A weird kid turned functional adult shares how the pandemic effectively erased a decade of social polishing in a matter of months.
In second grade, I took to muttering swear words under my breath throughout the day, until Miss Woodward — a flowy-skirted, well-meaning recent college grad — called in my parents to discuss how to redirect the dark and dismal turn my life was taking. Buncha f*ckin’ bullshit.
The following year, I spent an entire day (or two) walking around with my chin high in the air because it made my hair seem longer. In fact, all it did was make it incredibly difficult to see the screen during Oregon Trail (which I assume was teaching us that we all would’ve made really shitty settlers?)
In 7th grade, again convinced I could turn the head of my latest crush au jour with a bit of literal “magic eye” tomfoolery, I attempted to appear prettier by opening my peepers super wide. At least, until my friend Sitara asked me why I looked like a “surprised fish.” Annnnnd there goes my entire come hither game plan.
Sophomore year, I cut my hair super short ‘n spiky a la Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. Because what teenager doesn’t want to model their life after a plucky forty-something book shop owner in a predictable rom-com? Everybody likes her! She always gets her man!
(By now, I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that my first boyfriend didn’t manifest until college…)
I say all this to paint you just the faintest picture of my weird-isms. When it came to being “cool” or “popular,” I never exactly possessed the playbook for success. After all, what can you really expect from an only child inclined to spend weekend afternoons (and every weekday evening) alternately making mixtapes, playing minesweeper, and watching old Doris Day movies?
In fact, it took me until college (and probably a few years afterward, if I’m being honest) to find my social “groove,” so to speak. To own and even appreciate my offbeat bits but also know when to hold ’em and fold ’em. To realize that my upbringing was a rather singular experience — that nobody will ever catch my obscure references to old ‘90’s Tom Hanks movies — and that’s okay.
Or, it was okay. Before last year, my social presence was objectively polished enough to function publicly. I’d made peace with my dork demons, found a way to maintain self-esteem, and even form a steadily growing posse of friends. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, the slogan of which could’ve easily read: “making people weird again.”
By now, I’ve been in my house with just my immediate family for the majority of the last 365 days. As a result, I’ve effectively forgotten how to dress myself, feed myself, and navigate social situations involving more than 3 other humans.
I’m Napoleon Dynamite, running away from people mid-conversation. Or, on my best days, like an academy award-winning impersonation of Kristen Wiig’s more awkward characters… tossing out one-liners intended to earn a laugh but instead causing folks to cock their heads to the side like dogs and frown in confusion.
I’m that lady in the grocery line.
And maybe I’m alone in this.
Or maybe we’re all a little “Napoleon Dynamite” right now… retrieving leftover tater tots from our pockets and offering them to strangers like it’s a totes normal interaction.
Telling everyone we’ve suddenly decided to train to become cage fighters and wear American flag parachute pants.
Bringing back lanyards.
Look, all I want to say is this: if you’re a bit “off” right now, it’s perfectly fine. If you’re not, PLEASE have mercy on the rest of us. Don’t write us off quite yet. Give us a few months to recalibrate.
And if I’m the only weirdo at this post-pandemic party, for Pete's sake keep it to yourself. After the emotional beating that was 2020, a bit of bad news may just cause me to self-combust. Instead, politely refuse my pocket tots like a human being and let me go on my merry way.