Stop Asking People What Hobbies They Picked Up In Quarantine

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.

Images: Sergey Chumakov / Shutterstock.com

What Are ‘Secret Trips’ And Why Are They Even A Thing? An Investigation

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 nowespecially 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 pandemicso 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 escapeit 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 mandatesincluding 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 lastlyjust 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

How To Tell If You Really Like Him Or If You’re Just Bored In Quarantine

Quarantine has been hard AF. As a single twentysomething who’s been watching an endless Instagram reel of friends and acquaintances getting engaged, it’s been especially hard. (Can I get an “AMEN?”)

A month into quarantine, I met a guy at the dog park where I take my dog. Our dogs got along well with each other, and he seemed nice enough. He wasn’t exactly my physical type, but he was one of the very, very, very few guys with whom I’d gotten the chance to interact in any way since the pandemic started. So after some friendly flirting and playing parents to our dogs, I gave him my number and texted him just a few days later, asking if he wanted to go hiking with me.

We started to hang out once a week, and once a week quickly turned into almost every day. It was easy to fall into this routine because, well, quarantine, and there wasn’t much else to do.

There was a point, though, when our relationship began to feel less like “He’s ~The One!~” and more like “he’s just the one for now.” Three months into dating, right after we’d made it official, we took a little getaway to an Airbnb in a Texas country town for a couple of nights.

A romantic getaway with just us two gave me space to ask myself some valuable questions that made me realize my quarantine boyfriend wasn’t my forever guy. Here are those questions:

 Do you text him when you’re bored, or are there personality traits of his that you genuinely like?

 

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Miss you, love you | by @kayyorkcity

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If you have any of the following thoughts before you text him (or anything like these), you’re probably just dating him because you’re bored in quarantine:

I’m bored. What’s he up to?

UGH, I need attention. Lemme hit him up.

I feel lonely, so I’ll hit him up.

If there are things about him that you like, take note of those, either mentally or create a list. I know lists aren’t the most romantic things, but they’re super helpful!

After I dumped my quarantine boyfriend, I made a list of qualities that are important to me in a boyfriend. I keep it handy and I know it’ll help me attract me a guy that’s a better fit for me next time.

What kind of thoughts do you have about him when you’re not together?

While I was dating my dude, I would sometimes tell myself: “I’m just dating him until I can find someone better.” I actually caught myself having this exact thought while doing yoga on the porch of the Airbnb. It was a wake-up call. I know I’m not the only person in the world who’s ever had this thought, either. 

The problem is that if you’re having these thoughts about the person you’re dating, it isn’t fair to them—but it isn’t fair to you, either. You’re wasting their time, and you’re wasting your time by spending time with them when you could be opening your heart up to someone else, or just feeding your own soul.

It takes a certain type of self-awareness to be able to figure out whether you’re dating someone out of like, love, or loneliness. So pay close attention to your thoughts. And if you’re feeling anxious, if your mind is racing at 100 miles a minute in quarantine—which is normal—then listen to your gut.

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Can you see a future with this person? When the head can’t sort things out, it’s time to listen to the heart. Everyone has an intuition—and while some have stronger intuition than others, there are things you can practice to feel closer to yours, like meditating on it.

What do your friends think of him?

 

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When my friends met my ex-boyfriend, they threw some challenging questions my way. They made good points: that I didn’t seem super excited when I was around him, and that I looked more interested in the hot guys walking past us at the dinner table than the guy I was with.

At first, I resented my friends for giving me such, er, unfiltered advice. (But if they don’t give you the realest advice, are they even your friends?)

After sleeping on their advice, though, I realized I resented it because it was true. And that maybe, just maybe, I had been in denial for months, lying to myself that this guy was, in fact, ~The One~, when my heart had been telling me all along that I was just using him to pass the toughest months of quarantine.

TL;DR: If you have to ask yourself if you should dump your quarantine boyfriend, the answer is probably a resounding yes. And when you do, you’ll feel happier, freer, and able to give yourself the time and space to reflect on the following question: What kind of partner do I really need?

