Once upon a time, the concept of leaving your house and actually doing something — anything — seemed absurd. Sure, we used to be well-versed in the art of rallying all weekend, our false lashes hanging on for dear life. But once the pandemic hit and everyone and everything shut down, we got realllll comfortable with the fact that not going anywhere was kinda… nice?
So, for over a year we’ve all just been sitting inside with our vibrators, ordering way too much food and begging our exes not to change their Netflix passwords. Other than that week or so when the world seemingly discovered Zoom and you had to go to virtual happy hours with everyone you know, plans were just a far-off, abstract idea. We agreed to anything because honestly, it wasn’t like it was actually going to happen.
Except now that more and more people are getting vaccinated, seeing friends and family once again is becoming a reality. Which is great… except for the fact that you made a lot of bullsh*t plans with a lot of bullsh*t people that you have absolutely no intention on keeping. Here’s what you agreed to, and a few ideas for getting out of this mess:
10. Drinks With Your Coworkers
For over a year you’ve been working on your couch, but after the company-wide email went out saying everyone was expected back in the office, the invites started rolling in. Happy Hour! Team Building! Draaaaanks! Whether you like your coworkers or they’re pesky annoyances you try to forget exist after you log off at 5pm, the barrage of “let’s go out after work” invites are a given as soon as the world opens back up. Back when you replied to those requests while sitting at home with acne cream on your face, it didn’t feel like they would actually happen. But now that the time is here here, you’re realizing you might actually have to interact outside of work with these people after not physically seeing them for over 12 months.
How To Get Out Of It: You can’t really. You work together. You sh*t in the same room. You can put it off as long as possible, but eventually, you’ll have to give in and go out with them. Sure it sucks, but out of all the “plans” you made, it’s the least offensive. Just make sure to schedule it on a day you have a time restraint (“one drink because I have to help my neighbor? with her printer??”) so you can down your vodka soda and peace TF out ASAP. It’s that or quit your job, so like, the choice is yours.
9. Brunch With Your Frenemies
Did you love them pre-covid but after seeing their idiotic IG posts for the past year you’re over them, or have they always been a little sh*tty? Chances are you have a few toxic friendships that need to be scrubbed, but that didn’t stop you from making “when the pandemic is over” plans with those a-holes. Now that things are “normal,” they expect you to join them for carbs and complaining. It’s not that you hate them, it’s just that you realized life was maybe better without them?
How To Get Out Of It: Unless you’re ready to cut this group loose, they’ll eventually guilt you into brunching. Wear your biggest sunnies so they can’t see your eye rolls and chose a spot with bottomless mimosas. If you’re going to endure a few hours with the friends you low-key despise, you might as well be wasted for it.
8. Dinner With That One Annoying Couple
Whether you’re coupled up or expected to third wheel, you keep getting invites from that one couple you can’t seem to shake. Perhaps they’re college friends who turned corporate or your friend and her obnoxious boyfriend, but the duo just won’t take the hint that the idea of breaking bread with them makes you want to die. Sure, you could just keep bailing, but if there’s any part of you that wants/needs to keep that relationship afloat, you know it’s only a matter of time before they choose a pretentious restaurant and expect you to give them a bite of your entree.
How To Get Out Of It: It’s honestly kind of embarrassing that they haven’t figured out you don’t want to hang, but that’s a prime example of why they’re so frustrating to be around. Still, if they’re true friends who turned lame, a coworker you can’t ignore, or a pal you love with a partner you hate, you don’t want to totally jeopardize things. Luckily, claiming to be on a strict diet might be the key to getting out of a meal. Say you’re working with your doctor and can’t eat X, Y, and Z, so dinner is out. Promise to reconnect once your cholesterol (wink) is at a healthy level (wink, wink), and just make sure not to post your drunchie food the next time you have a fry craving.
7. Partying With Your Old High School Pals
When you were stuck in your tiny apartment with no one to talk to other than your house plants, you found yourself reconnecting with your old friends from school. Ancient pictures resurfaced, memes were sent, and after your ten-year high school reunion got canceled, you all agreed that you needed to get together ASAP. Now that ASAP is here, you realize you’d rather leave the past in the past and keep those relationships where they belong: in high school.
How To Get Out Of It: Unless you live in your hometown (my condolences), timing and scheduling are on your side here. I mean, what are the odds that all of you will agree on a weekend, book flights, and get together? Slim. So the only real option is to meet up around the holidays, but after a year of family events were canceled, your parents are officially your “get out of plans without looking like a total dick” card. Say you’d love to get together and then once you’re in town, throw your family under the bus with “my mom keeps guilting me” or “grandma forgot to tell us she was coming by for dinner.” It sucks but, you know, they’re family *humble shrug.*
6. Coffee With Your Internet Friend
Whether she’s a friend of a friend who slid into your DMs or you connected in a Facebook group and started chatting, you’ve officially landed yourself an internet pal. One thing led to another and a few casual conversations became a passing plan of meeting up IRL after Covid. Which means you agreed to go awkwardly hang out with a stranger whose messages you sometimes ignore because the idea of actually being able to leave your house someday sounded less ludicrous than going on a platonic first date with a social media rando.
How To Get Out Of It: It really sucks to be ghosted, but that’s the beauty of social media. If the person has no ties to you, stop answering/opening their messages or even go so far as to block them. There’s probably a reason you don’t actually want to meet up with them. If, however, they run in your circle or there’s the possibility of seeing them again, you might want to be a little less bitchy. Keep putting off the actual coffee date until they get the hint, or destroy their spirit and tell them you’re not that into an IRL relationship with them. The truth hurts, but at least then they’ll stop sending you TikToks you’ve already seen.
5. Shopping With An Acquaintance
Is she a friend? Sort of. Do you know her middle name? No. Do you genuinely enjoy spending time with her? Also no. But again, she’s sort of a friend and somehow you both landed on the idea of getting together to go shopping. Like, in public. Back when you agreed to the idea, the thought of perusing shelves instead of Amazon sounded so absurd, you said yes without thinking because it wasn’t like it was ever going to happen. But alas, stores are open, you’re both vaccinated, and she’s trying to schedule a time to get together. Even though you’ve never hung out with her 1-on-1 (and never really had the desire to TBH), she seems determined to spend an afternoon shuffling around stores and making forced small talk.
How To Get Out Of It: This is a tricky one. On one hand, you don’t want to go shopping with this person. On the other hand, ghosting feels like a non-option, especially if they’re friends with your other friends. Say you’re trying to save money, turn the shopping date into drinks, and drown out the awkwardness with shots and sh*t-talking. Everyone knows the pathway to a new bond is paved with bottom-shelf liquor and newfound mutual hatred.
4. Manis With Your Mother-In-Law
It’s been a long year, but one of the very few perks was getting out of those obligations with the in-laws. Unless you love the family you married into (liar), the thought of spending some extended 1-on-1 time with your MIL is probably causing you some serious angst. You’d humor her calls and texts and gushed about how you couldn’t wait to get together with her, but now that she’s vaccinated, it’s clear this wasn’t idle chitchat. She’s sending you nail design Pinterest boards, photos of cats in salon chairs, and is continuously asking your S.O. why you won’t call her back. Did you not get her seven-minute voicemail?
How To Get Out Of It: I don’t think there’s anything worse than getting your nails done with someone you don’t like chatting with. You’re just sitting there for a very extended period of time with nothing to do other than talk. You can’t bring a book or scroll social without looking like an asshole, but you’re 100% certain you’ll run out of stuff to talk about before the clippers even come out. The only way to get out of this is to say you’re not visiting the salon due to health concerns (Mold? Germs? Covid still? You decide), and would rather just paint your nails the next time you get together. Grab a few bottles of the fastest dry polish you can find and tell you S.O. to stay in the room while you give your MIL the sloppiest mani ever. She’ll feel like she’s getting that mother-daughter bonding moment and as long as you have some polish remover to get rid of the lime green mess she made on your hand, you’ll be set.
