Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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All Those Pandemic Impacts

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, May 10 / 21

Zack Gross

Some worrying trends are appearing as a result of the on-going pandemic.  I’m not thinking of the anti-maskers or political flip-floppers, but more about our own personal choices and habits.  Many of them may seem to be cause for laughter, but will we be able to overcome them once life gets back to “normal”?

I haven’t been to a professional barber in well over a year.  When the pandemic began, electric razors were out of stock for quite a while, just like toilet paper, but once they were available again, I ordered one online.  Upon arrival, I had no idea what to do with it as there were so many components for hair-cutting, beard-shaving, mustache-shaping and more.  So, I watched a few YouTube videos and felt ready to take on this daunting task. 

My wife is quite a serious person, but was reduced to fits of laughter when I displayed to her my handiwork.  She said that I looked like a mushroom, and proceeded to apply a makeover to what I thought had been pretty good work.  No question that the left side of my beard was noticeably shorter than the right side.  I admitted to her that I almost shaved the whole thing off as all the different sized guards looked pretty much the same.

Now, months later, she says that if the fear of COVID doesn’t keep people away from me, the unruly look of my hair will.  Time to get that razor and our scissors out again and give it another try!

Dressing properly has also gone by the board.  There’s the old joke about people participating in Zoom meetings dressed impressively from the belt up, but in pyjamas or worse below.  Some incidents have arisen where unwitting individuals have forgotten to turn their cameras off!  Many people are choosing their clothes for the day off the floor instead of out of the closet.  After all, who will notice?  Laundries are being done less and less often.

If you are going to let your hair go and you don’t have to dress for the office or the job, why bother to wash?  Thus, bathing is down, combing and brushing is perfunctory and only the obsessive are still using their lint removers.  As well, clothes don’t always fit right because we’re ordering more and more on-line, and therefore not trying them on before purchase – and returning them can be a hassle!

While the new “slouch lifestyle” may seem attractive at first, there is a connection to the impact of the pandemic on our mental health.  Most people, no matter how casual they may be, do enjoy dressing up once in a while, going for a haircut, having a bracing shower, looking their best and spending time with other folks.  While being alive is an incredible gift, without our active participation it can become boring, lonely and stressful.

Another habitual part of human life has been affected by COVID, as at least two Canadian provinces, BC and Quebec, have reported noticeable declines in their birth rates, by as much as 10%.  Financial uncertainty, stress, concern about personal health and lack of confidence in what the medical system can handle have contributed to this situation, as has a lack of privacy when children are always home.  In the US, current statistics point to a 4% decline in the birth rate over the past year.

Counselors are telling us that, with the arrival of warmer weather, we can find options to keep us mentally fit.  Getting out in nature and getting outdoor exercise are options.  A number of people I know have set themselves a target of visiting all our provincial parks, while others have taken up walking or jogging, gardening and sprucing up their yards.  Sales of cottages in tourist areas is up as people invest what normally would be their travel budget into having a summer home or family retreat.  The same is true of camper sales.  If you can’t take a far-away trip, you can at least enjoy a home on wheels right here.

For those of us who are less busy due to the pandemic, we realize the great value in just chatting with a neighbour or contacting family.  We may have ignored a person before as we hurried around in our busy lives, but now we have the time – and, hopefully, the inclination - to take an interest in their lives and their well-being.  For people living alone, a phone call, even a text, can mean so much more these days.

As the pandemic lifts, our bad habits will likely morph back into regular routines of washing, dressing and other personal grooming that comply with acceptability.  We want to look our best.  As COVID wanes, we will hopefully retain the value of considerateness we’ve learned.  We want to be our best, too.

Zack Gross is Board Chair of
The Marquis Project, a Manitoba-based international development organization.

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