Coronavirus Confessions of a Surly Wench & Slattern

Who is that masked woman?

It’s hard to read the expressions on the faces of mask wearers, but I knew the two women walking together on the opposite side of the street were smiling at me and my dog: We’ve had plenty of pre-coronavirus encounters that involved friendly salutations. Also, it’s tough to resist smiling at Madeleine, a little white terrier mix whose short legs propel her forward with a quick, determined stride. 

We never exchanged more than quick hellos, but this morning one of the friends shouted something in my direction that I couldn’t hear. I listen to books on my iPhone while I walk and this one — Boy, Snow, Bird — was especially riveting. Also, we were social distancing. 

I unplugged and said, “What?”

She lowered her mask and answered, “You two are amazing. We see you walking all over town together.” Her friend nodded. 

I told her I couldn’t take any of the credit: “My dog sets the pace, direction, and duration of our walks.” Which is true. Madeleine and I spend about  an hour outdoors every morning, and I generally get tired — or hungry —  enough to want to return home long before she does.  

Always putting her best paw forward

The conversation ended there, but I had a strong desire to pump the friends for more information. What, precisely, was it that they found amazing about me and my dog? The frequency or speed of the walk? The unpredictability of where we turn up? The cuteness of this particular dog?  

Luckily, I still have a few social filters left. I knew that intense follow-up questioning would make me seem needy and weird and decidedly non-amazing. It helped that Madeleine has no patience for dawdling unless she is the one to initiate it, and she was already tugging me along. 

We all waved at each other again, re-masked, and walked off in opposite directions, me gobsmacked.

I have felt the opposite of amazing since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Pandemic ready?

In some ways, I was made for the coronavirus crisis. 

For many years, I have been happily living alone and working from a home that I own, so I don’t have to fear eviction or cohabiting stress. Social distancing? Piece of cake for a curmudgeonly introvert. Madeleine keeps me company and provides me with fresh air and exercise while my gym is off limits.

Although, as a Boomer, I’m in a high-risk age group, I don’t have any underlying medical conditions. I rarely get sick, even with seasonal flu. The only prescription medicine I take regularly is an antidepressant. My latest wellness exam showed all my blood work in the normal range.

In the past, I’ve attributed my general good health not only to reasonably good eating and drinking habits but also, ironically, to having a somewhat relaxed attitude towards germs. My European parents never over-sanitized me or my surroundings when I was a kid; as an adult, I retained the conviction that a little dirt couldn’t hurt me, while the overuse of antibiotics could. Note: This attitude doesn’t carry over into carelessness with personal hygiene. I do — or at least I did — have close social interactions. 

Thus I have never considered my lack of interest in domestic divahood a problem.  Some people genuinely like to cook and clean. I do not walk among them. I try not to let the dog hairs accumulate in the corners of my home to the point that I notice them, and never leave dishes in the sink overnight.

As an atheist, I don’t believe in the godliness to which cleanliness is said to be adjacent. And living alone means never having to say you’re sorry when your comfort level with disorder and dust and your interest in preparing meals don’t match those of your partner or house mate.  

But all that’s changed with the arrival of the novel coronavirus, emphasis on novel. That microbe doesn’t obey the usual rules. And it’s messed with my worldview.

Coronavirus Social Media Is Very Judgy

Now I feel that that death or debilitating illness lurk behind every un-Lysoled door knob and grocery bag.  And it’s not just the spraying and washing and wiping and leaving cardboard outside that I resent. It’s the public shaming, all those people on social media who are proudly and publically culling their file cabinets and closets. I’m exhausted even thinking about it. 

That sweet Marie Kondo is bound to turn up menacing me in one of those vivid dreams we’ve all been having.

I looked up the opposite of germaphobe and found the following in a Word Hippo definition:

Judgmental — and sexist —  much, Word Hippo? I never fat shamed you. 

Speaking of weight, like many other people, I’m loading up on comfort food. Unlike the hordes of self-satisfied bread bakers and casserole cookers, I’m not creating my own.

In addition to feeling lazy and slovenly, I’m feeling old, what with my grey roots growing out and my cohort constantly cited as potential pandemic casualties. Worse, some suggest we need to be sacrificed for the economy–and good riddance. I don’t even have progeny to plead for me on camera, in the “wear a mask or you’ll kill grammy” mode.

In short, I’ve become convinced that I’m a dumpy dispensable floozy–without the usual floozy benefits.

And I suspect I’m not alone in feeling this way.

So I’m here to say, take heart. You might walk out of your house one morning and have someone tell you that they think you and your dog are amazing for reasons you can’t quite fathom. I may be an atheist, but I’d call that a moment of grace.

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About the Author

Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

4 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Karyn Zoldan says:

    My sentiments exactly, except I cook now more than ever, more out of boredom than hunger.

    On the plus side is never having to wear a bra because even if I go grocery shopping, I’m wearing a face covering and nobody recognizes me.

    • Edie says:

      Ha! That’s my justification for not wearing a hat sometimes and letting my roots show: I figure between the sunglasses and my hat, no one will recognize me. Of course, they might recognize my boobs 🙂

  2. Laura says:

    Getting a nice, positive glimpse of how outsiders see you gives an extra bounce in the step for the daily “chore” of walking Madeleine, doesn’t it?

    That was another very funny essay, Edie. One of my favorite lines: “Judgmental — and sexist — much, Word Hippo? I never fat shamed you.” Yes, how dare they call us less-than-scrupulous housekeepers “scrags,” “hussies,” and “harlots.” Just because we don’t dust?! “Floozy–without the usual floozy benefits” indeed! (-: And as you imply, I bet the Hippo list for messy guys ends at “slobs.”

    More please.

    • Edie says:

      Thanks for your encouragement, Laura! It would be a gift, as Robert Burns said, to see ourselves as others see us — if it’s good, of course.

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