3. The Cross-Country Visit To See The Friend You Talk To Once A Year
Around the time when everyone was Zooming each other for happy hours, game nights, and *gasp* virtual bachelorette parties, you casually reconnected with an old friend who went MIA after moving away post-college. When she left for work (or was it to follow her boyfriend’s work? Wait, does she still have a boyfriend?) you both promised to keep in touch, but that quickly went to sh*t when real life got in the way. With covid, however, you had the chance to drunkenly DM, and now she’s wondering when you’re going to come see her and her new baby, whose name is escaping you at the moment.
How To Get Out Of It: There’s nothing worse than being roped into an expensive trip you don’t actually want to take (looking at you, bridal showers, weddings, and baptisms), but luckily, this one is fairly easy to get out of. There’s a good chance she doesn’t actually expect you to pack a bag and take a four-hour flight to see her, but if she does, hit her with a “times are hard, sh*t is expensive.” It’s not technically a lie because last I checked, times are hard and sh*t is expensive. If that doesn’t work, offer to host her at your home instead, and hope to God she too, decides to flake.
2. Toxic Weekend Retreat With Your Estranged Family
Awww! Your aunts, uncles, and cousins were so sad you didn’t see them this year, but they get it! You’re just a liberal sheep who believes in science. Even though they all masklessly got together numerous times, you were easily able to opt out. Now that you’re vaccinated and slowly starting to post bar pics on Insta, your family is making it clear that they’re dying to see you so they can ask you probing questions, question the validity of your job, and gaslight you into oblivion. You know, like the good old days!
How To Get Out Of It: Extended family is super tricky because, on one hand, they’re family. But on the other hand, you disagree with them about everything, and you honestly don’t even know how to spell half of their names. The problem is, no matter how sh*tty sitting around a cabin with people who still call you “kiddo” sounds, you kind of have to go unless you want to
get written out of the will look like a dick. The only way to get out of it is to fake a work trip or wedding and make it clear how sad you are to be missing the big reunion. Sure they’ll talk sh*t about you, but what else is new?
1. Accomplishing Those Lofty Personal Quarantine Goals
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Sure, you made a lot of plans with a lot of people during the pandemic, but what about the plans you made for yourself? You know, the mission to really concentrate on your health during quarantine? Or what about the novel you were going to write? Or that new job you were going to get? Weren’t you supposed to have abs by now? You made a lot of promises to yourself and now that the excessive amount of “you time” is coming to an end, it’s clear: You didn’t accomplish sh*t.
How To Get Out Of It: Letting yourself down is the worst, but if you think about it really hard, did you actually think anything was going to change? I mean, after doing that ab video one time, did you ever try it again? And you went on LinkedIn once, but quickly left after seeing all the thirsty DMs from old men wanting to ~connect.~ Sure, you bought a lot of cute note pads to write in, but did inspiration ever strike? Nope. And while everyone else might not understand, at least you can cut yourself some slack for flaking.
Images: Autri Taheri / Unsplash; Giphy (9); betches / Instagram
We’re a few weeks shy of the one year anniversary of the world shutting down. New normals include freezing next to a heater while trying to enjoy dinner in the street of Soho, wearing a mask in public (working those sexy eyes), and redefining Netflix and chill with quarantine and social distancing. Jokes aside, we’ve seen loss, struggle, and a whole lotta hope as we do our part to flatten the curve. Trust me, I’d kill right now to be playing games of flip cup with strangers at a dive bar in the Lower East Side, or be so disgustingly close in a crowd at a concert screaming for an encore. But until then, emotions are running high, and it’s a really heavy vibe right now—especially on social media. What once was a highlight reel where you’d post trips, milestones, and celebrations has now become a place for shaming and judgment. It’s reached the point where people are actually afraid to post what they’re doing during the pandemic—so much so that they are opting to live their life off of social media. Hence, the rise of secret trips.
I’ve seen the term “secret trips” used among millennials since COVID-19 hit. It’s a pretty self-explanatory term, but let’s define it anyway: taking a trip of any kind during the pandemic that isn’t shared with friends, family, or posted on social media to avoid judgment for traveling during a pandemic. Travel site Well Traveled Club found that more than 90% of their members were planning a multi-night trip in the height of the pandemic and were not planning to share it online because of fear of being shamed for traveling.
CDC guidelines state, “Travel can increase your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.” With that being said, I can see why some people want to keep their travel adventures a secret.
This is the start of our investigation: What are “Secret Trips” and why are they even a thing? Lucky for you, I’m an unofficial social media FBI agent (did I say unofficial?), so I did some digging and interviewed Secret Trip-goers, then spoke to a licensed psychologist and a physician. Here’s what they had to say.
The LA To New York Wanderlust
Nick and his wife Danielle are Los Angeles residents, where, as of December 2020, there were too many bodies for mortuaries and hospitals to handle. The couple have been traveling since the summer. They started small, beginning back in May, when they would escape their quarantine routine and drive two hours to Santa Barbara for the weekend. At the time, Los Angeles was starting to open hiking trails and takeout for restaurants, though the county was not promoting traveling long distances away from home, instead urging residents in a public order, “With this virus, we are safer at home.”
Nick tells me, “Santa Barbara was truly an escape—it was almost like COVID didn’t exist there and was super relaxed with restrictions.” After spending the entire summer on these drives, the couple decided to fly cross-country to New York City for a few weeks. One hot spot to another, right? Nick and Danielle were living their best Bonnie and Clyde lives, and the fact that what they were doing was not recommended and frowned upon only made it more enticing.
“Taking the risk and bending the rules is exhilarating sometimes. We were doing this for selfish reasons, and we know that. But on the other side of things, when times are grim, people need a break. Being as safe as possible, but trying to find the little joys where possible,” he tells me. Regarding the decision to keep it on the DL, he explains, “People didn’t need to know what we were up to, this was just for us.” While sparks were flying for their secret escapades, the couple did take tests before and after traveling (they flew Delta with middle seats blocked), and neither have contracted the virus.
The CDC notes that while “viruses other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes”, getting on a flight involves spending time inside the airport, in security lines and at the terminal, where social distancing may be difficult, and which can put travelers at risk of exposure to the virus from respiratory droplets and frequently touched surfaces.
And with vaccine rollouts taking place all over the country, people are only feeling more comfortable getting TF out. In the eyes of physicians like Meagan Vermeulen, MD, FAAFP, though, “Dr. Fauci put this into perspective very well during a CNN Town Hall on COVID yesterday when he stated, ‘getting vaccinated is not a free reign to travel.’” Dr. Vermeulen is the founding program director of the Inspira Family Medicine Residency Program at Mullica Hill and assistant professor of Family Medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.
Dr. Vermeulen believes that Dr. Fauci’s insights are true for a few reasons. “One, it takes about 10-14 days after your second dose to achieve full effectiveness, which is 95-95% reduction in the likelihood that you will become ill from COVID-19. Two, and this is the part that’s tricky, we don’t know how likely someone who is vaccinated is to pass the virus to people who aren’t fully vaccinated or vaccinated at all. There are studies going on right now to compare how much the virus ‘hangs out’ in the noses of people who have been vaccinated versus those who have not been vaccinated; this will help scientists figure out how well the vaccine works,” she explains.
While a trip to Tulum with your group of friends shouldn’t be on the table, a small getaway with your pod (people you live with or have close, exclusive contact with) is your best bet if you’re going to do it. If you have to get away, Dr. Vermeulen says, “Plan a different kind of travel. Rent an Airbnb with an excellent safety/cleaning rating. Spend the budget you would on that trip on an upscale hotel that you would normally go to for one or two nights as a mini-get away. It’s not the big getaway you want, but it’s still luxe and safe.”
The Vermont Cabin In The Woods
Caitlin is a Brooklynite who has been alone in her studio apartment for most of quarantine. With three friends, the group drove six hours north to Stowe, Vermont for a New Year’s skiing adventure for eight nights.
Unlike most states, Vermont has very strict mandates—including being required to show a negative COVID test result whenever asked. “Before arriving in Vermont, we needed to sign a waiver with our Airbnb host stating we agreed to follow state mandates about traveling, which included either a 14-day quarantine before travel or a 7-day quarantine, followed by a negative PCR test in your home state,” Caitlin explains.
