I’m working from my back bedroom these days, and it’s a pretty lonely place at times.
It’s hardly a startling observation, but a global pandemic can be an isolating experience.
In the bigger picture, that’s a minor complaint and one I’m able to deal with.
I’ve tried to keep myself on the rails of good sense by trying to help others. I’ve reached out to other people who I knew were alone just to chat by phone or text.
I usually get more therapy than the people I’ve called, but, then again, no one’s hung up on me yet.
Another strategy I’ve used is self-discipline.
We’ve all laughed at friends’ Facebook posts that said, “I’ve given up alcohol for a month. Oops. Grammar mistake. I’ve given up. Alcohol for a month.”
It’s funny because we suspect it’s true of a lot of people. When you live a disconnected life, whatever temptations you have are amplified.
That could be eating too much, drinking too much, online gambling recklessly or watching too much cable news. None of those are good strategies for a happy, prosperous life in the Age of Social Distancing.
So, I’ve given myself a little more structure. I get up at the same absurdly early hour that I did before the storm. I make up my bed, which I’ll admit I only did occasionally in the antebellum world. I figure if the bed is made, I’m less likely to get back into it.
I put on a dress shirt and slacks as if I was going to meet with the mayor in the Tulsa World’s downtown office. I comb my hair, wash my face, brush and floss my teeth and am sitting at my back bedroom desk by 7 a.m.
I’ve gone running every day. Saturday, I got a little carried away as I ran on a neighborhood street, listening to the Metropolitan Opera’s rebroadcast of a favorite piece. The music was beautiful and fast, and I found myself running faster to keep up with it … conducting … and choking back tears because I had lived in a golden age that could have produced something so beautiful.
It’s been my one moment of public despair.
I’ve decided I need a project. So, I haven’t shaved in a week and a half. I’ve always admired men who have full beards or decent mustaches. That’s never been in the cards for me.
I blame my gene pool. Earlier attempts at facial hair — mostly in college — have always resulted in patchy, unattractive splotches that itched and repelled women.
Beardless men of a certain age look in the mirror and imagine themselves as James Harden running down the court. So far, I just look like I needed to wash my face.
But with weeks of enforced isolation ahead, I’m giving it the old college try. My inner Harden is dying to come out.
I wonder if beards will fall out of fashion in the near future.
The U.S. has had five bearded presidents, the first being Abraham Lincoln. Pictures of Honest Abe suggest he and I might share a common gene pool, but — patchy as he was — he set the facial standard of Republican presidents who followed.
The fifth and final president with a full beard was Benjamin Harrison, who had a luxurious growth that President Lincoln and I could only dream of. Harrison’s only other significant accomplishment as president is that he was the guy between Grover Cleveland’s first term and Grover Cleveland’s second term.
A couple of subsequent presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, sported mustaches. The last was William Howard Taft, who had the walrus thing going on.
Some historians have suggested that facial hair went out of style in the early part of the 20th century as the public increasingly accepted germ theory. If beards were a place for crumbs to accumulate, there were probably some microbes there too, right?
Did I mention that part about washing my face every morning?
After the coronavirus started spreading, a 2017 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention graphic got new life on the internet with overreaching headlines suggesting the nation’s health experts wanted men to shave.
The graphic doesn’t actually say that at all. It shows 30 kinds of facial hair and notes that some fuller beards could interfere with tight-fitting respirator masks.
Mustaches and soul patches are generally OK, although you don’t want anything of the truly exotic fashion.
Close on the heels of the supposed CDC warning against the hirsute lifestyle, came the denials. The CDC hasn’t made any comment on the cleanliness of beards, only its potential effect on close-fitting respirators. The CDC’s current guidance is that there’s no need for routine use of respirators outside of the work environment. And there’s no call for one if your work environment is the back bedroom.
Otherwise, the CDC hasn’t said anything about whether men should keep their beards.
So my itchy project continues. For now.
I think I’ll go wash my face again.
Harden’s layup is better than mine too.