I’m trying to write and my sisters are intent on derailing my creativity with intense chats about our next choreographed lip-sync video. If you haven’t yet experienced the joy of our first masterpiece, here you go.
I have been called whore, boring, shit craic, rude, and selfish in the space of three minutes. All for making a communal pot of tea and then slipping outside with my blankets and books for five minutes alone with my thoughts in my post-work comedown. Apparently, I’m a psychopath for not wanting to discuss, in actuarial detail, the birthday presents of every family member for the next six months. And now my sisters have abandoned me with a few parting insults, leaving me to the peace I had originally wanted but now feel like a total arsehole for taking. Full houses are where saints are made and the rest of us spontaneously combust.
This keeps happening in my family quarantine. I quietly extricate myself from the myriad limbs of my multitudinous relatives for a very specific and perfectly legitimate purpose – reading a book, whipping up these seminal diary entries, taking an important business call, undertaking the lord’s confidential work, grabbing a quick few moments to catch up on Simon Harris’ latest empathetic and hilarious contribution to social media, for example – only to be followed, badgered, and generally abused into yet more “sibling bonding time.”
Today, every family member interrupted my work day at least twice, half of them for reasons unknown to either me or them but reasons that yet still gave them enough justification to spend twenty minutes hovering around me trying to remember them. At one point, one sister, on her fourth consecutive entry into my boudoir said, in a tone baffled and bewildered, “I feel like I’ve been interrupting you a lot today.”
This, I can assume, was prompted by my sustained silence to her incessant monologue as I attempted to persevere in a lengthy email I’d spent the better part of my day crafting. “No, not at all,” was my cheery reply.
What I really meant was: NO SHIT, SHERLOCK.
Becoming sidetracked seems to be a situational hazard when at home – wouldn’t you agree? Never have I had more schemes bubble acid-like in my frothing quarantine brain; never have fewer come to fruition.
The facemask is a classic example of this. The humble symbol of opulent relaxation and puritanical self-care the world over, this insidious status symbol has been stressing me out for the nine, fast and simultaneously long weeks of my lockdown, simply because I can never get around to doing it. And, in all seriousness, if one can’t find the time to slather some ointment on their face for fifteen minutes in the middle of a regimented quarantine, should one just give up altogether on the idea of ever being a functional/supple-skinned human?
Woe is me and woe is also me because I fear the answer might be yes.
We have been talking about doing a face mask night since I arrived home in that yesteryear that we still refer to as March. This has become a tradition of ours. Not actually doing face masks but talking about doing face masks with every intention and yet no conviction we will ever actually see this plan through. Every day, at approx 11am, my youngest sister who is still in the sprightly phase of “studenthood” and therefore unfettered by the dictates of remote working, comes into my room for a five minute (30 minute for anyone not my employer) catch-up on last night’s dreams, tomorrow’s life goals, and today’s hopes for the remaining hours of sunlight.
“What’s your plan?” has become less of a question and more of a catchphrase in our daily parlance. The irony of this, at a time when nobody has any plans ever, is not lost on me.
Before you think us incredibly driven and productive young women with all of this planning chat – which, of course, we are – these plans typically consist of ambitions such as “have a solid forty minutes puzzling today”; “make and then eat dessert during latest Normal People binge”; “go for walk”. And right at the end of this list we say, now virtually in unison, “and we’ll definitely do a face mask.”
Reader, we never do a face mask.
For some reason, even though face masks are supposed to be this simple act of self-care and self-love; even though they are supposed to represent “relaxation”, “switching off”, and “taking it easy”, for me they are the equivalent of finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They feature heavily on my guilt-list under the heading of “everyone else is doing them so you should be too”, cross-referenced with my other most popular category: “you didn’t take off your make up last night, your skin is a pockmarked canvas of Jackson Pollock spatter and you need to do something about it.”
They are supposed to be enjoyable and, crucially, achievable. Instead, they are relegated to the box inside my head in which one can also find “repair ripped jeans, begin scrapbook, learn harmonica” – in short, the box of the “never, have I ever”. Or, perhaps more aptly, “never will I ever.”
Tonight, already, we are gearing up for the same routine, the same toss of old ideas and stale plans around our kitchen as we sit, cold tea in our hands, watching another evening slip stealthily away. My skin will not be exfoliated, nor buffed, nor cleansed. The blotches will not leave me. Instead, they will join the scars on my fingernails, reflecting the two-month-old nail polish whose garishness I’ve been complaining about and threatening to remove since April.
OK, I need to go find my sisters and hang out with them now. I find if I leave them more than an hour without my company, they forget they ever loved me.