I went for a short walk this morning. It was the first time I’d been outside in three days and ambling along the barren streets of Soho—from Grand and Lafayette to Prince and Elizabeth—was as surreal as they’ve said it is. Every block seems to be re-painted as an empty mirage depicting the erstwhile routine of my life before Corona. Mallory is right, New York is nothing without New Yorkers. It’s nothing without New Yorkers—and the formerly minute, now seeming extraordinary details of our habitual activities. I never should have taken them for granted.
Actually, that’s too harsh—appreciating what you don’t know you don’t have before you no longer have it is basically the definition of empathy, but it takes time to get there. Often the time is freckled with adversity. This adversity is subjective, but I want to reiterate, if only for myself, that we’re all going through something. The grass of your neighbor might look greener, or the act of acknowledging that theirs has turned to weeds might paralyze you with guilt. But you’re someone’s neighbor too, and they’re observing your grass. It’s a cycle, no question, and it can get impede on a primal desire to connect, but I’m beginning to think it can also be interrupted by the conceptual act of sharing your grass in whatever small way you know to. Instagram Lives! Recipe Recommendations! Mask DIYs! A donation. Lots of us can do this, but in addition to it, for me, I think it’s asking questions. So per the titular inquiry:
How the hell do you celebrate an occasion—or mark any important event that is usually social—from quarantine? Maybe the better question to ask is how to make time feel more alive? Or to demarcate it. How do you create the gratifyingly clear breaks of time that the natural rhythms of daily life, even if that only entails going outside for a short stroll, seem to do? Further, how do you acknowledge whatever festivities were planned for now from the soup of uniform time we’re floating in?
Last week in an editorial meeting, Gyan mentioned that her boyfriend’s birthday is coming up and she’s trying to figure out how to make it memorable within the confines of their living space. My friend Nadia was supposed to have an engagement party on Friday night. I’ve been fielding questions from texters through Man Repeller’s Thoughtline on the topic of how to make the people they love feel special. Most broadly, there is no longer a real difference between a weeknight and a weekend night because, at least for me, all the rituals which typically demarcate time—the material specifics of what I wear, where I go, what I eat and where I eat it—have blended into themselves, so…?
One thing I did last week—even though we weren’t commemorating or acknowledging any particular occasion, save for the purgatory we’re in right now between apartments given a scheduled move that has been put off who-knows-how-long — was send Abie a calendar invitation for a Saturday night date. The location was our living room, the activity was conversation and the fare was arranged on an aperitivo tray. I made myself a martini (quarantini), poured him a glass of sparkling water with a dash of bitters (he doesn’t like to drink, but has other good qualities) and enforced a dress code of “shoes mandatory.”
A silver lining, I guess, of a lockdown is that we’re no longer prisoners to the weather. It was cold and raining, but I wore a striped shirt—no pants—with shiny heels. Why not? Then after drinks and snacks and convo, we went home (to our room) and recapped the night. Fine, I recapped the night—he washed his face and brushed his teeth and got in bed. But it felt good. I didn’t realize how good it felt until a few days later (I think it was Wednesday though who the hell knows anymore) when I experienced the familiar desire to race through time in order to get somewhere I want to be again. Remember anticipation?
It’s funny that as a generation, we’ve been trying to combat this craving to speed time up, not slow it down. Now it’s what keeps me buoyed.
All of this is to say that creating a ritual around a thing you love to do then savoring every second of it and sharing it with someone you love, either in physical space, cyber-ly or by pinpointing yourself as the chosen loved one seems like a worthwhile pursuit right now. It creates a fleeting feeling that makes me think, or lets me pretend, that life is normal. I choose to experience this as a reminder that life will be normal again. It has to be. And if nothing else, today was a good day because we’re one day closer than we were yesterday. So, what are you planning for the weekend?
Animation by Lorenza Centi.