Will Normal Feel Normal Again?
Put on your hard pants and your travel jacket: Life is coming for you
I’m starting to do normal things. I went to Ikea the other day, not on an urgent mission (which is what all my shopping trips this pandemic year have been) but because I was idly curious about whether they might have nice pillows. Such a trip—somewhat frivolous, mostly exploratory—had been absolutely unthinkable since last March. During the pandemic I had gone into stores when there was no other option, mostly to get supplies that were household essentials, but this marked the first time I’d done so just because I felt like it. It was kind of a thrill, and kind of unnerving. The store was busy; young couples were canoodling on the mattresses in the showroom, as usual; people were stacking glassware in their carts and powering through the aisles. It was as ordinary as any day in Ikea has ever been, but somehow, the strangeness cast a net over the whole thing.
And then: High heels. Not super high, because I never, ever wear super high heels, pandemic or not, but I don’t think I’ve worn shoes other than Birkenstocks and sneakers since last March so even a smidgen of a heel felt epic. What happened was that the other night we were meeting friends for dinner, and I decided to put on a dress (something I haven’t done since last March) and the dress kind of demanded a shoe with a heel. I scrambled in my closet to find a pair. I had a Cinderella’s sister moment at first: My foot seems to have gotten squishier and wider, perhaps from all those months of Birkenstocks and sneakers, and it took some literal shoehorning to fully insert foot into shoe. But I did it. I felt like a toddler playing dress up, tripping around in these ridiculous shoes that I’d forgotten how to wear. Normal but not quite.
And now, I am taking a work trip. I do a lot of speeches and lectures around the country, and they’ve always been in person, of course. Last March, every event I was scheduled to do was either postponed or switched to virtual. I had assumed the talk I’m giving in May would have also been a Zoom thing, but the brave folks of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, decided they wanted to have me come in person. I could have opted out, but I had just gotten vaccinated and I suppose I was feeling flush with possibility, so I said yes. And…