A Coronavirus Misanthrope

I would describe myself as a misanthrope. A nice one. A nice misanthrope who actually has a few friends that I love dearly. I have always been able to entertain myself with no, or very little, interaction with other people. In the past, when I have been betrayed by friends, I was disappointed, but I never felt any life-changing pang of loss when I was no longer friends with someone. I have never felt that deep, saddening missing of someone who was still alive. I have felt deep sadness when someone dies, but a disconnection with someone who is still alive never greatly affected me. Overall, I would describe myself as not having much deep interest in other people…

UNTIL NOW.

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Oh my, my, my, how the tides have changed over the past few weeks. It’s as if the tides heard me boasting about my general, seemingly harmless disdain for other people. And then the tides all got together and conspire against me and against all of humanity, to teach a terrible, long-lasting lesson.

 

Dear tides: I GET IT. I AM SOOOOOO SORRY. WHAT CAN I DO TO FIX THIS?

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The answer is nothing. I can do nothing.

I suppose that whenever the coronavirus-related lock downs are lifted, I should not go out into the world, continuing to boast about how deeply misanthropic I am. It turns out, that although I am still not pining over missing friends who essentially dumped me for no good reason (I’m looking at all you lames who couldn’t get over my personal decision to not drink until inebriation), I am *totally* missing friendly interactions with strangers.

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Do you remember those people? Strangers? The Starbucks barista that you don’t really know but somehow remembers your name. The old lady in Target that asks you where the cat food is located. The even older lady in Palais Royal whose question about which pair of shoes look better leads to a long conversation about where she is going to wear the shoes (her sister’s funeral) and why she is nervous about buying a pair with high heels (she’s nervous that the graveyard soil will be damp and unsturdy). All of these are real things that have happened to me by the way.

I also miss hanging out with my friends. I know, gosh, who doesn’t, right? I miss laughing loudly in restaurants, always saying “yes” to bread baskets, and sharing crazy stories with them. I miss people laughing at my jokes. I miss laughing at stories about other people’s husbands.

I guess some part of me likes some people. Not many people. Only a few of them. But those few people really, really, do count. I miss my people. All five of them.

*all GIFs courtesy of http://www.giphy.com*

Thank You for Coming: A Story about Getting Ice Cream During a Pandemic

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“Thank you for coming,” he said, in a heartbreakingly sincere way. I immediately knew what he meant. I knew beyond what he meant. For a moment, I hurt with him.

“Oh, yes, of course,” I managed to fumble out, too uncomfortable to verbally acknowledge the worries and concerns that I knew the ice cream shop owner was experiencing. “Ha, yeah, umm, I want to, you know, umm, support businesses. Plus, ha ha, yeah, I’m lactose intolerant, but I do love ice cream so much.”

He smiled and his eyes seemed to look like how I bet they look when things are less grim and business is less slow. He smiled like it was a few weeks ago, before the dreaded COVID-19 had turned all of our lives into worrisome messes. He looked at me, really, really, looked at me, and smiled. It’s the first time that someone has smiled at me like that in several weeks. Most days, I am home, alone. On the times when I go to the store, people are avoiding eye contact. Or, when I do manage to make eye contact with someone, I only see fear. I no longer actively try to smile at people or make eye contact because seeing fear in so many people’s eyes creates a sadness that I tend to carry with me for the rest of the day.

“Hmm…,” I say, mulling over each ice cream label, carefully reading each one. I already knew what I was going to get. I always get only one of two flavors: Swiss Chocolate or Amaretto. He didn’t have Amaretto; I of course was going to get the Swiss Chocolate. But I stood there, allowing myself to just exist in the shop, and in the moment, and in the presence of this business owner who has perhaps only seen a few customers all day. I am silent. I almost wish he would chat a little bit. No, I absolutely wished he would chat a little bit. He seemed kind and open, but he’s probably scared, too.

“I think I’ll have the Swiss Chocolate. A kid’s sized cup, please,” I finally said, trying to seem like I had given the choice  much consideration.

“Yes, sure, of course!” he responded enthusiastically.

I looked at the restroom door. There was a sign on it that said, “Temporarily out of order.” I desperately wanted to wash my hands.