Image: Jonathan Borba / Unsplash; uuppod / Instagram (2)

NYU Is Giving Students Quarantine Meals That Are Worse Than Fyre Festival

It’s officially back to school season, and with the COVID pandemic nowhere close to over, it’s a complicated time for colleges and universities. While some have pulled the plug on the fall semester and will be fully online, many schools are still moving forward with in-person plans, and the logistics for these plans goes far beyond just spacing out desks in classrooms. With New York regulations currently requiring a 14-day quarantine for travelers from 35 states and territories, NYU currently has hundreds of students isolated in their dorm rooms, and according to some accounts, it’s not going great.

With regular dining halls and food service options out of the question during the quarantine period, NYU decided it would provide quarantined students with three meals a day, delivered to their rooms, at no extra charge (a year at NYU costs nearly $80,000). The plan sounded nice in theory, but once students arrived on campus last week, things quickly devolved into a nightmare—and God bless Gen-Z, because the whole thing was documented, where else, on TikTok.

The meals have MANY issues, but fundamentally there seems to be a strange definition of what constitutes an adequate meal. In one of the first videos that went viral, a student named Ricardo shares a meal that’s labeled “chicken Caesar salad.” The box actually contains an apple, a small bag of tortilla chips, and a packet of balsamic vinaigrette. Not only is this not what’s on the label, it’s not any kind of actual logical meal.

@rico_da_foolChicken caesar salad but the chicken caesar salad is silent😌😌😌##nyutiktok ##nyu ##fyp ##expensive ##flex♬ original sound – drydoodooflakes

A few hours after Ricardo’s TikTok blew up, he posted an update that his dorm manager brought him extra food, along with a voucher for two free orders from GrubHub. That’s nice for Ricardo, but obviously he wasn’t the only one experiencing some subpar (and truly puzzling) NYU quarantine meals.

Other random meal items that have been documented on TikTok include whole lemons, cups of peanut butter with nothing to spread it on, bagels covered in mold, and a now-infamous watermelon chicken salad. That sounds like it could be good, but it’s literally just a little container of soggy chicken and watermelon. This was a popular item, and now there’s even a parody version of Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” to go along with it. Iconic, honestly.

@onetoomanytwizzlersok but can somebody tell me what watermelon chicken salad tastes like? ##nyu ##nyufood ##nyutiktok ##watermelonchickensalad ##fyp♬ watermelon chicken salad – onetoomanytwizzlers

Along with these questionable non-meals, some students have had issues receiving any deliveries at all. Multiple students reported only receiving a single “meal” on certain days, even when others on their dorm floors were getting more frequent deliveries. Annette Yang, who said she had already been contacted by The New York Times about her lack of meals, even made a sign for her door that said “PLEASE DON’T SKIP MY ROOM FOR FOOD.” On Sunday, she posted that she received an apology email from NYU along with more food… but then she never received her dinner that night. Reminder that a year of school at NYU costs $78,000.

All of this is troubling, but another issue is that NYU has been repeatedly giving students meals that violates their dietary restrictions. One student with a gluten allergy repeatedly received bread in her meals, and received no response when she tried to contact NYU dining services. Vegan students have been struggling as well, receiving items such as steak salads, string cheese, plain chicken, and cartons of milk. Even a meal that was labeled “vegan” contained pudding that clearly said “made with real milk” on the label.

This student, Sara, is a vegetarian, and after complaining about receiving meat in her meals, she received an apology, and an assurance that she was now properly marked as a vegetarian in the system. Here’s what she received for her next meal:

@lilbabyaidyylunch and dinner all served at 4:30 🤩 ##nyuquarantine after the watermelon chicken salad this is great ##nyu woop woop♬ original sound – lilbabyaidyy

Chicken! For dinner that night, she also received a “Moroccan-spiced chicken bowl”, so clearly that email really worked. The videos themselves are funny, but it’s pretty f*cked up to repeatedly disregard dietary restrictions, especially when these students have limited other food options. Most of the dorms don’t have available kitchens, and constantly ordering food through outside delivery services is cost-prohibitive for many students. I doubt anyone expected the NYU quarantine food to be gourmet, but it’s turned out worse than anyone could have predicted.

