I was overcome with guilt after my family sent me a box of 200 surgical masks from Hong Kong

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Illustration: Gisella Tan

The box sat on my dining table for days with the neat rows of 200 disposable surgical masks tucked away, unused. They had survived the 6,890-mile trip from Hong Kong to my apartment in San Francisco, where I had holed up since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. Going downstairs to pick up the package was the first time I had left my apartment in two weeks.

My face mask anxiety had rendered me housebound for most of March. I had a steadfast belief in the efficacy of masks, entrenched since SARS swept through my hometown when I was six years old. Like many others, I diligently masked up every flu season, graduating from pastel pink masks for children to baby blue adult-sized ones. But wading through a deadly pandemic as an Asian woman living in the United States complicated my feelings toward something so familiar and culturally intimate. The escalating number of racially motivated attacks against Asians terrorized my imagination. …


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Photo by Jake Bradley on Unsplash

Corona beer — an inoffensive pale lager whose name, unfortunately, coincides with a deadly disease — might not survive the coronavirus.

Since I began adjusting to our new stay-at-home reality in early March, I’ve questioned the stupidity of people every time I’ve scrolled through Twitter, read the news, or watched a recap of yet another nonsensical press conference.

I was subsequently amused but unfazed by photos showing stocked shelves of Corona six-packs in otherwise entirely empty beer aisles. …


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Source: Victoria’s Secret

Victoria’s Secret — the U.S.’s largest lingerie retailer and brand equivalent of cool (but mean and intimidating) teen girls — might not survive the coronavirus.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve spent most of March in pajamas, even on the rare occasion when I visited the grocery store. I’m in the majority here — Twitter users have been hilariously commenting on the newfound liberation of going bra-free while social distancing. Although the LA Times is suggesting it’s time to “dress like adults,” we all know that coworkers on Zoom will only see above our shoulders.

Victoria’s Secret has struggled to boost sales amongst a tsunami of bad PR and analysts’ skepticism about the brand’s relevance in the #MeToo era in recent years. The impact of the coronavirus crisis on consumer behavior could accelerate the company’s demise. …


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Photo by Eaters Collective on Unsplash

Yelp — the verb-inspiring app that has transformed how we eat, shop, and approach businesses in general — might not survive the coronavirus.

When restaurants and bars closed last month, I didn’t immediately consider how the tech industry would be impacted. After all, Yelp, a quintessential San Francisco tech behemoth, saw $1 billion in revenue in 2019.

Yet, when Yelp recently announced its mass layoffs, I wasn’t surprised, considering how its business model relies on advertising dollars from brick-and-mortar retailers — many of which are closed or struggling themselves.

Despite the government’s mixed messages, the end of the coronavirus lockdowns seems unlikely to manifest in the next few weeks. As Yelp’s revenue stream dwindled and bad PR stories exacerbate the restaurant industry’s existing disillusionment towards the company, will the coronavirus crisis mark its end? …


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Source: Zoom

Zoom — the most popular video conferencing software in our pandemic age — might not survive the coronavirus.

This might come as a surprise, considering Zoom’s meteoric rise to become the social interaction tool of choice as a quarter of the world’s population stays home. Despite being relatively unknown compared to verb-inspiring behemoths like Skype and FaceTime, Zoom has been embraced for social encounters from work calls to remote classrooms to family hangouts.

Last weekend, my college friend and I scheduled a virtual happy hour. A few minutes before our planned chat, she texted me: Do you have Zoom?

Nope, I replied. …


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Photo by Krists Luhaers on Unsplash

AMC Theatres — the biggest theatre chain in the world — might not survive the coronavirus.

The last time I visited the movie theatre regularly was the fall of 2017, courtesy of my too-good-to-be-true MoviePass subscription. After MoviePass’s collapse, I reverted back to the convenience of at-home streaming, enjoying movies and shows without the distraction of people whispering, texting, and chewing popcorn.

Unlike devoted Marvel or Star Wars fans who head to cinemas to avoid spoilers and join the mass commentary, I am content with waiting for movies to be uploaded on streaming platforms. Sure, Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime don’t have the latest blockbusters, but their original programming, from Tiger King to Game of Thrones, frequently leads cultural conversations on par with new releases in theatres. …


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Source: Museum of Ice Cream

The Museum of Ice Cream — the pinnacle of younger generations’ frothy “experience economy” — might not survive the coronavirus.

If you’re unfamiliar with the cultural phenomenon of MOIC, Instagram probably isn’t your go-to social media platform. Contrary to its name, MOIC is not a museum, nor is there a strong relationship to the sweet dessert. Instead, it’s a photoshoot-friendly exhibit — multi-sensory, interactive, hyper-visual — consisting of brightly-colored rooms with technicolor popsicles, hanging bananas, or the public’s favorite: a giant pool of sprinkles.

When MOIC launched in New York City as a summer pop-up in 2016, it sold more than 300,000 tickets — worth around $5.4 million — in its first five days. Since then, it has landed a permanent location in San Francisco and expanded its NYC venue to a 25,000-square-foot space. The “Instagram aesthetic” has become synonymous with MOIC’s millennial pink walls and quirky backdrops; after all, it was a “spectacle worthy of the finest Instagram filter.” …


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Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Last weekend, over our fourth canned-tomatoes-with-penne meal of the week, I began complaining to my partner about the lack of fresh vegetables in our diet.

Our last grocery run was in early March. Though the Caesar salad kits had long since been devoured, we didn’t want to take the risk and go grocery shopping. Our freezer was still jam-packed with frozen pizza.

As I described salivating over the thought of an avocado-tomato salad, the guilt hit me. Our food supplies were plentiful — just boring. …


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Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

In the past week, there has been a steady stream of lackadaisical pedestrians and cars outside my apartment. My partner and I have made a game out of guessing the places where people are going.

It’s been 11 days since San Francisco’s mayor issued a shelter-in-place order. Yesterday, to discourage outdoor gatherings, the city closed parking lots for several beloved public beaches and parks. Given the copious social media posts last weekend showing crowded beaches, jam-packed hiking trails, and picnic gatherings in parks, clamping down on public congregations is logical.

223 million people in 24 states, 74 counties, 14 cities, and 1 territory have been urged to stay home. Although many are abiding by our local and state governments’ recommendations, others are not. It’s only a matter of time before we see more drastic and severe restrictions to help flatten the curve. …


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Photo by visuals on Unsplash

When Parasite won the Academy Award for Best Picture in February, my family in Hong Kong was unimpressed.

“It’s like any other Korean drama,” they scoffed over a dozen messages in our family Whatsapp group.

I attempted to explain how groundbreaking it was for a foreign-language film set in another country to beat contenders that were love letters to the American film industry. …

About

Gisella Tan

I write about Gen Z, marketing, Hong Kong, and my immigrant identity. Email: gisellatanx@gmail.com

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