Perhaps like me you’ve grown fatter in quarantine. I’m here to tell you it’s fine. If you’re gaining weight, you’re alive. That’s what I tell myself as I pat the pot at my midsection. “Thank you, round belly of life!” Not only have I not been killed by COVID, I am clearly not starving from austerity. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as many delicious, home-cooked meals in my whole life put together as I have this year. What the hell else am I gonna do sequestered in this house for months on end, exercise? My husband and I love to dine on decadent meals prepared from our weekly farm-fresh deliveries of organic produce and meat, augmented with lots of heavy cream and Kerrygold butter. We can afford that since we’ve somehow remained employed and haven’t gone out to a restaurant in nine months.

So yes, I think of this paunch as my jolly pandemic baby, who consistently reminds me I’ve been living well in some ways despite the daily horror. But unlike a human baby, it’s not ready to come out. No, this little guy’s probably gonna stick around many more months before this thing is over. Yes, I know, the vaccine is here. But my understanding is that I won’t feel it in my veins for quite some time. I see no point getting my hopes up for a sooner end. It’s like when the airplane parks at the gate, that little bell dings, and everybody jumps to their feet to grab their bags and get going. But no one is budging until they open the door. What’s the point of standing in a throng that won’t move when you could just sit? Also, remember air travel?

Anyway, I did reach a point last week when this potbelly got a little too big. When the once-baggy “Thanksgiving” pants start to feel snug, that’s when I know I need to eat less or move more. I’ve opted for the latter, in the form of a daily one-hour walk plus two rigorous workouts per week. I’m a fan of instilling these healthy habits during the holiday season instead of waiting for January.

I am also a big fan of having at least seven new year’s resolutions, but for 2021 I’m keeping it real simple. My only resolution for the coming year is to survive the pandemic. I’m also open to the possibility that this will be a 2022 resolution as well. For as long as I’ve known that the coronavirus would be an unstoppable force (roughly since the end of February), I’ve been 100% certain this country would handle it the worst and suffer the most. My expectations going forward remain extremely low, which is why I take quarantine quite seriously. I haven’t lounged in a bar or restaurant since early March. No friend has seen the inside of my home since then, either (except the bathroom at the back door). The only time I go out for leisure is to take a walk in the neighborhood or drive to a park and walk there. I did drive with my daughter to Michigan in June to quarantine with my mom. We brought all our own food for the road and only went inside rest stops to use the bathroom. The riskiest part of the trip was when my car got banged up in a hit-and-run and I had to pay a visit to my hometown police station, where no officer was wearing a mask. What a very 2020 experience that was.

I’m not listing all these precautions to give lessons on pandemic safety. If you’re reasonable you’re doing the same things, maybe more. If you’re taking more risks than me, I don’t believe anything I’m saying will sway you toward caution. The fact that our country has allowed 300,000 people to die proves that we are fucked regardless of what our various opinions and habits are. Our leaders had an opportunity to institute a proper shutdown, pay everyone except truly essential workers to stay home, give people all they need to survive isolation, test everyone, and contact trace those who got sick. We did almost none of that. I don’t see our nation’s ruling class proceeding differently next year, even under a Democratic presidential administration. Going into 2021, we are as being left to our own devices as much as ever. And I will be very surprised if we don’t lose hundreds of thousands more lives.

I’m gonna try to not be one of them, and I’m also gonna try to not spread the virus to others. I have some agency. Not everyone does. Some people take huge risks because they must in order to pay their bills. Others take huge risks because they can’t shake their passion for indoor dining and world travel. Many of us fall somewhere in between, but none of that matters because we do not live in a civilized society. So I’ll do the best with the choices I have, limited as they may be in number and scope.

I hope you’ll do the same in 2021. And please don’t give yourself a hard time if you got fatter. I’m glad you’re still here, no matter what shape you are. 

New Year’s Baby 1921 by JC Leyendecker

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