But not everyone is going hungry. In a TikTok, Kevin Sun shared that he had received seven meals the previous day, and three breakfasts that morning. Make it make sense!

@kevnsunidk why y’all mad im ✨feastin✨ 🤤🥰🤝 ##greenscreen ##nyu ##fyp ##nyutiktok ##coronavirus ##quarantine ##college♬ follow meee – izzyrenaéx

Judging from more recent TikToks, it seems like NYU is trying to get its act together, but there are still major issues (remember Annette, who never got her Sunday night dinner, even after an official apology). The students still have over a week to go in their quarantine period, and it seems like the school was woefully unprepared for the massive undertaking of feeding all these kids. Hmm, it’s almost like reopening right now isn’t a good idea??



Images: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com; rico_da_fool, onetoomanytwizzlers, lilbabyaidyy, kevnsun / TikTok

2 Tricks To Help You Actually Keep A Work/Life Balance While WFH

I have internet, so I’m aware that there are countless articles with tips and tricks to maintaining a healthy work/life balance while working from home during a pandemic. To be fair, I’m not adding anything particularly innovative to this conversation when I suggest you simply do the following: (1) Declutter your space in order to calm your mind. (2) Embrace the storm of this uncharted territory. Where I believe I can help is in the execution.

When your email inbox seems to be mercilessly replenishing, while your phone is ringing off the hook, and you’ve had to cancel yet another socially distanced Bumble “date” (read: sweaty walk on the Westside Highway) because your boss just asked you to get her something “ASAP,” take a deep breath. Fight the impulse to take a nap, and instead, clean out a closet. I’m not suggesting you organize your entire home by category, à la Marie Kondo. Only one little closet.

Take the Amazon packages from three years ago that you meant to return, the old puffy jackets with the stuffing bubbling out of the frayed seams, the enormous air purifier you actually love but never remember to buy replacement filters for, and donate them if they’re salvageable. Throw them away if they’re not. That’s it! But most articles fail to delineate exactly why having a well-organized closet will center you, and it wasn’t always abundantly clear to me either until I found myself working from home. 

The next time your emails flood in quickly enough to drown you, or you’ve forgotten what it sounds like when your phone is not ringing, or your toddler vandalizes your home and calls it an “art project,” roll out your neck, stretch your hamstrings (pro tip: don’t skip this step), walk over to your newly decluttered closet, twist the knob, step inside, and shut the door behind you. Enjoy the dark. Savor the scurrying footsteps and slightly panicked calls outside the door as your boyfriend or children search for you, never suspecting the “junk closet” has enough space for you in it. You have found peace, and all you had to do was take a moment to organize your closet. Namaste. 

Me: WFH is gonna be amazing
*2 days later*
Working from home is a SCAM all our bosses know we have LITERALLY NOWHERE TO BE so they can bother us at ANY TIME

— Betches (@betchesluvthis) March 18, 2020

Thanks to Instagram’s #inspirationalquotes, we all know that storms in life are merely tests. But we are never told how to pass!  

The next time you’re pretty sure your camera angle just showed your whole team that you weren’t wearing pants during your Zoom, open yourself up to the storm. Literally. Open weather.com, scroll down below the “daily forecast” to the “breaking news” segment and take note of where those gale force winds are growing stronger. Then unplug. Take a few hours in front of the TV, cook some dinner, read to your kids, walk your dog, or make love to your quarantine boyfriend whom you’d only be casually seeing were it not a pandemic. When you’re feeling ready to work again, simply respond to the slew of angry emails by explaining that the storm knocked out your WiFi, apologize profusely for the delay, and get on with your day. Nobody knows where you’re working from anyway! Pro-tip: Refer to a tropical storm or hurricane by its proper human name to really sell the story. The storm is your friend. Embrace it.

