality that came so naturally in lockdown continues. I don’t want my brain to relapse into knee-jerk, self-aware thoughts.
Of course I feel sluggish and slow and exhausted – treating Doritos as a food group will do that to you – and I want to get moving again, gain energy and shift to a healthier, less apathetic mindset. Wouldn’t it be great to find a middle ground somehow?
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/during-the-pandemic-i-didnt-have-to-worry-about-what-i-looked-like-but-now-i-feel-under-scrutiny-again-41638516.html I didn’t have to worry about how I looked during the pandemic, but now I feel like I’m being watched again