Quarantine has reminded me how fun it is to talk on the phone

A photo illustration of a smiling woman on a phone call while holding a cup.
A photo illustration of a smiling woman on a phone call while holding a cup.
Photo illustration. Source: Westend61/Getty Images

My grandparents used to make spontaneous phone calls. They were also people who stopped by the neighbors’ house unannounced — something I can’t imagine anyone I know actually doing. Whenever I read a magazine offering tips for “unexpected guests” like “Always have frozen cookie dough in the freezer in case of company,” I think, “I cannot fathom a universe in which my friends would do this.”

But I’ve seen us all become a lot more grandparent-esque in the past couple months in our communication styles. Like my grandfather, to whom it didn’t seem to occur that someone would ever be…


Why it’s possible to feel nostalgic for something that’s terrible and sad

Illustrations courtesy of the author

In Regular Times, walking home through the East Village on the first warm evening of spring would be like swimming upstream. Groups of people would drink spritzes and rosés in the open-air bars on St. Mark’s Place. My neighborhood would normally be a noisy, multi-block fashion show of tourists and NYU students debuting their warm-weather ensembles.

But last week I took a walk around the East Village on a lovely, springy night and heard birds and the rustle of trees (debuting their new green leaves). It felt romantic even though, or maybe because, I was alone. It was nice to…


The best part of my apartment was always coming back from outside

Illustrations courtesy of the author.

I bought my canary-yellow bar cart a little over a year ago, during a time when my days looked fairly similar to how they do now: I was home for weeks on end, rarely venturing outside.

I’d devoted a month to the project of freezing my eggs, a decision I made after my last breakup, and the recovery from the egg-harvesting procedure involved a lot of sitting on my couch. I was in pain and felt dizzy, so it didn’t feel safe to stray very far.

I’m not a homebody; it’s unusual for me to spend that much time indoors…


Effortless interactions are hard when everyone is wearing a mask

Illustrations courtesy of the author.

At my local wine shop the other day, I clumsily followed the list of procedures to buy a bottle of wine: Present the bottle to the cashier; sanitize hands before swiping card; use a sanitized pen to sign; put the pen in the “used” jar; bag your own bottle. “Too many rules!” I exclaimed, laughing at myself. The cashier gave me a stern look and grimly reprimanded, “These rules are very important.”

Just two months ago, I was buying wine from that same cashier and he let me use a paint pen to write a birthday message for my friend…


When we don’t have the big plans to look forward to, it’s time to focus on the small pleasures

Illustrations courtesy of the author.

This reminds me of ending a relationship. There’s always that moment after a split when you look over your calendar and realize how many plans aren’t actually going to happen. There’s the concert we won’t be attending together at the end of the month. There’s the weekend trip we can’t refund. There’s the movie coming out that we’d been looking forward to before we stopped being a “we.”

In the harsh moment when you realize that the year will look very different than you imagined, the calendar looks sad and empty. The year suddenly seems endless, hazy, and full of…


Turns out, having a sense of certainty about the future was always a luxury

Illustrations: Mari Andrew

Recently I watched a Broad City episode in which people were lined up outside a bakery for a macaron/churro pastry combo. It made me laugh — over-the-top pastry trends have been such a thing in New York City for the past few decades — but the scene also felt jarring. I realized I was worrying for everyone standing in line: They weren’t respecting social distancing!

“Imagine going out without a mask,” I think, only to remember that I was doing that last month. “Imagine not sanitizing your hands when you walk through the door.” …

Things I Miss

My phobia of flying has been replaced by something bigger

Illustrations by Mari Andrew

In my old New York City life, the one that no longer exists, I used to watch planes fly one by one, in a stoic parade on their way to JFK Airport. I’d wonder about the people inside: some going home, some landing in a foreign place, some who would soon be sitting at a deathbed, some about to get too drunk a wedding, some who’d sleep alone in a hotel on a lonely business trip.

I miss doing that. Now, when I see the occasional plane (I counted only three yesterday), my shoulders tighten. Nobody on that plane gracefully…

Great Escape

An illustrated guide to being somewhere else when you can’t be somewhere else

Illustrations courtesy of author.

Even New York’s die-hard defenders want to flee the city come summer. When popsicle-colored dreams of warm afternoons watching kids run through gushing fire hydrants fade, we’re left with all the obligations and dress codes of regular life — plus the added challenge of enduring tropical subway stations. An air conditioner always breaks, a promise of summer love goes flat like a soda left out in the sun, ambitious walks home are overwhelmed by packs of tourists and layers of sirens and an unexpected rainstorm. …

But have you tried Coffee Meets Bagel?, married friends suggest when I complain about the bleak landscape of online dating. There are good men out there, the internet assures me after yet another male artist I trusted with my admiration has come out as a sexual predator. Call your representatives, my phone reminds me, and my brain reacts, “Sure, one more time,” only to mentally step back and realize it hasn’t even been a year of phone calls yet.

Mari Andrew

Author of Am I There Yet? www.bymariandrew.com

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