Working from home during a global pandemic is really just as simple as organizing and embracing. I know the countless articles on this topic are written by MDs and PhDs, and that I am neither of these things. But I did have three really productive days while working from home back in June, so in the national spirit of throwing medical advice and empirical data to the wind, this should be the new authoritative article on the subject.

In all seriousness, I don’t presume to know what each of you is going through at work or at home—especially when the two are combined—on any particular day. What I do know is that we all want to hide or unplug sometimes. My only real piece of advice is to try to be gentle with yourself, and every so often, indulge the desire to disappear for a while.

Images: XPS / Unsplash; @betchesluvthis / Twitter

Quarantine Turned Me Into An At-Home Workout Person

If you told me four months ago when quarantine first started that I wouldn’t be itching to get back to the gym or a group fitness class, I would’ve told you that you don’t know me at all. Well here I am, five months into quarantine, and all that’s been on my mind is that I never want to go back to a gym again, and when am I going to pull the trigger on a SoulCycle at-home bike?

For me, a group fitness class was more than a way to burn calories—in fact, that was probably the last thing on my list. The most important thing these classes offered me was an escape from the real world for 45 solid minutes. $36 for a spin class may seem absurd to you, but it’s way cheaper than talking to a NYC therapist for the same amount of time. This was my me time, time when I didn’t have to answer a single work message or be accessible to anyone. It’s rare to be able to unplug during the day and this was the best excuse I could find, plus endorphins make you happy and happy people don’t kill their husbands… unless they’re locked inside with them 24/7 during a pandemic. (JK, love you hubs.)

I used to think you couldn’t get as good of a workout at home or that I’d be way less motivated, but I can without a doubt say that’s not the case. So even if gyms open and they’re clean and COVID miraculously isn’t a concern anymore, here’s why I’m quitting the gym in favor of working out at home.

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NEW WORKOUT ALERT! ⁣ ⁣ We feel helpless when tech doesn’t go our way but appreciate understanding that sh*t happens. We had planned on releasing a new workout tomorrow but bringing it to you instead today! ⁣ ⁣ This is an amazing quick workout that hits allllll the right places and you can truly do it wherever, whenever with zero equipment! This is the perfect workout if you’re traveling this weekend – quick, low impact, effective, and as always… FUN. ❤️⁣ ⁣ If you haven’t tried our app yet, check out your free 7 day trial – link in bio!

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The Money Factor

Like a lot of New Yorkers, I was paying out the ass for an Equinox membership before we got locked in our homes for the foreseeable future. I was going to hide the amount of that annual membership, but for the sake of transparency, I’ll risk getting ridiculed in the comments section—but please, before you come for me, remember we’re in NYC and everything is inflated. When I first joined, the membership started at $240/month and as the years went on, they upped their price to $255/month, aka $3,060/year. Nothing says being a loyal gym member like upping the price of an already overpriced membership. But as any gymgoer knows, you know you’re still spending money on a SoulCycle class here, a solidcore class there, and that adds up real quick considering a single group fitness class in NYC ranges from $30-40.

When the pandemic hit, saving all of the money I was spending on fitness was something I really felt. No sh*t, it was a small fortune. Myself, along with the rest of the world, abruptly turned to at-home workouts, something I never really did in the past, because who voluntarily wants to workout when they get home? But as soon as I started taking live Zoom classes, I realized I actually liked them, with the number one reason being they cost ~$14 or less per class, and if you’re a saint like Gina DiNapoli, $9 or less, praise f*cking be.

This is a hell of a lot cheaper than an in-person class. For the price of one in-person class you can take almost four at-home classes, and that’s not even factoring the money you’re spending on the commute to get to/from the class. Plus, you can get away with washing your hair less frequently and repeating gym outfits, since no one even sees.

