So long shaving, Survivor and whirlwind romances: Melburnians on the lockdown habits they're going to ditch
After just over a month of eased restrictions, Melbourne is facing its second round of stage three lockdowns. After the first round, Melburnians are feeling older, more tired and perhaps a bit wiser. These are some of the stay-home behaviours they are planning on skipping this time.
I will not become a Covid-werewolf
The “shaggy man” was going to be the trendsetting look of the 20s. That’s what I boldly declared to friends when I vowed not to cut my hair or trim my beard in lockdown 1.0. Let nature run its course and see where the strands spin, I urged. Goodbye hipster skin fades and hello Covid-werewolf.
Three months later, a new man stared at me in the mirror. A friend summed up the estrangement, “your hair and beard scare me”. The lockdown caveman mostly elicited “hmm OKs”, with the occasional frightened response. Another six weeks of wildness would test even our primordial ancestors.
T-minus 11 hours before lockdown 2.0, I found myself sitting in the barber chair for the surrender cut. “Go short,” I instructed. I still hope Covid-19 puts an end to hipster hair, but maybe one clipper number at a time.
Fresh-baked cookies are a sometimes food
I’m a stress baker. This would be fine, if I was not also a stress eater.
From mid-March to mid-May, during the first round of stay-at-home orders in Melbourne, there was always a fresh batch of muffins or brownies or a freshly-iced cake in my house. This was very impressive to my one house guest, in the way that incredibly easy baking always is to people who do not bake.
It also made me feel like someone who has their life together. My mum always has freshly baked goodies at home. It took about five weeks into the first lockdown for me to remember that mum is baking for my dad, who has an overactive thyroid and can therefore eat three pieces of chocolate coconut slice per day without a sugar crash. Whereas I am baking for myself, mainly, and what my body really needs is some vegetables.
I want to make really clear at this point that I’m not fat-shaming myself or anyone else. I’m excellent. I’m just … bored with sweets?
Is this real adulthood?
Anyway. My ambition for the next six weeks is to convert that manic baking energy into cooking new and interesting actual meals for myself, rather than subsisting on the same three staples, intercut with Nigella’s chocolate Guinness cake. My inspiration for this is fellow Melburnian Joshua Badge, and I’m going to take this opportunity to publicly lobby him (again) to set up a YouTube food channel. The people need your recipes, Josh.
We will dis-Kinect
Lockdown 2.0 will involve significantly less Xbox for my four-year-old son. First time around I fetched an old Xbox360 with Kinect out of my “work” studio and ordered a dozen or so secondhand, age-appropriate games from online. We intended to keep the boy home from daycare for around eight weeks and the Kinect was my flourish of genius to not only keep him occupied, but tire the little terrorist out with heavy Let’s Dance sessions each day.
What emerged was early onset adolescence; an early maniacal obsession with PowerUp Heroes; and by mid lockdown, a chain of night terrors after he worked out how to load the discs himself and hooked into a few rounds of the highly praised zombie apocalypse first-person shooter, Left 4 Dead 2. It was the undead virus clowns what got him.
“Rest in peace, Carole Breadkin”
My Tamagotchi was a 10th birthday present. Inside the plastic oval lived my beloved kitty-cat. It was a noisy animation that I adored, and which required feeding, cleaning, petting and yes, even walking.
Now in my 30s, it’s happened again. For the easily bored (and easily influenced) among us, the arrival of coronavirus also meant falling victim to the allure of sourdough starter. Baking my own bread! Just like my great grandmother during the war! It was almost romantic, I told myself.
Naively, I assumed starter would be a less demanding and more tameable pet than my Tamagotchi. A gloopy mix of flour and water cannot beep for attention. I was entirely wrong. The starter was needy, nosy and smelly. My bread-making successes were rare and inexplicable.
Having condemned the sourdough starter to the refrigerator during the first lockdown. I suspect that for the second she will be making permanent residence in the compost bin. Rest in peace, Carole Breadkin.
I am not a constant gardener
Last lockdown I got it in my head I was going to become a plant person. I had a vision of carefully raising seedlings in my tiny apartment like a house-bound Mary Poppins of propagation. I could apply hindsight psychology and suggest that as the news filled with illness, and we all became aware of our fragile bodies, I wanted to nurture new life I could wrangle and protect. But honestly I think I just wanted to transform myself. Into the kind of adult that could keep a plant alive.