With every meal home cooked, packed lunches for the slopes, and precautions more than followed, Caitlin, a regularly active Instagram connoisseur, chose not to share her snowy adventure with her followers.
“I feel like there are too many judgmental eyes out there. In these people’s eyes, there is no right way to live your life during the pandemic unless it fits their mold,” she tells me. “The biggest reason I took this trip was because I needed a mental health break. I needed to get away from work, my tiny apartment, and the stresses of the holidays away from my family. The last thing I wanted was a naysayer sliding into my DMs and lecturing me about how ‘frivolous’ my mental health break was to them.”
I won’t lecture you, but the next time you go on judging someone IRL or on social media, think about context. It’s important, because you know what happens when you assume. Do you know all aspects of someone’s story before jumping to conclusions? And more importantly, maybe take a look in the mirror. Unless you’re sitting pretty at home, which you have literally not left once in the last 11 months, then continue riding on your high horse.
The Miami Escape
Jake flew down to Miami a couple times during 2020 from New York City to spend time with his brother, making sure to do the proper pre- and post- quarantining and wearing masks at all times. “We avoided crowded places, which was hard, to be honest. Most businesses were mildly busy,” he says.
Choosing to not share on social media because of potential backlash, Jake surprisingly found a new perspective on his trip. “Not sharing my experience on social media has also made me enjoy the moment and be more present,” he tells me. “I used my phone way less and just truthfully enjoyed my time with my brother. We actually had meaningful conversations throughout our stay and connected on a level we haven’t experienced in a very long time.”
Whether on social media or IRL, he’s not going to let naysayers dictate how he should be living his life. Jake states, “People are sick of being kept from living a ‘normal’ life, so when they see others breaking the ‘mold,’ they’ll retaliate with hate. It’s human nature. We’re all free and entitled to live life however we see fit.”
The Psychologist Has Thoughts
Dr. Joanna Petrides, a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine who specializes in anxiety and human behavior, tells me, “Using shame to control the behaviors of others is nothing new. When people experience fear or uncertainty, they seek out control and one way to do so is assumed to be shaming someone into changing their mind. Shame has never been an effective behavior change approach.”
“As we can see from our travelers, if individuals feel what they are doing is right for them, they will find a way to still do it but circumvent the pressure of shame from others. So it’s best to spare the shame and practice active listening to understand where the other person is coming from,” she adds.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for quarantining in the pandemic. Someone who lives alone in a small studio apartment is having a vastly different experience than someone who is home with their family of five. And honestly, before you judge, just take an assessment of your past behavior for the past 11 months. You may have dined at a restaurant, met up with friends not in your household, or celebrated the holidays with your family. You probably assured yourself you were being safe, right?
“We tend to use a different ‘yardstick’ when we are assessing our choices versus someone else’s choices. When we make a decision for ourselves we are privy to all the thought and planning that went into the decision,” Dr. Petrides explains. “However, when we look at someone else we don’t have access to their inner thoughts and only use the surface information that is available to us. This leaves a lot of room for speculation and judgment without understanding or compassion. It’s best to hold judgment until you know the full story”.
It doesn’t matter if you’re posting on social media or not, just please be smart. Don’t go running to a club or jetting off to a festival in Tulum as soon as you get your vaccine. Keep wearing your mask, use hand sanitizer, keep your social interactions limited, and lastly—just be nice! This last year has been a sink or swim situation for many, (and yes, I’m getting sappy on your asses) but a smile or calling an old friend is more valuable than you know these days.
Images: Ranta Images/Shutterstock
‘Tis the season to get engaged, amiright? Just about two weeks ago, my fiancé (still feels weird typing that) proposed to me and I’ve been over the moon ever since. I’ve had more people reach out to me in this short time period than I have in my entire life combined, and while most of the interactions are super fun and positive, there are some repeated questions popping up that are simply getting on my nerves. While most of these questions are asked innocently, they’ve gotten old quickly, so here’s the 101 on questions to *please* stop asking newly engaged couples.
1. When And Where Is The Wedding?
Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about the wedding too. I’ve been dreaming about this sh*t since I was a little girl. That being said, it’s almost mind-boggling how many people have asked me WHEN the wedding is. Ma’am, I got engaged one week ago. If you think in seven days’ time I toured multiple venues, picked the venue and booked it, you’re buggin. What’s even more fun is when I say “I’m not sure yet” and it’s followed up with a, “well you should really get on that because weddings are likeeee booking into 2022“. Thank you, I know. Your added stress is not necessary, especially when you’re just stating the painfully obvious. Sorry if this sounds cold, but on behalf of all the newly engaged people out there, it had to be said.
2. Are You Stressed About COVID-19 Impacting Your Wedding?
Short answer, DUH. Given the uncertainty of the virus, I’m absolutely nervous about COVID-19 impacting my wedding. That being said, I find this question oddly irritating. As someone who had the virus myself, there are so many more important things to worry about being impacted by COVID-19 than a giant party. I’m nervous for my family, my friends, my loved ones, our world as a whole. While I’m less worried about the virus impacting my wedding day and more overwhelmed that it will result in me getting married two to three years from now, it feels like a slightly obnoxious inquiry. If COVID-19 doesn’t make you stressed, you scare me.
3. Who Is in Your Bridal Party?
There are two parts to this question. It typically starts with, “So, who’s going to be your Maid of Honor???” followed by, “Actually, who is in your bridal party in general?” When my family asks me this question, I’m cool with it. They’ve watched me grow up, they know my friends well, and they are genuinely curious. The problem is when *others* ask. If I haven’t asked my bridesmaids yet, why would I tell YOU who they’re going to be? Half the people asking are subtly hoping to be in the bridal party and the other half are asking just to be nosy and get the scoop. This question makes me super uncomfortable because I’d never want someone to feel left out, but at the end of the day, it’s my business and my business only.
4. Are You Going on a Diet? Are You Getting a Personal Trainer?
This is perhaps my LEAST favorite question of all because it’s just genuinely rude. I’ve been a bit taken aback by the amount of people who have asked me this, because I just can’t wrap my head around thinking it’s appropriate. To be honest, I don’t know the answer. If I decide that I want to tone my arms for my dream dress, maybe I will. If I decide I want to change the way I eat for health and wellness purposes, maybe I will. That being said, it will most certainly not be influenced by anyone else trying to pressure me to do so. This question is tacky and unnecessary and I know my fellow fiancé(e)s out there will agree.
5. So Like, How Much Was Your Ring?
On the theme of tacky… this question is just beyond me. There is a zero percent chance someone has good intent when asking this question. You’re either asking because you think it looks expensive and you want the tea, or because you think it looks cheap and… you want the tea. If you hit me with the “DiD hE sPeNd ThReE mOnThS sAlArY” please go away. I’m in love with my ring and that is the only thing that matters to me. That being said, if you’ve complimented my ring without asking about the cost, I appreciate you. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t basking in glory from any/all positive feedback so… KEEP IT COMING!!!!! (Put that under the category under things you should say to a newly engaged person. Accolades are always allowed.)
6. Am I Invited?
If you have to ask, it’s probably a no. Weddings are expensive. Like… really expensive. Would you treat me to a $200 dinner? No? Then I probably won’t do the same for you. Half kidding, but I personally am not trying to recreate My Big Fat Greek Wedding, so chances are my list will be narrowed down to the real ones. This question falls under the category of super uncomfortable because I hate leaving anyone out and, despite my evil sarcastic tone throughout this article, I actually love to make people feel warm and welcome, so by default I’ll feel guilty about those who don’t make the cut. Long story long, please don’t ask me this question, because it WILL keep me up at night.
7. Can I Give You Some Advice?
This question is super circumstantial, because some people offer fantastic advice and it’s extremely appreciated. Advice about how to conquer visiting multiple venues and what to look out for? Yes please. Advice about how to budget and what is and isn’t worth splurging on? I’m all ears. The problem is, people typically offer advice that is opinion-based rather than fact-based, and that’s where it gets hairy. I don’t want your advice on things personal to me, because it’s my wedding. When it’s your special day, you call the shots. When it’s mine, let me enjoy. (LMK if this is giving bridezilla vibes so I can stop before I start.)
