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A caveat: I did not move through the world pre-COVID thinking I was extremely hot all the time, or even some of the time. However, in hindsight, I did experience a feeling that I would now describe as hotness–mainly because there is no better way of describing it. It’s the feeling of getting dressed up to go out on a Saturday night. Of putting on a flick of eyeliner. Of pretending to argue when you’re really just flirting. Of a hand on your lower back. Of a bite of pasta stolen from a friend’s plate. Of staring across at a face, flushed warm and pink with candlelight. Of feeling especially attractive because your jeans make your gluteus maximus resemble a summer peach, or because of how someone looks at you when you walk into a room, or because you’re dancing to a song so bouncy it makes you want to jump in the air. Hot.
Like I said, I wasn’t even really aware of this feeling until after it disappeared altogether, stymied by the mandate to stay inside, my subsequent lack of motivation to wear anything but pajamas and sweats, and the reality that instead of living alone with my soon-to-be-husband, I am now living with my parents, sister, grandmother, and significant-other-turned-quasi-sibling in what can only be described as the plot of a bizarre sitcom.
My three main activities are sleeping, working, eating, and re-watching Game of Thrones (currently on season four, thank you for following this journey). I haven’t worn pants without an elasticized waist in weeks. The word “eyeliner” might as well sound like “googoogeeksejkak”–i.e. pardon me? I love both of my parents dearly, but the way my dad chews bananas and the way my mom pronounces coronavirus (coronaVYrus) for some reason make me want to drop to the floor and lizard crawl to the nearest exit. The two most recent photos in my phone are of a massive tangle in my hair that I’m choosing to ignore and a piece of quiche I ate cold at 3:25 p.m. because I was too lazy to microwave it. Not hot–literally.
I told Austin that I miss feeling hot and he said, “you are hot!” but in the same tone of voice you might use when humoring a small child by talking to their imaginary friend Barbara. In fairness to him, my feelings vis à vis my hotness are not of particular importance in the grand scheme of life in quarantine, or even life in general, but the more I think about it the more I’m convinced that hotness–in its most figurative sense–encapsulates the unique joie de vivre of human existence, and boy do I miss it.
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According to legend, otherwise known as my group chat, this yearning is widespread. One of my friends confessed that she misses having a reason to put on a lacy bra, or any bra at all really. Another said she never feels “hot” normally but quarantine is making her want to. Another mentioned she’s been more tempted to post thirst-trappy photos on Instagram recently.
She’s not alone–based on the current contents of my social media feeds, which include far more underwear pics than usual, the desire to both access and consume hotness is rampant. And just look at what happened when Hulu released Normal People–a show that follows the romance of two horny Irish teens! The internet dripped with collective drool for days. An entire Instagram account was created to celebrate the hotness of Connell Waldron’s necklace. It is broadly acknowledged to be the perfect entertainment for These Times–not because it’s moody or poetic or emotional–but because it is so very, very hot.
The closest I’ve come to feeling hot during quarantine was a few weeks ago when I put on a strappy silk dress for the sole occasion of taking a few photos in golden-hour sunlight. There was something about the sensation of the fabric, and the warmth on my skin, and the way the shadows fell across my chest that filled me with a fraudulent kind of thrill. Afterward, I changed back into my sweats and braided my hair into pigtails and scraped off the browned bits in a container of guacamole so I could dip a chip into the bright green mush underneath. Not hot, but not terrible either.
Graphic by Lorenza Centi.