Nostril etiquette and quarantinis: how to survive the second act of lockdown
Remember the banana bread era? An age of innocence, when we still thought lockdown was going to be like a wet half-term in an Enid Blyton book – a bit dull, but gosh, surely we can make the best of it with some cheery baking and 1,000-piece jigsaws. I think that was about 4,000 years ago. Oh wait, I just checked and it was actually the first week of April.
The initial three-week lockdown period has come and gone, and here we still are. Now it is less Enid Blyton, and more like day 453 in the Big Brother house, except there is no jacuzzi and no prize. Any novelty has worn off and it is time to dig deep, pick up our rookie game and work on making the second phase of lockdown as livable as it can be.
Now that this is not our first rodeo, we can be more realistic about what lockdown looks like. No one seriously thinks they are going to write their first novel any more. Three weeks ago I was confident I would be eating homegrown salad by now. Last night I was pumped because I invented a stir-fry recipe that polished off the last of a three-year-old jar of stem ginger. Yes, my passion project has turned out to be using up sticky half-jars from my kitchen shelves. The glamour. Here follows a five-point guide for nailing the tricky second act of lockdown.
1. Embrace the tracksuit
I’m not talking about the fancy sweatshirt you got for Christmas with a slogan either in French or feminist-adjacent or both. I’m not talking about silky jogger-shaped trousers. I’m talking about a proper tracksuit, matching top and bottoms, and not even in grey marl. We are all in this together, remember, and nothing says team player like a colourful tracksuit, which elevates domestic listlessness to something snappier. Since the last week of March, tracksuit sales have spiked to levels not seen since Paris Hilton rocked Juicy Couture velour. I have never worn an actual tracksuit before, but since lockdown I have lived in my two-piece in “impatient pink” by Serena Rees’ British loungewear label, Les Girls Les Boys. I’m not pretending it’s the most elegant outfit I’ve ever worn – “you look … fun,” offered my husband with the diplomacy essential to current domestic circumstances – but it is cheerful to put on in the morning, comfortable and has an enjoyable “pastel-toned Florida retiree does happy hour at the beach club” vibe when teamed with a quarantini for an evening Zoom catchup. Also doubles as pyjamas for the ultimate in day-to-night dressing.
2. Brush up your lockdown comms
Can we talk about the email opener about hoping your correspondent is staying sane during these crazy days/challenging times? I’m … over it. Is that too soon? I still feel the need to check in with friends and family, like we all do, but I think we all know what’s going on by now. Is there really anything to be gained from being served yet another reminder every single time we open a sodding email? In other key comms updates: Fomo has been replaced by Zomo, AKA the lockdown form of social anxiety, prompted when you wake up to screengrabs on other people’s Instagram Stories of a Zoom quiz/locktail hour you weren’t invited to.
3. Dig out a work-to-walk dress
Forget walk to work – work to walk is the daily routine. If you are hunched over a laptop at your kitchen table all day except for your daily prescription constitutional, warm spring weather is a good time to dig out a presentable-but-breezy dress that works for both. (Your tracksuit is going to need a wash at some point, if nothing else.) Clare Hornby, the founder and creative director of British womenswear label Me & Em, says figuring out your work-to-walk look is the key to a lockdown wardrobe that takes you from Zoom call to fixing lunch in the kitchen to walking the dog and back to the laptop. In the past week, three out of five of her label’s bestsellers were dresses. I have bookmarked the cargo pocket swing dress in sage green, £195, which has Zoom-pleasing detailing without being inappropriately glam – but you have this type of dress in your wardrobe already. Last summer’s polka-dot Zara hit, from the days when going viral meant something entirely different, for instance.
4. Get pitch perfect at the Zoom groom
On the one hand, your friends and colleagues really do not want to see your untrimmed nostril hair; on the other, looking too radiant seems somehow slightly bad form. Time to nail your Zoom groom. One of the many ironic footnotes of lockdown life is that now that there is nowhere to get our hair cut or our roots done or a manicure or brow threading, and nothing in the diary to actually get dressed up for and nothing to stop us raiding the fridge every 10 minutes, we spend hours every day staring at our own faces on video conference calls. I have never been any good at makeup so for that I refer you to my world-beating colleague Sali Hughes, but I do have thoughts on set design and lighting. First, your laptop should be at least elevated at least two coffee-table books or four September issues of Vogue above table top height, or the camera angle will be a shocker. Second, do as Tom Ford suggests and position a table lamp just behind your laptop, on the side that highlights your “good side”. (Everyone has one. Look in a mirror.) Third, tidy up the background, and remember that everyone is definitely judging you on your tea mug and your paint colour – but don’t show off. Read the room, people. Your team do not want to see you hot-desking in a poolside cabana and your NCT group doesn’t need to know that you recreate the baby cinema experience in your home screening room. Daffodils on the kitchen table and a yoga mat jammed down the back of the sofa is about the right pitch. A small child appearing for a brief cameo is ideal cuteness plus relatability vibes.
5. Make 6pm happen
There are lots of nice things about working from home, but I really miss coming home from work. Now that I don’t get to kick my shoes off and hang my jacket up, I need a different kind of marker to end the working day. At some point it would probably be a good idea to find a device for this that was less than 25% alcohol, but for now – embrace the quarantini.