Bonus: Questions I Enjoy
In order to redeem myself for all the spiciness above, I want to include some questions that I enjoy getting. Those exist too, I swear. I’m happy to answer questions about the engagement because quite honestly, I still get butterflies. How did he ask? Easy, I have a response saved in my notes that I can send along to anyone and everyone who wants to know. Were you surprised? Excited? Nervous? Yes, all of the above. What kind of style is your ring? More than happy to answer this (mine is emerald) and I’m also happy to answer personal questions about the ring if they are productive and helpful for my fellow future brides (or friends looking to get engaged soon). What is your dream dress? Oh, I’m glad you asked… let me show you my Pinterest board. You get the point.
If you take away one thing from this piece, it’s to be respectful of others privacy and to know what questions are appropriate vs. uncomfortable. Pre-engagement I likely asked half of the above questions myself, so we’re all learning here. The more you know!
Images: Scott Broome / Unsplash; Giphy (9)
Traveling during a global pandemic is a sensitive and very hot topic right now. Full disclosure: I travel for a living, so it’s part of my job to take to the roads and skies as much as possible, despite the pandemic. As someone who has recovered from COVID-19 and has recently started traveling again, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of travel in 2020.
There are some really great improvements to travel this year, and there are some not-so-great behaviors out there. For the most realistic picture of 2020 travel, I want to share all aspects with you so you can make an informed decision about whether traveling right now is right for you. Make sure you also check out the CDC’s recommendations for travel before you go, which include tips like checking your destination’s COVID cases and travel requirements or restrictions.
Travel precautions have improved A LOT over the course of the pandemic, and airlines and hotels are doing everything in their power to keep travelers safe. One upside is that even the worst travelers are mandated to adhere to certain safety guidelines on planes, trains, and hotels.
Everyone is trying to figure out what’s acceptable during these times, but getting on a plane isn’t the pandemic red flag that many think it is. In fact, a recent study by United Airlines in partnership with the Department of Defense indicates an airplane is the safest indoor public space. It also details why the risk of exposure while onboard (even on a full flight) is almost non-existent. However, the CDC notes that spending time in airport terminals and security lines can put you into close contact with other people and contaminated surfaces, which can introduce risk.
Masks have been mandated by most governments and large industries, so that’s non-negotiable when you board a plane or enter a hotel, and there’s no arguing about it with the staff on hand—don’t even try, Karen.
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10 Tips For Staying Safe While Flying During the Pandemic: No matter your reason for travel, flying can be scary these days These 5 tips will help you stay as safe as possible on your journey. If you don’t want to be traveling now, that’s okay! But, you can travel responsibly IF you take proper precautions & use common courtesy 📍Be sure to save this post for your upcoming journey 1) Wear a mask! This seems simple but there’s more to it. Get N95 masks. These are the best masks for protecting YOU. Most masks are generally to protect other people from you, but an N95 will be your best chance to protect you from others 2) Avoid Eating on plane. Additionally, you will want to eat and drink prior to leaving your house, put your mask on and it’s best if you DO NOT break the seal while onboard. If you have to take a sip of water, know you are breaking the seal around your mask and be careful not to touch your face 3) Wear a face shield. Face shields add an extra layer of protection, and also will cover forehead and eyes. They also prevent you from touching your face 4) Wipe your seat, and entire area prior sitting down with disinfectant wipes. @lysol has just been confirmed to kill Coronavirus, so use those if possible. Additionally, you can tag @passengershaming in your seat wiping and may even get a re-share. 5) Stay away from people in boarding area and walking through the airport. 6) Wash your hands like your life depends on it, because it does. 30 seconds! 7) Instead of Uber, use a black car service like @blacklane to get to/from the airport. Blacklane is taking extra cleanliness precautions to ensure safety of customers 8) Keep checking the seating chart to make sure you are socially distancing your seat if your flight isn’t full Perhaps that means giving up your first class upgrade for an empty economy like @mommypoints recently did, or flying an airline like @delta which is operating at 60% 9) Shower in hot water as soon as you get home & put your contaminated mask and clothes in a garbage bag or straight into laundry 10) Pick a hotel that is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their travelers. Look at last vid of @conradnydowntown
Major hotel brands like Marriott and Hilton have each come out with their own new safety standards that include PPE for employees, and new sanitization procedures for hotel rooms. I have recently stayed at both the Conrad New York Downtown and the JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa. Both properties are going above and beyond to make COVID-conscious travelers like myself feel safe and protected. These include measures such as extra sanitizing, mask requirements, and even waiting 24-48 hours to turn rooms over between guests, so that the cleaning staff is less likely to be exposed to germs.
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Social distancing at its finest. 🧍🏻♀️. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .🧍🏻♀️ Did you know that Cancun was certified as a safe destination by the World Travel and Tourism Council? Basically the WTTC will give a Safe Travels stamp of approval to certain destinations where new safety measures and global protocols have been so adopted to help protect travelers. Life was good in Cancun at the @jwcancun — I was able to let myself almost forget about the stress of the pandemic for a little while because it was SO safe there! Some of the measures they took to protect me were utilizing a car service that is also following guideline, where you have a temp check, and your hands, shoes, and luggage sanitized before getting in, plus the obvious a mask! Additionally, all staff wears masks, masks are encouraged to be worn by all guests, but will be mandatory beginning in August whenever inside. Also, hotels are maxing our at 30% capacity, which means there’s plenty of room to stay away from other guests and social distant at the resort! More details to come on TrustedTravelGirl.com soon! What would make you feel safe while traveling? #jwmarriottcancun #jwcancun ——— #seaturtle #seaturtles #cancun #mexico #rivieramaya #tulum #visitmexico #mariottcancun #prettylittletrips #cancunmexico #southoftheborder
Some destinations are being recognized by the World Trade and Tourism Council for their commitment to keeping travelers safe and healthy. The Phillippines just became the 100th destination to receive the “Safe Travels Stamp” of approval from the WTTC. Other “safe” destinations include Aruba, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia, and parts of Mexico. Destinations are even limiting the number of guests allowed in a hotel. When I was in Cancun, the state of Quintana Roo was limiting properties to a maximum of 30% occupancy.
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😳Why the hell did I wear this? Because you can travel without being part of the problem and while protecting yourself, and I want to make a point. Today, I am traveling through TWO of the most infected states in the United States of America COVID. But, I’m on a mission to share with you what exactly international travel looks like right now. I’m working closely with my destination to learn everything they are doing to keep guests and staff safe… and it sounds like it’s nearly fool-proof. So why didn’t I dress this way on my last flight? My last trip was a nearly empty 3 class (Flagship First, Business and Economy) flight with a business class seat, and no one next to me. Also, I was leaving a city and state (New York) with almost no COVID cases. But, here… my own city (Los Angeles) tested for nearly 4300 new cases on Tuesday alone. The city of LA— Not the entire state. That’s MASSIVE. And don’t even get me started on Texas (DFW). I want to show you that you CAN travel (if you need to or want to). You can travel and be safe, and you can travel and not be part of the problem. I don’t go to grocery stores, I wash my groceries, I have only seen 1 friend in semi close proximity since March 5th. I am careful. So if I’m going to expose myself, it’s going to be for travel— not for a party, or a trip to the grocery store, or anywhere else. It’s all about limiting contact as much as possible. You can be home and be more of a problem than someone who travels safely. But, a traveler travels. It’s essential to my sanity and my career. The other reason I’m wearing my space suit is my Antibodies… I feel safe having SOME low level antibodies left, but I just had A LOT of testing done and they are slowly going away. Although, long term immunity is looking likely in T-Cells, we just don’t know! Better safe than sorry, and better a trip to Mexico than a trip to the grocery store! It’s all about being RESPONSIBLE. See you in the skies soon… because travel always comes back! —— #backtotravel #traveltheworld #wearetravelgirls #girlovetravel #glt #traveldeeper #indtravel #prettylittletrips #beautifulplaces #travelisback #traveldeeper #travelstories #hazmatsuit
As with anything, though, there will always be a loud minority who can ruin it for the rest of us. I’ve seen some pretty bad behavior during my recent travels. Unfortunately, we live in a world with a lot of entitled people who care more about their “personal liberties” than the safety of others. Guidelines are just obstacles to them, and they don’t give a sh*t about endangering your health or making things difficult for those who have to enforce the rules.