“May I use your restroom?” I asked anyway, hoping he’d let me slide. He didn’t. I respectfully understood.

He finished ringing up my small ice cream: over $5 for the ice cream and two scoops of walnuts. I handed him a $10, asking him if it was ok that I paid with cash.

“Sure!” he said, still gushing with enthusiasm. He slid a little white tray towards me for me to put the money inside of and push back to him. I’ve never in my adult life wanted to hand my card to someone or put a bill into someone’s hands so badly. A little tinge of sadness poked at my gut.

“Are you the owner?” I asked. He smiled and told me he was. I made the presumption based on his age and the somewhat slow and unsure way in which he mixed in the walnuts. His button up, unbranded golf shirt and genuine glee to have a customer also seemed to give away his status as owner.

He finished counting the change and put it back in the basket. As he counted, I thought about all of the times that I have struggled financially as a business owner. The worry, panic, anxiety, and sadness of being an entrepreneur is just a part of the freedom that comes with entrepreneurship. You lose a boss, but you gain even more perceived uncertainty. My heart went out to this man, who has likely had to take to tending his own shop because he can no longer afford to pay the youthful high school kids to come in and serve the customers.

“Please, keep the change,” I told him and smiled. He smiled again. I turned away, clutching my somewhat poorly mixed ice cream, heading towards the door before the tears could escape my eyes.

“God bless you!” he called after me.

“Bless you, too, sir,” I said, turning back and smiling before using my elbow to push open the door.

I drove down the street to an empty parking lot to cry and enjoy my ice cream. Even though it was poorly mixed, it was still so good. I love Swiss Chocolate.

Resilience

My Post (2)The good thing about the COVID-19 madness going on right now is that many people, myself included, are finding ways to reconnect with long lost hobbies (or people). The long lost hobby that I have personally reconnected with, if you can’t tell from the dates of my last three posts, is writing.

Writing always makes me feel better. I have journalled since I was in first grade and in the past when I’ve been especially down, reading the thoughts of a 7 year old version of myself always put me in a better mood. It’s so lovely.

Today, I wrote the following poem about resilience. I hope that reading it makes you feel a little more strong and able to continue on while the world is affected by the coronavirus.

 

RESILIENCE

3/20/20     4:08 pm

I am wind,

Flexible and free,

Present, yet unseen,

Moving, yet sometimes still

I am an energy to be felt.

I am oak,

Strong and sure

Changing,

Growing,

Enduring,

Evolving,

Adapting.

Sometimes, I forget these things.

Sometimes, I don’t remember that I am capable,

That I am resilient.

Sometimes, the reflection in the mirror appears weakened, broken, and sad.

Sometimes, I cannot see because I cannot rest.

I am the whole universe,

Experiencing this tumult, just as everyone else, just as every other universe, just as you.

Together, we are changing, growing, enduring, evolving, and adapting.

Together, we can rest, and remember. 

3 Ways Being Hood has Prepared You for the Coronavirus

My PostI am coming to you, writing this, from the comfort of my home. I imagine many of you are reading this from your homes, too.

As I am writing this, it’s lunch time and because of the coronavirus and all its nasty impacts, I am now tasked to prepare yet another of my own meals. As of this writing, I have now prepared 100% of my own meals for the past two days. My will power is dwindling and has been stretched to its limits.

Trying to avoid having to clean YET ANOTHER pot, I have decided to eat leftovers. For what I have on hand, the fastest leftovers is the dish preferred by Baby Boomer Black moms everywhere: spaghetti.

As I prepare to heat up the spaghetti, I realize that right now, in these high stakes moments, I have turned on myself, doing to myself what I said I would never do, and that is to tell MYSELF: “Self, IT’S SOME SPAGHETTI IN THERE!” when I ask myself what’s for lunch. I have heard “It’s some spaghetti in there” from my own mother many times, but never, ever, did I think I would have to say those words to myself. I prepare myself to eat the “spaghetti that’s in there” and  long for the sweet embrace of Wendy’s chicken nuggets.