It didn’t work out. Not only did my seedlings die one by one, but several also instantly turned mouldy and fetid, filing my apartment with tiny, listless bugs. I threw out the last plant a few weeks ago. My home returned to its previous state, albeit with several yellow sticky paper fly traps dangling where I once pictured Devil’s Ivy.
“No to flat bodies on a screen”
I’m a dancer and choreographer. The initial lockdown meant that people were able to have some incredibly creative responses to their ongoing or new-found dance practice in their homes, which is great! And TikTok has been a pleasure to watch.
I am however completely over the lag of the digital when it comes to connecting with the physical. I was commissioned to contribute to cement fondu’s online project Don’t Let Yourself Go. I couldn’t stomach the idea of doing a screen-facing dance class (because it wasn’t something I felt I would want to participate in personally).
I wanted to resist the immediate, market-driven demand to turn everything into a flat, online experience. We were meant to flatten the curve, not our experiences and capacity to assemble, imagine or dream in a physical, offline sense.
So instead, I made Soothsayer Serenades – a promise (along with a playlist and provocation) to move together every Wednesday at 4pm, for 25 minutes, with no proof of presence and no need to visualise.
No to Zoom! No Insta live! No to flat bodies on a screen! Just moving or dancing, walking or gardening, together in our varied spaces, all at the same time. There’ll be no evidence other than the commitment, communion and vow of others.
Jeff Probst is not a survival strategy
I spent most of the first lockdown watching 22 seasons of Survivor. That’s more than 230 hours, and it gets worse: I’d already seen most of them. By the end of lockdown, I was doing my own Jeff Probst style commentary every time I made coffee.
Time ceased to have any bearing on when I was sleeping, working, eating, or watching Survivor. Waking up on the couch at 7 o’clock meant a coin toss on whether I’d make coffee or a vodka gimlet.
We usually need someone else to tell us what’s happening inside our own heads, so I didn’t understand why this was happening until a friend explained it was grieving. I was mourning, as so many people were, for the year I thought I’d have.
I had such plans. A new book contract. University teaching. Speaking at writer’s festivals and events all over the country. Fabulous freelance articles.
My plans, my future, my income, all cancelled in a single week.
I denied, raged, bargained, Survived depression and finally accepted the new reality. This time, I’m starting lockdown with that acceptance and new plans for 2020.
Oh, and I’ve cancelled my subscription to the Survivor streaming service.
“It sucks getting dumped at the best of times, let alone the blurst”
I went on a few dates with the same guy before lockdown started. He was smart, successful, and funny; he generally had it “going on” in the conventional sense. He was in town visiting friends and unbeknownst to me had extended his stay in Melbourne after we’d met. When lockdown was announced, he went back to the other side of the country. He invited me for dinner with his friends just before he left and sat in my lap half the night. When he went inside to get wine, his friend leaned over and whispered conspiratorially, “He’s been looking for a place to sublet in Melbourne.”
Obviously, I had a total heart on.
He invited me to do lockdown with him, but I was working on-site right up until the day lockdown began — right up until the minute before lockdown began, in fact. So, we went into lockdown in seperate states. At first, we texted daily, calling every couple of days to chat. As the weeks wore on, the texts came every other day, and the calls took on the nature of dutiful “check-ins”, the sort that drive a mother’s offspring crazy.
Weeks later, when the lockdown was over; I booked a series of flights (there were none direct) that eventually landed me in his house and in his bed, him in my arms, for a relatively blissful week of canoodling and trips to the beach. But something was missing – the spark and spontaneity of our initial meet-ups. We’d been excited to pick up where we’d left off, but it felt forced, like this had been too long coming. There was a pressure to behave as head-over-heels lovers, rather than people who were, before lockdown, going on first dates carefreely. We alternated between urgency and feeling stuck together. We boinked, cuddled and smiled and occasionally grimaced our way through it. Eventually, we discussed the pressure openly, to great relief. There was a renewed exchange of affection, then even more pressure to “make the most of it”. When I left, we were sad, but I wasn’t sure we were any closer for the stay.