Even when rules are in place, there are people who will look for the loophole. For instance, you are allowed to remove your mask while eating or drinking, so I’ve seen people nurse the same drink over a period of several hours in airport lounges and on planes. Some will take a sip whenever someone approaches them; others don’t even bother to pretend. You can bet I’ve sent in a few submissions of these maskless jerks to @PassengerShaming.
In some areas, those entitled people are actually a majority, and certain states and cities have refused to put mask mandates in place. As of today, 34 U.S. states require masks in public. You can bet I won’t be promoting or visiting the other 16 states that don’t care about the health and well-being of their residents or visitors. In my opinion, it is a necessary burden of traveling to do the research on destinations and support those that are taking this pandemic seriously.
The Future of Travel
The sad truth is, the travel industry is forever changed. We’ve seen huge downturns before with 9/11 and the 2008 recession, so it’s not hopeless—travel always comes back. But there are businesses that survived those downturns that won’t survive this pandemic. Landmark hotels like the Hilton Times Square and the W New York Downtown are closing for good. Closures like this mean fewer options for travelers. We will have fewer hotels to choose from, fewer airline routes, and fewer destinations open to Americans than ever before.
Also, a U.S. passport used to be a golden ticket to nearly any destination, but that’s no longer the case, as we’re not managing this crisis as well as other countries. In fact, we are only welcomed into approximately a dozen countries at the moment, which would have been unthinkable before this year.
On the bright side, cleanliness will never be taken for granted again. Passengers won’t settle for crusty airplane seats or dirty lavatories ever again. Fastidious cleaning procedures are here to stay, and that’s a “new normal” we can all embrace.
It’s not all doom and gloom in the travel industry. While urban destinations like Chicago and New York have suffered greatly, other destinations are booming. Mountain resort towns like Aspen, Park City, and Jackson Hole are seeing record numbers of tourists escaping the restrictions of urban environments for fresh air and outdoor adventure. Hotels, restaurants, and tours are booming with summer visitors, and many people are already planning their annual ski trips.
So, this isn’t the end of the travel industry, but a definite shift for everyone. By traveling safely and responsibly, we can show our support for the three-trillion-dollar industry that so many families rely on. Getting COVID tests and donning PPE is a bit of extra work, but it beats watching our favorite places slide into bankruptcy.
If you’re about to travel, hopefully you have a greater understanding of what to expect when you catch your next flight. If you’re not ready, that’s okay too; we’re all figuring this year out as we go.
Image: averie woodward / Unsplash; trustedtravelgirl / Instagram
Once upon a time, getting ready for a wedding (whether or not it was your own) meant endless salon trips and overpriced beauty treatments. As COVID-19 changed literally everything to do with modern celebrations, it makes sense that the global pandemic would royally f*ck up a bride’s beauty plan. While some salons have reopened, that doesn’t mean all brides have the option to go about the traditional pre-wedding glamming ritual. Whether your finances are all out of whack thanks to lost wages or you’re in a position (whether physically or morally) where you don’t want to risk spreading the virus, you’re probably wondering how tf you can still feel like a plucked, pruned, and polished bride the day of.
As someone who hated leaving her home even before the pandemic hit, I’m here to tell you that it’s totally possible to indulge in some hardcore beauty prep before the big day without ever setting foot outside your door. From teeth whitening to manicures, self-tanners to Botox, you can make all of them happen from home (yes, even the Botox). While it might not seem as glamorous as the prep plan you had back when the world wasn’t a dumpster fire, just think: If you film the process as you get ready, that’s content for TikTok.
Myth: You have to be an influencer-level #girlboss to utilize teeth whitening kits. While they are the bread and butter of sellouts on Instagram, a teeth whitening kit is an easy way to up your look without doing things like exercising or leaving your house. Some kits take a few days while others take 30, so time it out to ensure your best results line up with the big day. A kit like Colgate’s version of those IG LED light whiteners is a great option since it only takes 10 days, you only have to use it for 10 minutes a day, and it doesn’t cause sensitivity like a lot of other products/strips do.
Colgate Optic White At-Home Teeth Whitening Kit
If you’d rather go the most classic route, these Crest Whitestrips have over 15K reviews on Amazon (with a majority of them being positive). Just make sure to use toothpaste for sensitivity during treatment to avoid discomfort if you’re not down for the whole “beauty is pain” thing.
Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips
If you feel the need to ditch the razor to eliminate any cuts or bumps on the big day (still, as someone who shaved hunched over in the shower, painfully hungover the morning or her wedding, it’s really nbd), waxing a few days before your wedding will ensure you’re stubble-free for your wedding night. For smaller areas (like the lip, fingers, toes, and even brows), simple wax strips will get the job done. Opt for something created for sensitive skin like these strips which are dermatologically tested, hypoallergenic, cruelty-free, and cheaper than bottomless brunch.
TOPNaturePlus Hair Removal Wax Strips
If you’re looking to do larger areas like your legs, arms, or your (peace be with you) bikini area, depilatory wax (aka what the salon uses) is the answer. To make things simpler, a hard wax kit that doesn’t involve strips streamlines the process. This kit from Amazon is $35 and works like a charm. Just know that it will take much longer than however long you would spend shaving in the shower, so block out a good chunk of your day if you plan to go from “Corona au naturel” to hairless from the ears down.
Bella Verde Waxing Kit – Home Wax Warmer
Having a ~glow~ is something most brides crave to make the white of their gowns pop. While spray tanning might give you flashbacks to the scene in Bride Wars when Anne Hathaway turns orange, not all of the options out there yield secondary color results. St. Tropez is one of those brands everyone seems to universally love, and for good reason. The products are high-end yet affordable and they don’t turn your skin orange. Snatch up the wildly popular bronzing water mousse which will give you more of a medium glowy tan that’s shockingly easy to apply.
St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse
While the bronzing water is ideal for anyone wanting a medium tan, there are other options depending on what level of baked you’re looking for. If you want a dark tan, opt for the bronzing mousse, or if you just want an “I hung out at the pool and responsibly applied sunscreen” sun-kissed look, the gradual tinted body lotion will get the job done. Whichever you choose, make sure to use an applicator mitt to avoid telltale streaks and give you even coverage.
St. Tropez Applicator Mitt
Manis & Pedis
Even the most laid-back bride usually opts for a mani and pedi on her wedding day. With plenty of ring shots, having at least polished nails is a simple way to feel put-together on your big day. If you want something quick and simple, swipe a polish on your nails the night before or morning of the big day after a quick shaping sesh with a file. Sally Hansen Insta-dri is great if you want a rich color and are notorious for smudging your mani. While it doesn’t actually dry instantly, it does dry faster than anything else out there (just keep your coats thin). Just make sure to use a top coat, obvi.
Insta-Dri Sally Hansen Finger Nail Polish
If you want a thicker, more salon-quality mani (and have the time/patience to do something more than a few swipes of traditional polish), consider getting a powder dip kit. While it will def help to watch a few YouTube videos before you accidentally spill blush-colored powder all over your bathroom, the results are just as good as a $50 mani after a bit of practice.
Acrylic Dip Powder Nail Color Kit
oVertone Golden Brown Healthy Color Duo
While home hair coloring is a gamble, there’s a way to get rich hues without going to a salon or drying your hair out with box dyes. oVertone offers a variety of shades from traditional colors like brown, black, and ginger to vibrant ones like pink and blue. The semi-permanent dyes are great if you want to add some warmth or depth without the commitment or damage of a permanent dye. Try out a few options in the months leading up to your big day to figure out what feels right. If you’re looking for just a subtle change, the color conditioners add some richness without a full-blown color change.
