It comes up often, on dating apps, during catch-ups with my friends. The well-meaning but low-key annoying, “have you picked up any hobbies during quarantine?” And if you ask me, it’s got to stop.
If you did pick up a hobby, I mean this with no trace of disdain, that is great for you. It truly is. You took an opportune moment—or, rather, many prolonged moments of us sitting at home without much social interaction—and turned that into something productive and, hopefully, fulfilling. By all means, brag about those things on FaceTime dates as much as you want. You’ve earned it.
I, too, thought I might develop a hobby during this time. When I decamped to my parents’ house on Long Island for three months, I brought with me my cross-stitching equipment, thinking I would cross-stitch my friends snarky quotes or even rap lyrics (original, I know). Who knows, maybe that could even turn into an Etsy shop. Or perhaps, with endless hours at home, I might finally learn how to cook beyond my usual dinner of baking one piece of salmon or boiling some pasta.
I laugh now at how naive I was. How foolish.
In reality, the only crafting I did was to sew myself one (1) face mask out of my mom’s old curtains, back when there was a nationwide shortage of PPE and brands hadn’t yet begun selling their own fashionable face masks. (Predictably, the one I made was hideous, and the second I could purchase an aesthetically pleasing face covering, my curtain mask went straight in the trash.) And as far as cooking? Hah. I tried to make whipped coffee one time, and failed at it because I didn’t have a hand whisk (just a blender) which pulverized the coffee into a sort of coffee smoothie, a far cry from the dainty whipped soft serve creation I was seeing on Instagram stories.
So no, random guy from Hinge, I don’t have any new hobbies in quarantine, thank you very much. I wake up, work from my laptop, do a 40-minute home workout (that’s literally all I can muddle through) just so my butt doesn’t fall off from overuse (can you get bed sores from sitting on your couch?). Then I’ll watch Netflix and/or read a book, and try to lull myself to sleep for 8 hours.
And you know what? I’m not alone, dammit. A survey of 750 Americans (small sample size, I know) in April found that watching TV and reading were the top two ways people passed the time in the pandemic. But I don’t think that’s the answer people want when they ask you this, is it? It almost feels too obvious. I’m watching a lot of Netflix. Isn’t everyone else? I’m also breathing, it’s one of my favorite pastimes.
Now, it’s not that I’m insecure about my interests. I will lecture you on the intricacies of the Real Housewives universe into the ground (and then write an essay about it). I enjoy my hobbies, as low-brow as they are, but I like them enough to be honest with them and admit that they are not exactly what you’d call exciting. That said, if I did go on a date with someone who could hold their own in an argument over what really went down between Carole and Bethenny, I would probably marry them.
Maybe the problem is that, even before the pandemic, I didn’t have many hobbies. I went to brunch. I’d go out to bars. To call those “hobbies” would be probably a little alarming.
Technically all a hobby is is “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure”. So, okay, I’ve got activities. The other things I like to do—go down true crime rabbit holes, tweet, became parts of my job (the millennial allure of starting a podcast proved too hard to resist). So maybe it’s my fault for getting on the capitalist hamster wheel of turning things you love into side hustles. And maybe I just have low self-esteem because I don’t think my hobbies are that interesting. But they are also not new! I’ve been watching too much trashy reality TV since Flavor of Love.
Maybe a slight rewording is in order: just ask what shows someone has watched lately. It’s way more universal than asking if they’ve recently taken up gardening, or even read a book. It’s also a lot more useful than simply asking “what’s new?” (I’ll answer for everyone: nothing. Nothing at all is new.)
I remember when, pre-pandemic, we would all hem and haw with grandiose visions of what we could accomplish if we simply had more time. Turns out it was never really about having more hours in the day, and that people really do make the time for the things they care about. I guess I care about watching Real Housewives, and should, as Ramona would say, own it.
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