Convenience

As if money wasn’t enough of a motivator to never leave my house again to workout, the convenience is next level. You know what the worst part about taking a morning group fitness class is? Actually, there are two. The first: leaving your apartment with a 20 minute buffer time and still being late to class because the subway was delayed yet again for no reason. The second: the increased anxiety you feel during the last few minutes of class before you have to sneak out to race to get into one of the three showers offered for over 40 people in the locker room.

My favorite part about working out at home is finishing my workout, sitting my ass on the couch to recover for a few minutes, then taking my sweet time getting into my own shower, to use my own products without having to wear shower shoes. As much as I liked using the gym’s towels and amenities, thanks to COVID, I realize this was probably really disgusting.

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GIVEA-freakin-WAY 👊🏻 . . We’ve launched our newest format, BANDS, and … issa HIT! If you have a booty band but you also kinda feel like you have no idea what to do with it besides kickbacks and fire hydrants lollll, we’ll do that work so you don’t have to 🙂 . . What I’m giving away is 8 BANDS CLASSES 😱 via Zoom in the month of May- 4 for you and 4 for whatever friend you tag!!! You can tag multiple friends – just make sure they are in SEPARATE comments (since the prize is for two people). . ✴️✴️✴️They must be following me @jabsbygina , and bonus @alimitchellnyc since she is the official creator of BANDS!!✴️✴️✴️ (I recommend telling them this in the comment where you comment their insta handle) . . Winners will be chosen and announced on my IG story on Wednesday!! 🙌🏻

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Flexibility

As with everything else in NYC, fitness classes are at high demand, oftentimes forcing you to sign up a week in advance. How are you going to know what you’re in the mood to do a week from now? Working out at home allows you to cater your workouts to whatever mood you’re in the day of. Some days you’re super motivated to wake up early and work out, other days you’d rather squeeze them in between meetings—with at-home workouts, you can decide on a moment’s notice to do them whenever you want and not feel any unnecessary pressure to decide in advance.

No More Late Fees

You literally never have to worry about getting penalized for either missing, or being late to, a workout again, since they’re based off your schedule. Sure, that can lead to pushing off a workout until you no longer feel motivated to do it, but if you create a schedule, it’ll help hold you accountable. Think of all of those times you wishfully booked a 5:30pm class hoping your 4:30pm meeting would end in time, only to find yourself still in said meeting well past 5:30. It’s bad enough spending over $30 for a class, it’s even worse when you lose the class and get a penalty charge.

Variety

Since quarantine, everything has been adapted to be broadcast online, even workouts like solidcore that normally require a megaformer machine. Obv the workout is not the exact same, but my obliques hurt regardless, so I guess they’re doing something right. Basically any workout that was offered in a studio can now be streamed online, done via Zoom, or watched on IGTV. My latest obsession is Sydney Miller’s Housework, which is the closest I’ve gotten to a nightclub since the world shut down in March. So many places are also doing free trials so you can test out a bunch of things for free before even committing to purchasing.

It’s Mobile

If you’re one of the blessed who have access to a vacation home or you’re able to go away for a weekend, you can bring your workouts with you. No longer are you stuck looking for a substitute class at a random studio—now you can bring your fav instructor with you. Sure you have to bring your equipment with you, but that’s a real small price to pay for convenience.

In the time that I’ve written, read, re-read, and edited this article I am happy to announce that my husband and I finally splurged on the SoulCycle At-Home Bike. I’ll be even more happy to announce when I make my money back on it as soon as we hit 68 rides, which between the two of us, will probably be in six months.

Images: @littpro / Unsplash; houseworkofficial, jabsbygina / Instagram

9 Quarantine Trends You’ve Already Forgotten About

If you didn’t already think time was a social construct, the last six months have probably changed your mind. The movie you said you watched last weekend? That was two months ago. And the tweet you thought you saw last week? It was posted today. Since we’re all online literally all day and have nothing better to do than run a new meme into the ground hours after it’s created, new trends come and go faster than ever before. While the banana bread and sourdough baking phase is probably seared so permanently into your memory that you’ll be telling your grandkids about it when they ask about 2020, there are probably a few trends and moments that have already been erased. 