Deep Hair Conditioning
Deep conditioning to hydrate your ends and eliminate frizz is Beauty Prep 101. While most people have their tried-and-true deep conditioner selections, now’s the time to up your game because uh, even if there’s a global pandemic, it’s still your wedding, dammit. And by God, you deserve to feel pampered AF. First, grab a deep conditioner or hair mask to soak into your follicles and soften all of your “I can’t f*cking believe I had to postpone my wedding twice” damage.
It’s a 10 Haircare Miracle Hair Mask
From the end-all-be-all line that makes your hair looks like you haven’t been swimming in split ends for months, It’s a 10 Miracle Hair Mask is under $30 yet still more high-end than the old bottle of Suave in the corner of the shower. After rinsing, spray some It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In product on your damp hair and get yourself married with silky, “she didn’t just live through a pandemic, did she?”-worthy locks. Oh, and in a few days when your hair feels brittle and dull after drinking champagne and eating cake for an entire weekend, repeat the process and thank me later.
Whether or not you plan to rock a wedding day tan, having smooth, sleek, hydrated skin will not only photograph better, but it will also give you a glow no matter your skin tone. In the days leading up to your wedding, lather on some hardcore moisturizer to glisten the day-of. CeraVe’s famous Moisturizing Cream is dermatologist-approved, gentle on skin conditions and your wallet, and wins tons of awards year after year.
SOL DE JANEIRO Brazilian Bum Bum Cream
If you want something a little less “everyday” and a little more special, Sol de Janeiro’s Brazilian Bum Bum Cream combines a blend of cupuaçu butter, antioxidant-rich açaí, and coconut oil which wakens dry, dull skin. Oh, and it smells like a tropical vacation, which will 100% up the exotic vibes day-of, even if you’re getting married in your backyard.
Whether you have baby-thin hair that tangles in the slightest breeze, decided to give yourself a DIY cut during quarantine and lost more inches than you care to admit, or you just dream of rocking mermaid locks for your wedding photos, extensions are the key to getting those hair-envy wedding looks. If you’re forgoing a professional stylist and plan to do your own hair, however, selecting extensions that are easy to utilize by yourself is key. If you plan on wearing your hair down, Hidden Crown extensions are by far the simplest solution out there (and great for half-up half-down styles). Instead of clips or tape (which are tricky to perfect on your own, no matter how many YouTube vids your watch), Hidden Crowns are full crowns of hair that are secured with a piece of wire kind of like a headband. This means the chances of you throwing it across the room in frustration are greatly reduced.
Hidden Crown extensions
If you’re looking for something even simpler and plan to wear your hair in either an elegant pony, some sort of bun or updo, or get all boho with some braids, the Insert Name Here ponies are quite literally the simplest hair accessory I’ve ever used. You put your natural hair in a bun or ponytail, and then you just wrap the velcro of the pony extension around your elastic. It takes five minutes and gives enviable results. Add some Baby’s Breath or clips for an additional elegant pop.
No, I am not advising some back-alley at-home Botox injectables. If you’re looking for neck wrinkles and crows feet solutions for your bridal portraits and don’t feel like that’s a valid reason to leave your home and go to the doc for a non-essential visit (RESPECT), you can still have that “I’ve never squinted at my computer screen for 12 hours straight” wrinkle-free look. Firming creams and serums are literally everywhere, so don’t be afraid to test out products to see what works (bc wtf else are you going to do right now?). If you want a famous celeb-endorsed option, The Athena 7 Minute Lift cream is one of those products you’ll probably try once and then buy for the rest of your life. It’s all-natural, plant-based, and smooths out lines on the face, neck, and décolleté. Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s cheaper and less invasive than actual injectables, so it could be a solution for your wrinkles even after the world opens back up for good.
The Athena 7 Minute Lift
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you prep for your wedding. 2020 is a whole new era of nuptials, so when it comes to prepping, do what makes you feel best. Whether that’s an entire home pampering day or just rolling out of bed and saying your “I dos” in your pajamas, as long as it’s with the person you love (and as long as you throw a kick-ass party when Corona is over), you’ll still make plenty of people jealous. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the point of weddings in the first place?
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Images: Elena Taranenko on Unsplash; Giphy; Amazon; Sephora; Ulta; oVertone; Alex Gaboury / YouTube; Hidden Crown Hair; 7 Minute Lift
Betches may receive a portion of revenue if you click a link and purchase a product or service. The links are independently placed and do not influence editorial content.
“You ready?” I asked, adjusting my cleavage in my old costume corset before turning toward my husband. He peered at me through the black, lace mask (recently purchased as a two-pack from Amazon), the mixture of excitement and uncertainty I felt mirrored on his own face. We were about to attend our first virtual orgy, something I never even knew existed until coronavirus stripped us of our means of sexual expression. As an exhibitionist, a global pandemic made getting it on in ways that excited me quite literally impossible.
Maybe it was growing up doing competitive dancing, maybe it’s just something more deep-rooted and fundamental about my personality, the point is: An audience is what turns me on, and with zero human contact other than each other, I was getting desperate for some means, any means, of sexual stimulation. Which is why a few Saturdays ago, you could find me and my husband getting ready in our cramped single bathroom for our first “date” in months, him shaving his stubble and me poking myself with eyeliner. We were going to a virtual sex club, a first for us and many others, as a result of the pandemic making in-person clubs impossible.
So, after learning about NSFW’s virtual sex parties from a Google search along the lines of “I’m so f*cking bored at home and my vagina is developing cobwebs,” I immediately requested to join the member’s only club I found. The process of joining basically consisted of answering a few questions to prove I was a real, non-creepy person. Though there are other companies that have similar events, I opted for the one with the most press and reviews (and yes, solid social media presence). While it says it can take weeks to get approval, I was accepted within a few days (hair flip). Also, in case you’re thinking of taking the ~sexual plunge,~ you can get a Traveler’s Pass which gets you into one party to test things out. Anyway, when the weekend finally arrived for my first party, the old jolt of pre-event adrenaline was pulsing through my veins. My hair was curled, my makeup was perfect, and my tits looked phenomenal—I was ready for a show.
As soon as we “entered,” 12 different squares greeted us, some screens hidden like ours and others showing singles and couples in various stages of disguise and undress. The host, Lorrae, was in a black teddy negligee, her blonde hair down and her face unhidden. Her brand is sex-positive, and with close to 270k followers on her main Instagram account, showing her face is elementary.
Lying on our stomachs side-by-side on the bed like two kids at a sleepover, my husband and I casually clicked on each square, checking out who else was in the party. Single girls with perfect contours and sultry lighting, couples in dark rooms wearing elaborate masks, and everyday people in everyday people clothes yelling at their dogs to stop barking—all of us conspirators in sexy crime.
Lorrae greeted each person as they entered and asked hidden guests to reveal themselves—it was a safe space, after all. (How safe, I’m still unsure. Anyone could have easily recorded the event from their phone or computer.) With a glance at my husband who smiled and shrugged, I unmuted our mic, turned on our camera, and officially entered our first virtual sex party.
“Hi, Hungry,” Lorrae said as soon as our mask-clad faces appeared on the screen. We had selected my husband’s gamertag as our nickname because we were drunk and nervous and as he pointed out, people would think we were hungry for sex and not just junk food. “Where are you two coming from?” She asked.
“Orlando,” I said, after a quick glance at Jon. It was a lie, but not too off-base since that’s where we went to college. I’m not sure if it was the shock of being semi-naked on-screen or a fear of my identity being immediately broadcast, but something about saying my actual location felt risky. Looking back, I would have said the truth to better connect with guests and maybe even find like-minded friends in my area. Also, people started exchanging IG handles and ya girl never likes to miss out on potential followers.
As more and more guests arrived (a total of 40 at the time of the most attendees), the host greeted each one with her quiet, soothing voice, setting the stage for an intimate affair. 20 minutes and two drinks later, I was officially drunk and pulsating with a need for attention. So, when a casual game of truth or dare was suggested, it seemed like a no-brainer. It was an easy way to eliminate the awkwardness and say “I’m interested in you” without so many words.
