After over a year in relative isolation, the question has arisen many times: Why haven’t we spent more of this time trying to diet, work out and become the hottest version of ourselves? My fellow diversions writer Elana Morris had similar thoughts in an essay from September, which anticipated the post-pandemic “glow up.”
But for me, the pandemic has felt like an alternate reality where I don’t have to put on makeup or pants to do my daily tasks and drinking before 5 p.m. is a normal occurrence. Even my multi-step skincare routine, which I used to do religiously, falls by the wayside most nights.
In short, after a year where life has been completely turned upside down, like many others, I feel like garbage, both mentally and physically. And as politicians make promises to ramp up vaccine availability and gradually reopen the country, my main concern is whether I’ll be able to return from my so-called “slump phase” in time.
The pandemic has been hard on everyone, and I know I’m not the only one who feels like this, which gives me some comfort. I often find myself commiserating with friends about the long-gone days of dressing up in cute outfits and spending an hour on makeup just to sweat — or cry — it all off at the bar, which I’m sure is a sentiment many college-aged women share.
But now, instead of confidently stomping across the campus every day in my three-inch platform Demonia boots, I spend most days in pajama pants and a fuzzy robe, unshowered and bare-faced. This is the new normal: Designer skinny jeans and trendy shoes have been traded for sweatpants and slippers. Daily makeup routines have succumbed to the ease of throwing on a big mask to cover up unsightly breakouts that have, ironically enough, been caused by wearing masks every day.
The pandemic glow down can be seen firsthand on TikTok, where users have taken to comparing photos of themselves from before the pandemic to now. The pictures of men looking muscular, well-groomed and fashionable are a stark contrast to their current chubbier, unkempt, sweatshirt-clad selves. They don’t necessarily look bad — just very, very different.
When there’s no reason to leave the house and school and work are all online, I guess every month is No Shave November. Personally, I rarely turn on my camera in class, because the thought of people perceiving me in my current state is too much to handle. I applaud those who feel comfortable showing up to class looking like they just fought their way out of a rabid dog fight — your bravery does not go unnoticed.
Then there’s the mental health glow down, which was only exacerbated by what felt like the longest winter of all time. The thought of pulling myself out of a yearlong depressive state and becoming a functioning member of society again seems almost impossible at this point — we’ve spent so long in this pandemic, life before it doesn’t even seem real anymore.
It’s hard to find motivation to do much more than sleep, watch TV and drink excessive amounts of boxed wine when there really hasn’t been anything to look forward to, but hopefully, the excitement of getting vaccinated and transitioning back to normalcy will offer some motivation to come out of hibernation.
We’ve let self-improvement take the backseat while simply focusing on making it through possibly the worst year ever in one piece — but just surviving the COVID era is something to celebrate. We might be less self-confident than we were a year ago, and possibly even a bit uglier, but the tides are changing.
I can only hope my skin will relax when it’s not constantly subjected to my bacteria-laden ramen breath and the big, swollen bump on my nostril will finally go away when I stop snagging my nose piercing on my masks every time I take them off. I know I’m tired of struggling with my mental health and self-confidence, but hopefully we’ll have a reason to start returning to our hot phases in the next few months. Even if we still look the same come June and July, we can at least take comfort in the fact that we’ve all gone through this glow down together.