The Carrot Challenge

Approximately two days into quarantine, everyone was apparently already so bored that they resorted to an Instagram challenge where they tagged their friends to draw a carrot on their story. It is truly remarkable to look back at this moment in time and realize how naïve we were that we could have possibly thought that was the worst it was going to get.

Whipped Coffee

This feels like something from an entirely different time, back when there was still hope (aka mid March). Thanks to one of the first TikTok trends to pop up in quarantine, people everywhere were using the 20 minutes that they’d usually spend commuting to the office to whisk coffee into a froth. Given that I haven’t heard anything about this in a few months, it seems like people have now realized that time is better spent sleeping in.

“Until Tomorrow”

this quarantine is really testing the limits of what photos make the cut for a throwback post on instagram

— Betches (@betchesluvthis) May 8, 2020

Another long-forgotten trend is the “Until Tomorrow” era, a time when you couldn’t open Instagram without seeing a feed full of embarrassing photos, bad selfies, and baby pictures (that would be taken down the next day to avoid total humiliation). Personally I think taking your photo down is a weak move, since true Instagram baddies have had embarrassing photos up since 2010 and never took them down no matter how bad (and over-filtered) they were.

“First Photo” Challenge

As I’m sure all the other single people quarantining alone would agree, this challenge felt like a personal attack. Seriously, couples posting their first pics together? Like, did I ask for every other Insta story to remind me that I’ll be riding out a pandemic alone and getting dressed up for FaceTime dates for the foreseeable future? 

Instagram Live

Remember that week (or was it a month? Who knows) where you got a notification every five minutes that someone was going live on Instagram? Including the girls from high school “running their own businesses” showing you how to use their essential oils? My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who accidentally joined someone’s live where there were only two other people watching. Leaving one of those is almost as uncomfortable as the split second of eye-contact you make with your boss every time you exit a Zoom meeting.

Push-Up Challenge

“See 10, do 10?” Yeah, I’m good thanks. I haven’t done a push-up since I was forced to for the fitness test in elementary school, and I won’t be picking those back up because someone tagged me in an Instagram story.

Tiger King

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🍿🍿🍿 [twitter: ericonederful]

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The memory of Tiger King feels like a fever dream. Like, we were really so desperate for entertainment at that point that we just ate that sh*t up and said “NEXT, PLEASE.” It’s kind of incredible that we got desensitized to the absurdity of every single event that happened in that series so quickly. But given how f*cked up everything has become since then, it was good preparation for coping with the rest of the year.

Zoom Happy Hours

if you're still scheduling 14 zoom happy hours every weekend you can chill, we all just want to sleep

— Betches (@betchesluvthis) April 24, 2020

Realizing that having a Zoom happy hour every night of the week does not make up for real-life interaction was a breakthrough that took longer than it should have. Playing drinking games at home is fun when you have somewhere to go afterward, not when you’ll just be sitting in your childhood bedroom, totally wasted, after you shut your laptop.

The “One New Thing A Day” Phase

I’ve been thinking a lot about the people who started quarantine by saying “I’ll be making one new cocktail a day!” or “Every day I’m going to make one new piece of art!” Where’d they go? Last I heard from them it was day 14 I think. Are they okay?

Instagram challenges and TikTok trends will come and go, but you know what will never go out of style? Wearing a f*cking mask.

Images: Mollie Sivaram / Unsplash; bigkidproblems / Instagram; betchesluvthis / Twitter 

What You Need To Know To Prepare For A 14-Day Quarantine

This spring, as coronavirus spread for the first time in the United States, we rapidly adjusted to a new way of life, one where most of us pretty much stay inside as much as possible. Initially, it seemed like the whole “pandemic” might only last a few weeks (how young and naive we were back then), but here we are, with July about to slip into August, and not much has changed. While staying at home for a month or two seemed doable for most people, we’re in month five, and some people just have to go places.