Guests took turns daring each other to take off items of clothing, dance for the camera, and do body shots off of their partner’s torsos. One couple did naked jumping jacks. Another had to do a strip show. “Hungry,” a busty brunette said, after giving an artful blowjob to a banana. “I dare your partner to spank you 10 times for the camera.”
“Easy,” I flirted, bending over so my ass was in view of the webcam, my forearms on the bed, waiting for my husband to begin. The entire party counted as he hit me, alternating cheeks and waiting in between each one to build the suspense. With each hit I moaned, playing the eroticism up for the camera. I caught a glimpse of our bedroom highlighted as the main screen on the chat, the twinkle lights from the headboard glistening off of my hair.
“Whew,” Lorrae breathed as I strained up and grinned at the camera after the last spank, endorphins causing my cheeks to heat up. “I don’t think we can top that, so we’re going to move into our first show of the evening…”
The main focus shifted to a man holding a whip and standing over a woman wearing a leather bodysuit and a ball-gag. While the main screen showcased a BDSM tutorial, watching the rest of the guests watch the show was oddly erotic. Some were already making out with their partners while others were pouring drinks, milling about their homes, or leaving their screens momentarily to deal with life outside of the virtual event. The voyeuristic appeal was strong as we observed others from our king-sized bed in our make-believe Orlando, Florida.
After the tutorial (which was more or less footage of a couple striking each other with various whips), Lorrae came back to ease the party into the rest of the event, the reason we were all there: the virtual orgy.
“Now,” the breathy blonde said after thanking the performers and casually noting their Venmo handles, “it’s time to break into the play portion of the evening.”
Despite being spread out across the world, the sexual tension was palpable. The different couples excitedly glanced at each other, and singles tossed back their drinks and adjusted their hair. “I’ll be posting the links to different rooms you can attend,” the host told us. “I’m staying here in the singles room. Feel free to jump around, find a place you feel comfortable, or set up a private chat with a new friend you’ve connected with.”
I glanced at my husband in confusion before muting the mic and placing my hand over the webcam. “Private chat?” I hissed, forgetting immediately that the rest of the party couldn’t hear us. “Are people private chatting? Why didn’t anyone chat us?”
My husband, nonplussed, shrugged and poured another shot of bourbon, his face flushed and eyes glassy. “There has to be some mistake,” I slurred. “We were the best during truth or dare. People have to want to chat with us!” I frantically scanned the screen, my hand still covering the camera, as the host broke down the different rooms again. Horrified, I watched as different guests disappeared, off to their preferred new chats.
“There’s the boy’s club, for gay and curious men—or anyone looking for lots of guy action, and the ladies room for queer or curious women,” Lorrae said. “Then, of course, is the couples room, for any duos looking to make some special friends.”
“How do I talk to people?! How do I join these rooms?” I groaned, the shots we took to limber us up causing me to completely forget how Zoom worked. I glared at the host’s smiling face and frantically clicked the different icons on my screen.
“All of the different rooms are now available in the chat on the right, so feel free to explore, have fun, and find what feels good,” Lorrae said. My eyes immediately darted to the corner of my screen where a small number “48” was flashing above a hidden chat icon. Eagerly, I clicked. A flood of messages appeared from the group chat with callouts to us, links to the parties, and requests for private rooms.
“You and your partner are so hot.”
“Ouch, you’ve been bad! Do you need a hand?”
“Come chat with us. We dare you…”
“Oh my god,” I said, clicking to see each of the guests who had reached out. “People like us,” I murmured, not even caring how cliché the pickup lines were. “Jon, look!” I nudged my husband who was now lying back on the bed, scrolling through Reddit on his phone. “Cool, cool,” he said, without glancing away from the snowboarding video he was watching.
“Should we talk to someone?” I asked, noting that the singles room was filled mostly with men in various stages of masturbation and women dancing and undressing for the screen. After going back and forth on what we wanted to do (me, wanting to be the center of attention and him, wanting to order food and call it a night), I clicked on a young couple who had reached out and started a private chat. We went back and forth with pleasantries—yes, it’s our first time too. No, we didn’t know what to expect either. Sure, we’d love to take this to the next level.
The rest of the night‚ which ended around 2am, was a drunken PG-13 blur. We made out for the couple, showcased some of our famous spanking, and mostly, just watched other people feel themselves on-screen.
As a couple whose past Saturday nights usually involved takeout and falling asleep mid-movie, the concept of having sex on-screen turned the heat up on our relationship. Granted, asking my husband to attend the party with me was one of the most stressful moments of my life (it’s like proposing, but instead of asking for marriage, you’re asking them to show their genitals on camera), but after he said yes, it opened the door for communication in a way that’s been missing from our lives. It allowed us to chat about concepts we never considered before in a non-judgmental way, and having the aid of professionals, tutorials, and other people in the community there grappling with the same coronavirus-induced sex slump made it that much easier. Whether it’s isolation-induced insanity or the need for something to scratch that quarantine itch, virtual sex parties are here to stay, and I will always RSVP.
When we woke up the next morning, we tried to process what went down over coffee and bagels. It felt like a scene out of a movie. Shot glasses littered our sticky countertop and our thoughtfully selected costumes lay in a heap on the kitchen floor. We had passed out exhausted-yet-satiated sometime between the last chat and the pizza I forgot I ordered that was covered in ants on our doorstep. Granted, we didn’t even explore the other rooms and no, we didn’t do more than a steamy makeout for the viewers—that’s for next time. Even without an on-screen orgasm, though, it was a night like no other. The next time we join the party, we plan to up the rating to something a little more NSFW.
While going to a sex club on-screen is pretty different than one IRL, it scratched the “my libido needs a jump-start” itch that coronavirus caused. No, there wasn’t the option to hook up with a stranger or use new toys, but the feelings of sexual attention, soaking up flattery from strangers, and having an excuse to drink and flirt with randoms was there, even without the physical component. Even after the pandemic (knock on wood and still stay TF home, people), virtual sex parties would be an awesome way to dip your toe into the taboo.
Images: Artem Labunsky / Unsplash; Giphy (4)
The president of BC Marine Parks Forever, George Creek, told NPR that he called America “the biggest petri dish in the world,” and you know what, he was right.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Canada closed its borders to all nonessential American travel. So far, that’s worked out pretty well for them. On August 8th, they reported 320 new cases to the United States’ 55,692. So, it makes sense that Canadians aren’t too thrilled by the idea of letting Americans into their country, which has successfully and safely made it to the final reopening stages in most places.
But now, because Americans simply cannot take no for an answer, some people have been sneaking into the country the same way high schoolers with strict parents go to parties: by lying about where they’re actually going. Apparently, people have been telling Canadian border patrol that they are passing through Canada to Alaska. This is called the ‘Alaska Loophole’ (which, incidentally, sounds like the name of a movie Reese Witherspoon would star in).
Americans are also making their way to British Columbia on their yachts by sailing through protected areas. Members of the Council of BC Yacht Clubs are concerned and pissed off, estimating that close to 40 American boats are currently in Canadian waters. According to international maritime law, these boats are supposed to have an automatic ID system that stays on at all times. These systems are put in place to prevent collisions and track ships in real-time. However, it appears that these boats are turning off their tracking systems to avoid being caught by law enforcement.
And it’s not like these people are just staying on their boats. In the same interview with NPR, George Creek talks about how some of these boats are docking and walking through stores with no social distancing and no masks. It’s obviously pretty understandable that more than 80% of Canadians want to keep the border closed.
It just seems a little ironic to me that not that long ago, Donald Trump literally invented caravans of migrants from Honduras and denounced those who wanted to leave their home countries. He called them criminals and implied that they may have had ties to terrorist organizations. Unsurprisingly, the president hasn’t expressed any issue with the very real caravan of yachts that is illegally entering Canada and possibly bringing in cases of an incredibly contagious virus that their government just got under control.
As the late, great Robin Williams said in 2013, Canada is “like a really nice apartment over a meth lab.”