So, before I begrudgingly but somehow also thankfully, “go sit down somewhere” and eat this spaghetti that was “in there”, I wanted to share 3 other ways that “hood / poor / brown / insert your own adjective here/ ghetto” people are specially equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemonium.

Hood Advantage #1: You Likely Have Leftovers

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Image credit: https://giphy.com/gifs/Bounce-TV-comedy-bounce-3ov9jEOwe82gUOm6D6

As I have already mentioned, you probably already “got some spaghetti in there.” You might also have:

  • Some Chinese takeout from a few days ago, before that RONA got you shook
  • Some fruit that is soft, but not quite old enough for you to be afraid to eat it
  • Some more fruit that can be thrown into a smoothie that you will drink and wish was ice cream
  • Some green vegetables that you can finally use to make that recipe from the New York Times that you definitely wouldn’t otherwise make unless you just had to (shots fired at myself)
  • Lots of sauce packets from fast food places you’d really like to go to right now

Hood Advantage #2: Your Momma Already Programmed You to be a Germaphobe

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https://giphy.com/gifs/funny-star-trek-school-3ne4TnvHYegzm

My mom has been mostly healthy her whole life (so thankful!) and this coronavirus stuff has made me realize why my mom, and other Black moms, are seemingly super people when it comes to avoiding germs and viruses: they “don’t fool with them nasty ass people.” Having a hood momma has prepared you to avoid lots of coronavirus having ass people, places, and situations.

Your mom, like my own, probably does the following things to MAKE SURE they are not, in fact, fooling with them nasty ass people:

  • Hovering over the toilet in public bathrooms
  • Washing your hands before and after you use a public bathroombecause you had to touch that nasty ass door to get in there anyway
  • Opening all public doors with a paper towel, your sleeve, or jacket hem
  • Keeping *STOCKED UP* on cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer, 24/7, 365 days per year and not just cleaning “when this corona thang is going on”
  • Keeping community sized tissue boxes in their purses *all of the time.* My own mother has given tissues to complete strangers…and then washed her hands afterwards (because although my mom is a saint, she still ain’t “fooling with them nasty ass people”)

Hood Advantage #3: You Already Know How to “Not be Tripping”

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https://giphy.com/gifs/oprah-bath-relaxing-MvZKiDJmB1XEs

Look, growing up in the hood and/or poor (rich people and scholars call this being “socioeconomically disadvantaged”) is no cake walk. Many aspects of hood life require you to be thankful, gracious, flexible, and resilient. These four qualities produce people who are not, in fact, “really tripping.”

Sure, you are likely taking the necessary health precautions, but if you have been able to somehow still maintain your mental health levels so far, your hood upbringing may be to thank.

Growing up in the hood requires you to learn to sometimes just accept things as they are. Learning to accept things as they are while simultaneously not being discouraged by them, is not only a Zen Master level type skill; it’s also the entire curriculum required to pass Hood 101.

Here are a few hood examples of things that are not easily or quickly change, but despite how much these things suck, hood people continue to live, laugh, love, thrive, and “keep it moving”…

For example:

  • The police might “always be around when nobody even called they ass.”
  • They got money “for all that other shit but won’t fix these raggedy ass streets.”also, “if these raggedy ass streets was over there by where them rich folks live at, they woulda BEEN fixed.”
  • Your next door neighbors may suffer from unwarranted feelings of superiority to you aka “Susie Q nem think she better than us because ole boy she fooling with done went and bought her that old raggedy ass Cadillac.”

You get the idea.

These are all things that just have to be accepted as they are for the time being. And, thanks to your hood conditioning and magma cum laude status as a fine graduate of the hood, you’re especially capable of getting through this coronavirus shit! For real, you ain’t even trippin’ off this coronavirus shit. You’ve got your ginger ale, saltines, and your momma’s prayers…what is there to be tripping about?

Now, if you or someone you know is not from the hood, disinfect your phone and call them. Tell them that you love them. Tell them that right now, it is what it is. Tell them to don’t fool with no nasty ass people. And most importantly, tell them that there is, hidden away, in the recesses of the fridge, already SOME SPAGHETTI IN THERE!

Proof that in my house, there really was some spaghetti in there:

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