Among the many things changed by the sad, eerie moment we’re living in is our vocabulary. We bat around words most of us had never heard or spoken until a few weeks ago.
PPP. PPE. Coronavirus. COVID. Zoom. Zoom fatigue. Coronapocalypse. Covidiot. Doomscrolling. Quarantini.
Some of our new words are deadly serious, but some, inevitably, are humorous. It’s a human reflex to leaven our grief and dread by laughing about what terrifies us.
In that spirit, I’d like to elaborate on a few of these new words, some of which I’ve coined.
CORONACHONDRIA: Do you diagnose yourself with the novel coronavirus several times a day? Is every tickle in your throat a forecast of doom? Do you find yourself sniffing odd things just to make sure you can still smell? Have you found yourself Googling “covid toes” only to discover to your dismay that there is such a thing?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be a coronachondriac, a subset of hypochondriac bred by this legitimately frightening disease.
I have a mild case of coronachondria. So does my friend Lisa.
“I alternately thought I had stomach pains, a sore throat and a headache and obsessed on each symptom,” Lisa recently announced on Facebook. “Now I don’t think I have any of them!”
To chart her health, Lisa wanted a thermometer. The good ones were sold out, so she bought a lesser one. It didn’t work. She bought another. Same.
“So I have two crappy thermometers and feel my forehead with the back of my hand every day and feel like I’m swooning like some old lady in a Victorian-era movie,” she says. “Otherwise, I’m fine.”
But as all coronachondriacs will tell you: Better to be cautious than careless.
COVIDOMESTICITY: “We’ve become 1950s housewives,” my female friends and I have been joking to each other. No disrespect to 1950s housewives — they were our mothers, though in my mother’s case, she never pretended to enjoy the duties associated with the description.
But now here their daughters are, day after day, with a zeal we’ve never experienced, mopping, sweeping, scrubbing, dusting, cooking, sewing, washing windows, organizing kitchen cabinets. One friend painted a closet.
“My house has never been cleaner!” says another.
There’s some satisfaction in these domestic conquests but also the reminder of how hard and time-consuming they can be.
CORONACOOKING (SEE ALSO: “COVIDOMESTICITY”): Did you really make yogurt for the first time ever? You bought sourdough starter? You’re growing avocados from pits? Making Facebook cooking videos now that you’ve discovered the joy of turning on the oven?
As for me, I’m suddenly making smoothies from whatever weird ingredients are in the refrigerator. Inventing salad dressings. Making croutons. It had never occurred to me to make croutons, but there I was on a Sunday afternoon Googling “how to make croutons,” which I fear is a sign of …
PANDEMANIA!: For many people, this strange moment has led to a quieter life. For some it’s a reflective, meditative time. For some, it’s immobilizing and depressing.
But not for those in the grip of pandemania!
They’re starting a new business! Cranking away on a novel! Learning a new language! Taking up guitar! Going out to run! And out to run again! They’ve ordered weights online! They’re up at dawn! Eager to Zoom at midnight! They’ve finished six giant jigsaw puzzles! Time for another run!
In other words, they’re dealing with anxiety their way.
CORONACRAVING: You never needed a bread box before. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, you have got to have one ASAP.
By you, I mean me. Otherwise I’ll have to keep turning stale bread into croutons.
Some of our coronacravings are the result of being home so much that we focus on what would make our confinement easier. My friend Kaarin just bought a vacuum cleaner. When she quizzed her Facebook friends on their pandemic purchases, the answers ranged from Ping-Pong table to ice cream maker to laptop stand.
“Underwear,” says a friend. “I find myself craving new underwear.”
Whatever the craving, indulging it is a way to create an illusion of control in the coronavirus chaos.
CORONACLOCK: On the coronaclock, it’s hard to tell what time it is. Time is standing still. Time is racing past. You can’t see what’s next. You remember how things were, but even that’s fading. There is today, only today. And in the quiet moments — when the running, cooking, cleaning and craving stop — we know that’s always been true.