These days, my typical morning routine includes Googling whether it’s safe to venture outside today and if there are COVID-19 cases on the rise, followed by how much closer we are to discovering if we’ve found a vaccine, and finally, scouring articles to figure out if there are any long-term consequences of using so much hand sanitizer. And then before I know it, I’m seeking out more of this depressing and potentially negative info, even though I know it’s not helping with my sanity. Apparently, there’s even a term to describe this kind of behavior: doomscrolling. Merriam-Webster defines doomscrolling as “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing.” While I truly believe that knowledge is power, too much of anything can be detrimental to one’s health. In fact, going overboard with this kind of activity can have negative consequences on one’s mental and physical well-being, especially in these scary times.
As tempting as it may be to constantly hit refresh, we don’t have to stay stuck in this endless cycle of terror and misery. There is a way out, and that’s to cultivate an awareness of this type of toxic behavior and make a conscious decision to press the pause button on all the craziness that surrounds us. Betches spoke with Dr. Eudene Harry, Medical Director for Oasis Wellness and Rejuvenation Center, and Dr. Braulio Mariano Mejia, Medical Director of The Palm Beach Institute, specializing in Addiction Medicine for insight into what’s going on with our minds and bodies. They shined some light on what to do when the line between staying informed and ruining your mental health becomes blurred and offered us some tactics on how to set healthy boundaries between us and the news.
How To Recognize When The News Is Making Us Feel Bad
It can be difficult to attribute our emotions directly to the news—oftentimes we’ll think our negative feelings are caused by another trigger. While some types of news can conjure obvious and overt reactions, other times, the feelings can be subtle, like a slow and steady burn. Dr. Harry says that it’s important to check in with yourself frequently. She says, “ask yourself if you felt bad after watching the news. Did you feel motivated to act or did it leave you feeling drained and paralyzed? Are you feeling depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, helpless or apathetic? Is your heart racing? Does breathing feel shallow, fast and not enough?” These are the sorts of physiological cues she says you should pay attention to.
Additionally, Dr. Mariano Mejia says that there are behavioral and physical attributes that could be indicative of your emotional upheaval: “ask yourself, ‘have I been alienating my loved ones?’ ‘Have I been isolating from those I care about?’ ‘Have I been neglecting my family?’ ‘Have I been slacking at work?’ ‘Have I been having difficulty sleeping?’ ‘Has there been a change in my libido/sexual interest?’ Have there been any recent weight fluctuations?’” All of this matters and it’s important to take time for yourself to answer these questions honestly. It’s like going through your own personal mental checklist (it may also help to run through this aloud or write it down). If you’re answering yes to any of these questions, both doctors advise that you should regroup and recharge, stat.
Actually, It’s About Introspection
Dr. Mariano Mejia says that the first thing to understand about doomscrolling is that it speaks to our human nature more than anything else. “This phenomenon is more about the need to have some introspection. It’s about recognizing the need to stop for a second and ask yourself if repetitive news (fake or not) is necessary to get you emotionally or professionally where you want to be.”
The most important thing here is to determine whether this information will make a difference in the comfort of your professional and personal life. If not, you can do without this unhelpful stimuli. Dr. Mariano Mejia points out that we as humans have a tendency to obsess over minute things in our lives and that “in order to reduce our anxiety we act on these obsessions, which is a compulsion. In this instance, this compulsive behavior to turn to the media/news evolves into a negative pattern, thus creating a temporary relief.” However, if this tendency is left unaddressed, he says that it could lead to negative consequences.
The good news is that conversely, with this same ability, you can train your brain to be a more healthy and balanced one, simply by actively recognizing that you have the power and opportunity to step away from anything you deem to be detrimental to your health. “Introspection is more than simply taking a break. It requires you to stop, evaluate your conscious thoughts and feelings,” Dr. Mariano Mejia remarks. “This process allows you to look at yourself in order to determine what is most important in your life.” In a nutshell, think of it as an empowered “you do you” sentiment.
Why You Have All Of These Feels
Dr. Harry says, “your body and mind are being overwhelmed, and as a result, it is constantly activating the stress response system over and over again, continuously flooding the mind and the body with stress hormones.” She references clinical studies from Harvard and the National Library of Medicine in which voluntary participants were shown stress-inducing/upsetting pictures and videos. Though they were not actually subjected to the turmoil itself, ultimately, viewing upsetting material resulted in the body exhibiting the same level of heightened stress and trauma. She surmised from these studies that if these feelings are left to fester, it can result in an increased risk of developing psychological trauma, anxiety disorders, depression and other psychological conditions—as well as physical ailments such as heart disease and diabetes.
Ok, So I Feel Like Sh*t—How Do I Make It Better?
Say it with me: SELF-CARE. It’s not just some buzzword we see hashtagged to death on Instagram, but a real and positive force that can truly help with our health and wellness if we embrace it.
sometimes self care is an everything bagel
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) May 16, 2020
Create A Routine That Works For You
Dr. Mariano Mejia says that this can include proper hygiene, good nutrition, regular exercise, and healthy social interactions. Examples of healthy social interactions include interactions that limit exposure to negative people, maintaining positive conversations, and setting boundaries with your peers.
Quality Over Quantity
Dr. Harry says to rely on a trusted news source and consume it for 10 to 20 minutes a day to gather the highlights. Additionally, Dr. Mariano Mejia says that when you do seek out information, stick to factual content rather than opinion-based or emotionally biased stories. “A reliable source such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) would be recommended, but on a limited basis,” he explains. “Official information as it changes and advances on the studies of the novel coronavirus will not take place minute to minute or even hourly,” so there’s no need to obsessively hit that refresh button. He says you can also control how you remain informed by simply consulting your medical professional/family physician. Additionally, you can consider using free resources, such as Nurses On-Call.
Dr. Harry advises against starting and ending the day with your news (lol, I suppose I’m doing this wrong then). She says, “you want to set (an optimistic) tone for your day. Starting it with potentially startling content gives you no time to prepare how to approach your day. As a result, you have immediately engaged your stress and vigilance systems that can leave you feeling edgy, jumpy, and anxious all day.”
Get Your Beauty Rest
This is related to timing and is why we shouldn’t be inundating our brains with news before going to bed at night or when we get up in the morning. “Sleep is incredibly important; however, it will be difficult to get sound slumber if you’ve just flooded your brain with potentially traumatizing information and events,” says Dr. Harry. It can be a lot to process and can leave you tossing and turning all night. She adds, “it’s also another sure-fire way to increase your risk of inflammation and illness.”
Unplug And Shut Down All The Things
The world can be a Debbie Downer sometimes, so if you want to chill out for the day and decompress, absolutely go for it. “That’s completely okay—take even a few days and go offline from all media to regain your equilibrium. No one knows how you are feeling but you. So find out what works for you,” offers Dr. Harry.
You Are Not Alone
Through these challenging times, it’s understandable to seek out answers and information to decrease feelings of anxiety and to feel more comforted. However, you don’t have to go it alone: “don’t hesitate to seek out support. If you are still having difficulties and can’t seem to break free or reduce the negative impact on your own, you may benefit from seeking the assistance of a trained and qualified mental health professional,” says Dr. Mariano Mejia.
Peace And Pleasure
Yeah, we’ve all been baking to reduce the stress, but it keeps us cooped up inside. Dr. Harry says that as an alternative, why not consider simply getting outside (safely) for an easy means of decompression? “This may be a nature walk, time with friends via a social distancing/park gathering, meditating, yoga/breathing deeply, and art (painting/pottery), etc.” It’s about actively distancing yourself from the negative cycle and instead, doing something that brings you peace and a sense of calmness. “More importantly, these activities give your body the chance to recover and reset,” she explains.
Doomscrolling may sound like some apocalyptic reckoning, but just remember that ultimately, you have the power to wield control over your thoughts and feelings. We may all be susceptible to this zombie-like trance of doomscrolling, but all it takes is a gentle reminder to pull ourselves out of this rut, turn off our smart devices and the news, and reconnect with elements of our humanity that fill us with joy. We got this.
Images: Bongkarn Thanyakij / Pexels; Chrishell Stause / Instagram; Diet Starts Tomorrow / Instagram (2); Tenor; Katy Perry / Twitter