He was due to come visit me, before Covid-19 took off again. When lockdown looked likely, he cancelled his trip, and with just a few months left on his visa, it all seemed too hard. He broke it off.
My pesky friends/therapist/brain suggest it probably wouldn’t have worked out anyway; perhaps we both dodged a bullet. But the situation dragged the whole thing out in a way that made the (possibly inevitable) discoupling especially frustrating.
We’d invested so much time, with so little oxytocin released. Or maybe it just sucks getting dumped at the best of times, let alone the blurst. Either way, the answer to what I’ll be doing differently this lockdown is: I will not get into a whirlwind romance. I will not get into a whirlwind romance. I will not get into a whirlwind romance. I will not ...
New exercises are not safe
On 21 March – the first Saturday of Melbourne’s first lockdown – I decided to go kick the footy. I figured it was the perfect way to stay active in the coming weeks. I could hang out with friends at a distance! I could aggressively catapult something into the sky!
The kicking was great. I just wasn’t so good at the catching.
I should have seen it coming. The closest I usually get to a footy is when I’m drinking mid-strength up the back at the MCG. I haven’t played any ball sports in a decade, and even back then I was a little uncoordinated.
This time around, I’m sticking to what I know: yoga and gentle jogging. Trying new types of exercise is great, but maybe not during a pandemic. Do you know how much it hurts to wash your hands when you have a big purple finger?
I will watch all the apocalypse films
There’s a bit in Shaun of the Dead where he keeps running into a distant mate, and she always asks, “How are you going?” And he always replies, “Surviving.”
I keep thinking about this, because it’s the basis of most conversations I’ve had this year. And zombie movies are now highly relatable content.
In Lockdown #1, I mainly watched home reno shows, K-drama and the Drag Race franchise. I felt like my brain and my heart couldn’t deal with much more, and anyway – social media was already a doomscroll.
This time, I’m going to nurture my fight-or-flight impulses. I can’t punch a virus. But I can watch plucky bands of human survivors battle aliens and zombies and time-travelling cyborgs.
I can watch them fight, and I can watch them survive. I can do all this while safe on my couch, and through the fantasy I can feel a little better.
– Jo Walker
I’m not doing any more Zoom drinks
I once had a boyfriend who would check himself out in every shiny surface he passed. The relationship lasted about five minutes; we broke up shortly after a conversation in my kitchen in which, in the midst of trying to tell him something important, I realised that his intent expression wasn’t aimed at me, but slightly over my shoulder … at his own reflection in the oven behind me.
I think of this incident regularly during video conference calls. I hate that feeling of talking to someone who is not actually looking at you but at themselves, because even though you’re pretty sure your co-conferencers are listening, probably, you know that there’s still a very large part of themselves that’s thinking, “Gosh, does my hair really look like that today?” And because it’s impossible not to scrutinise yourself on video chat, I hate the feeling that other people may think I’m doing this to them. And don’t even get me started on the horrifying aural feedback loop that starts when everyone tries to talk at once, collectively unlocking the howling mouth of hell.
So I’m not going to Zoom for “fun” any more. I freely admit that having a regular 9am video conference every day for work has been something of a crutch for the last three months – it ensures I shower, brush my hair regularly and maintain some kind of outward semblance of normalcy and sense of being in the world, despite remaining approximately 10ft from my bed at all times. It’s orderly. It works. But if I want to get on the beers in iso, I’m fully capable of doing so in the company of my partner and a scary movie. If I want to have a proper conversation with someone, I’ll pick up the phone.
The beard stays
The biggest mistake I made the first time we entered lockdown was thinking that shaving off my beard and growing a moustache was a good idea. I’ve had a solid facial hair covering for nearly a decade now, but the combination of boredom and the low-risk involved (we were stuck inside, no one would see me) convinced me it was worth a shot.
Never again. I looked simultaneously like a young child and a villain from a silent film. Also, winter in Melbourne had just hit, so my face was very cold. Having just entered lockdown again, I’m vowing to maintain my luscious, thick beard. But maybe this time I’ll shave my head or bleach my hair blonde instead? I need to do something to pass the time.