Of all the articles predicting what post-pandemic life will be like, the most questionable are the ones that suggest shucking off your cocoon and emerging like a butterfly. “Try out a new you!” exclaimed an essay in the NYT. What a great idea, right? The me I’ve spent my life being is like a costume I can trade for a better one! By better, the essay strongly implied more extroverted. More fun. More outgoing. More optimized!
The Times essay provoked 400 comments, most from introverts who took issue with the notion that their personalities are flawed and need retooling. Some proposed that extroverts learn to shut the hell up, instead.
One of the suggested routes to a New You is to just fake the You you want to be. Pretty soon, the faked qualities will stick! Or, if you’re the methodical type, you can simply make a list of new behaviors that run counter to the Old You. If you’re unsociable, make a point of starting conversations with strangers. Interestingly, there were no strategies for busybodies who need to mind their own business or for controlling types to back off and relax.
Instead of fretting about the weight I’ve gained, I’m thinking about a New Me who is chubby, or let’s go wildly politically incorrect and just say fat. The Fat Me will have a throaty smoker’s laugh which I will employ with gusto. The Fat Me will have to be a lot more fun, and less whiny. I’m assuming people have less patience with a whiny fat person than a whiny thin one, but what do I know? A friend once accused me, in the midst of a raging diatribe about my awfulness, of having no fat friends. I was upset and mortified until I realized she was mistaken.
If I manage to lose the extra pounds, I can try out a Tolerant New Me. I will go around agreeing with people’s idiotic statements and I’ll stop shouting at the people on TV. I’ll stop making fun of mispronounced words like when Ivanka says “impor-dant.” I’ll stop arguing about word usage, like the expression “bored of” when it should be “bored with” or “bored by”. If I can’t stop arguing about this entirely, then I’ll stop taking the argument so seriously that I have to send ten emails proving I’m right.
What about a New Me who can drink beer from a bottle and talk about sports? I have secretly always wanted to be this Me. While I’m at it, I’ll stop carrying a handbag. I’ll use a functional, nondescript backpack or just use my pockets. Girls who can survive without a handbag have always been my idols. So free of vanity and insecurities! They’re not dependent on lipstick or eye-drops or Polarized sunglasses: they are free spirits who will go camping at a moment’s notice.
A Capable Me, a Fun-Loving Me, a Me who lets her hair go gray, a Me who doesn’t want to kill so many people, a Me who would just get up off her ass and do yoga or Tai Chi or pursue volunteer work or stop talking about death….they all sound delightful.
But, big surprise, people are how they are. To quote an expert in child development, “You may be a certain way for the rest of your life, but the big issue is how you manage it—or not.”
Have you considered how the last year might have changed you in some fundamental way? Have you realigned your priorities or just lowered your standards in choosing the evening’s Netflix menu? Let’s hear about it! Just don’t go on about sweatpants, because the Old Me can’t bear one more word about fucking pandemic sweatpants.