I’m dating again. My faithful new companion is Zoom — my best and only date, my entire social life. One look at my calendar, and you’ll see. We go everywhere together.
Zoom is a tough chaperone. She/he/it won’t let me hug anyone –- no exceptions! This is disconcerting, but I humor her. I have to. Without her, I wouldn’t go anywhere. But wait! Why am I calling her a she? I’d rather she were a he! Somehow, though, Zoom sounds female.
Our first date was an AAUW (American Association of University Women) poetry-reading group, whose members are mainly women who (not counting reunions) haven’t seen their colleges in 60 years or so. That would place us directly in the technophobe category. But Zoom, apparently, doesn’t have prejudices. From the very beginning, we all found her easy to hook up with. It struck me this way:
Ladies in their Eighties
Cut ‘em no slack
There’s no holding ’em back.
Looking back now on that first date, it seems like no big deal. But at the time, it was an amazing experience that opened up a whole new way of being.
Once I settled down from the initial wonder, Zoom became ho-hum and sometimes downright annoying.
Seeing myself on the screen, I wince at the angle to which my head is always tilted. I look positively wooden. And my hair! I never like the way my hair looks, but it’s worse on Zoom. Frizzy little strands stick out here and there, while the top has no height at all; it is so severe. Do I really look like that?
After only a few Zooms, I began to notice not just myself, but the background. Usually, when I use my computer, I’m facing the wall. All I see is the screen I’m working on, as it should be. But what’s this? My Zoom camera shows an elongated view of my kitchen, with cabinets in the background, some unwashed dishes on the counter, and an overall disorganized look. I neaten it up by moving my computer to the kitchen table, where my new background is a big Liechtenstein poster with a bright red frame. That works better. Besides, when I sit at the table, I can glance at the view outside the window – and rest my eyes at the same time.
Zoom is really cruel to my eyes. In the early days, I sometimes had three Zoom dates in a day. Now, I limit myself to two, max. Even so, my eyes hurt. After a long meeting, they feel positively fried. And I get squirmy. I used to be able to sit in a classroom, conference room or living room and be calm and patient, but barely an hour into Zoom makes me squirmy. And squirmy shows, not just in my body’s discomfort, but on the screen.
Zoom dinner parties are the worst. I haven’t been to a real dinner party, but last year, my brother-in-law invited me to a Zoom seder. Frankly, I don’t have the manners of Emily Post. I’m a messy eater and don’t show up to advantage on the screen. Another thing I dislike about Zoom dinners is, I usually prefer other people’s menus, and nobody ever offers me a taste.
Dating Zoom gives me a reason to dress up. If you could call it that. Maybe put on a different sweater. Rarely– once in a blue moon — a pair of earrings. Forget about all the things hanging in my closet. Zoom doesn’t remember what I wore the day before. I always do. It’s often what I have on. I’ve never been a clothes horse, though I suppose you might call my closet a stable for old clothes. Before Zoom, I sometimes had that feeling of “having someplace to go and nothing to wear.” Now I have no place to go and everything to wear!
I sometimes find myself pondering strange questions, like:
What would our country be like today if our founders had met on Zoom?
I’ve started working on a Zoom glossary:
Mute yourself means shut up
The host is in another meeting means keep out
Hide self-view is an opportunity to stare, or look away, with impunity.
I’m nominating Zoom for a Nobel Prize as Most Technophobe-Friendly piece of technology.
I never leave home without it.
Or rather, I never stay home without it.
Irene Kleinsinger, Tarrytown, NY