Pandemic Genies that Will Never Go Back in the Bottle

Renee Lonner
5 min readFeb 11, 2022

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By Renee Burns Lonner

If You Give a Man a Tesla book cover

Introduction to Outtake #1

So, this essay was born of the same material as the book: the pandemic had created a simultaneous medical and mental health crisis and I was working long hours both with individual patients and employers across the country. I had always been a news junkie, but the pandemic took that to a whole new level — for most people, I would assume. In my “spare time,” the last thing I wanted to do was read something serious. Particularly deadly serious. All of us needed perspective and most of all, we needed to be able to laugh occasionally — or just smile.

In that vein, the best humor, for me, has always been what Jerry Seinfeld described as “about nothing.” That is, the funny things that happen in your home with a partner, with your children, in the market, waiting in line at the theater, anywhere. When your friends at a dinner say hilarious things and you’re thinking “why isn’t anyone recording this?” I so admire and enjoy the likes of David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, Whoppi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin, Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey, Joel Stein. I feel like I know Mr. Sedaris’ partner Hugh and that I have seen Nora Ephron’s neck (and it isn’t that bad — not bad enough for a whole book!). “Shouts and Murmurs” in The New Yorker is, of course, the first place I turn — that is after reading all the cartoons. During lockdown I caught up on the comedy shows that I had missed in the prior several decades.

Ultimately, the pandemic created, for me, the need for therapy of the literary kind. I re-read some of the humor essays I had written over the years, and they gave me the incentive to write more that were specific to the pandemic. When the vaccine was released and we started to venture out of the house more and interact again with people, I found humor in that transition — anxiety, of course, but also humor. In that period, one of the first things that made me chuckle was that we had witnessed the absolute collapse of clothing standards, such as they were — and that is the basis for the “Pandemic Genies” piece. I hope you enjoy it.

© Renee Burns Lonner 2021. All rights reserved.

Pandemic Genies That Will Never Go Back in the Bottle

So, we are possibly looking at the end of the intense phase of this seemingly never-ending pandemic and clearly some things that have left need to stay gone. First and foremost, number 1 for sure, maybe numbers 2 and 3 also — underwire bras. You know, the things that stretch oh-so-nicely with you as you reach-reach for that item on a top shelf at the market and then, with a jab to the ribs, tell you they have no intention of being so cooperative on the way down. Then you consider for a moment whether the aisle is empty so you can adjust the sucker or decide what the hell, you’ll never see these people again anyway.

How much do women hate these things? Plenty. Enough to now go anywhere wearing essentially underwear — oh sorry, athletic wear — that is as far away from those torture devices as you can get. Sports bras now pass for outer clothing. And forget jeans — they now pass for dress-up clothing. Hell, I see adults and kids wearing pajama bottoms out and about. If you’re 12 years old and your classroom and bedroom was the same room for 18 months, why the hell not? Ditto for the adults trying to conduct work on zoom.

Which leads to thinking about the possible end of real clothes — how many of you think they could return? In the same form? I’m counting hands. Almost two years of sweats and bedroom slippers. Remember when you said that you’d never wear any pants with an elastic waist? That it would make you look like your grandmother? You forgot? That was two years ago, the BPC period (Before Pandemic Craziness). Just for chuckles, open up your closet — no, not your t-shirt and sweats drawer, your actual closet. Look something like a museum to you? Except that a museum has less dust.

Next in the pandemic landfill — lotsa boundaries. Remember those? Let’s review for those who have forgotten, you are forgiven — work, home, breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekdays, weekends, just to name a few. By now some of us have come to seriously miss our commute time — the time between your leaving work and your arriving home that had provided a transition. Transitions are the spaces that make for boundaries — oh, I digress — or is it regress?

Have you lost the ability to quickly (or slowly) recall what day/date it is? Now? You know, the day of the week it is today (Groundhog Day was a more than adequate response for over 18 months, too bad and no revival for that play) and for bonus points, the date. Yeah, now all you can hope for is to get the month right. The pandemic may not have made us stupid (though that is possible) but it sure has made us disoriented. Psychologists can chuck that test as one of the psychotic/not crazy markers — or we should all be locked up. Oh, sorry again — we were for over a year.

Next on the hit list, after basic orientation to day and date, are social skills. This is a biggie. To be fair, some of you have found out that you don’t like people that much anyway and being ordered to stay away from them was the silver lining of the pandemic. Hooray for you, maybe you’ll come to call this period “the revenge of the introverts.” The rest of us need to rediscover how to be social, friendly, make eye contact, talk about things not pandemic-related. Social skills are somewhere between collateral damage from the pandemic and the final detritus of it.

Then there are the screens — if you are a parent, good luck ever trying to limit screen time again in your child’s minor life. That is done, dead, will never happen, are you kidding. Just try it and see what kind of creative and totally contemptuous answer you get from your kids — if, in fact, that answer is delivered verbally. For them, screens have been school, entertainment, staying connected with friends via games, tuning out parents who are trying to work, need I go on? The only thing we can hope for is that the kids are so sick of them by now that they actually want to interact with other humans (including parents and immediate family), now that the world is moving to somewhere between pandemic and god-only-knows what we call this period. We shall see.

And lastly, if we are really lucky, one genie that will not just go “poof” when we come out of this thing more fully is actual appreciation for people and for day-to-day pleasures in our lives — the “omg, I finally get to hug you and I don’t want to let go” genie needs to stay. But please, for heaven’s sake, no renaissance for underwire bras or long commutes to work!

© Renee Burns Lonner 2022. All rights reserved.

Visit me at reneelonner.com

You can buy my new book If You Give a Man a Tesla

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Renee Lonner

When she is not busy making fun of cultural crazes and institutions, she works as a management consultant for major corporations and a licensed psychotherapist.