Traveling is still risky right now, especially if you’re going to or from a place with a large number of cases. Before you plan any travel, make sure you’re considering the latest CDC recommendations and guidelines. But if you are going somewhere, you should be taking all the precautions you can, including quarantining after you get back. Depending on where you live, you may be required to self-isolate for 14 days after returning, but even if it’s not mandatory, it’s the responsible thing to do. And though staying at home doesn’t sound so crazy at this point, there’s actually a lot to think about when you’re literally not allowed to leave the house for 14 days. Here are some tips and things to consider if you’re going to be stuck in quarantine this summer.

Know The Guidelines

If you’re going to follow the rules, you need to fully know what those rules are. Obviously, different states/countries/etc. have different guidelines and requirements right now, but before you travel, figure out what the rules are in your area. For example, the Tri-State Area (NY, NJ, CT) has a travel advisory list that currently contains 31 states, 10 of which were just added this week. If you’re coming to the Tri-State from any of these places, you’re required to quarantine for 14 days.

New York’s travel advisory has been expanded to 31 states.

If you’re traveling to NY from the following states you must self-quarantine for 14 days:

AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IN, KS, LA, MD, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NM, NV, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI.

— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) July 21, 2020

The rules for those quarantining in the Tri-State are clear: “The individual must not be in public or otherwise leave the quarters.” There are certain exceptions for essential workers or important medical appointments, but basically, you can’t leave the house for two weeks. In addition, travelers are required to complete a Traveler Health Form.  If you’re flying, you’ll be given the form at the airport, but otherwise, you need to complete it online. Those who don’t complete the form could face a $2,000 fine.

Those are just the rules for the Tri-State Area, but considering the recent explosion of coronavirus cases, they’re not bad rules for anyone to follow. But of course, check for guidelines specific to your area as well.

Plan Ahead

Before you leave for your trip, try to think through as many things as possible that you’re going to need once you get back. Stock up on whatever toiletries are running low, and make a grocery run for the non-perishable items that can chill in your pantry while you’re gone. If you don’t have laundry in your home, do it beforehand, and leave yourself as many clean clothes (and masks) as possible. If you live with a roommate or someone who’s not quarantining, make sure you have adequate cleaning supplies to avoid contamination in shared spaces. And depending how long you’re going to be traveling prior to your quarantine, you may want to look into longer-term things like having your mail held at the Post Office so you don’t come home to a mailbox that’s overflowing with junk mail.

You can also plan ahead for how you’re going to entertain yourself during your time indoors. If the answer is just “Netflix“, that’s fine, but if you love reading, buy yourself a couple new books to have waiting when you get home. Or if you have some DIY projects around the house you’ve been procrastinating, buy all the supplies so they’ll be there when you get back. Or, again, just spend two weeks watching Netflix, I’m not judging.

Get Back On The (Fitness) Apps

“Should I workout or drink?” I say to my dog as I pour a glass of wine

— Ashley Fern (@disco_infern0) May 13, 2020

Remember back in March, when you tried like half a dozen virtual workout apps in the first week of staying home? Wow, I miss being motivated. But aside from all the logistics of not being able to run errands, the hardest part of quarantining is that you’re literally not allowed to go outside. For two weeks. If you live in a less densely populated area without strict quarantine guidelines, you may be able to go for a socially distant run or walk, but that’s not an option according to the Tri-State rules.

With this level of confinement, you’re probably going to want to fire back up those fitness apps. There are more free online workout options than ever, so even if you don’t feel like committing to anything, you can burn a few calories and get your heart rate up. Realistically, you’re gonna be taking like 100 steps a day during quarantine if you don’t do some kind of workout, so it’s probably for the best.

Let’s be real—quarantining alone for 14 days isn’t fun. But in most states, COVID-19 is getting worse, not better, so we need these rules now more than ever. It sucks, but if we actually follow them now, maybe we’ll get to have fun again in 2021. Please, we can’t do another year of this sh*t.

Images: Thought Catalog / Unsplash; NYGovCuomo, disco_infern0 / Twitter