In Quarantine, Love Is Finally Liking My Family

Three and a half years ago, when I packed my belongings into four suitcases and moved to London, it meant accepting a certain distance between myself and my family. It was a distance the five of us had already started to understand since one of my two sisters had made her home in Israel. I’d happily existed away from my home state of Colorado for years already, first in New York and then in Los Angeles. But there’s a palpable undercurrent of anxiety that comes from relocating abroad and knowing that you’re an expensive 10-hour plane ride away from any emergency.

My family and I are not the most affectionate bunch, something that my husband found odd when he was first introduced to my parents and sisters. We don’t usually hug, except when saying goodbye—and those hugs tend to be loose, one-armed side pats that are awkward for everyone who witnesses them. When one of my sisters and I traveled around Europe together a few years ago, we piled pillows between us in the double beds, not wanting to get too physically close. Most years, we’re not all together on Thanksgiving or Christmas. We don’t end phone calls with “I love you” the way my husband does with his family. Love isn’t something we really talk about or often express, unless something truly dire or tragic has happened.

So in the past, the physical space between my parents, my sisters, and I has sometimes been welcomed. We’ve all made our own choices and lived our own lives, and occasionally months have passed without real communication about any of it. There wasn’t some great rift—from my perspective, it’s just that our priorities have focused in directions other than each other.

It’s not that I don’t love my family—or that I’ve ever doubted they love me. Love manifests in many ways, not just in words or embraces. Love is remembering someone’s birthday with an improvised song; it’s sending your sister a forest-scented candle during quarantine because she can’t be in the woods of Colorado for months to come. Love is helping someone pay their rent during a financial meltdown without them ever asking for help. It’s simply remembering to call your mom every week.

Love doesn’t have to be showy to be real. But it does take effort. It requires you to consider the people around you, however far away, and to offer something to them. I never would have predicted that a pandemic that’s caused so much isolation would be the thing that brought us back together. In the most dramatic fashion, it’s taken a global lockdown for us to confront how important we are to each other. But when five people begin to put in effort simultaneously, the love that’s always been there becomes suddenly more apparent.

That’s what’s happening to us now, from our homes around the globe. My family—including my husband, who’s one of us now—have made a collective effort. Every Saturday we meet on Zoom for a weekly trivia game, often joined by my sisters’ boyfriends and my best friend from high school, who is quarantining pregnant and alone. Each week we take turns running the game. It’s not about the winner, but about spending time together and feeling less isolated.

Sometimes we talk about the pandemic or about politics, but sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we just watch my sister’s new puppy show off his latest tricks. Sometimes there are moments of silence or people walk away from the computer for a few minutes without saying anything, just as they would if we were all in the room together. No one is obligated to be here. No one feels pressure to spend this time with the family or to make the effort. Every Saturday, when we join up in our virtual meeting room, it’s a choice to be together.

In Quarantine, Love Is My Very Annoying Dog

Every morning at dawn, my dog Paul gets out of the bed, scopes the apartment for potential enemies, and has a drink of water. Then he starts “sharking,” meaning he keeps his head low and circles the bed, like a shark closing in on its enemy. Instead of the appearance of dorsal fin triggering panic in his prey, it’s the jingle of his dog tags. And instead of a plucky young seal, his prey is me, a woman who desperately wants to stay in bed. No matter what I do—pretend to be asleep, bargain with him, assertively tell him to stop, or sweetly ask him to come back and join me in bed—he sharks, and he sharks, and he sharks. Eventually, he emits a high-pitched whine every three to five seconds as he circles, transforming my bedroom into a multisensory torture chamber before the sun has even had a chance to fully rise.

There’s only one way to get him to stop. I haul my ass out of bed and take him outside.

My shark dog Paul

Prequarantine, I absolutely loathed Paul’s sharking. I felt it unreasonable, and I am a person who believes my dog can be reasoned with. I’ve tried hitting him with the straight facts, a bleary-eyed, duvet-covered prosecutor making her closing argument to a furry jury of one:

Paul, you go outside for a walk every night around 11 p.m., and you do all your necessary business. It is now 5 a.m. the following day. Surely you can wait more than five or six hours between walks, and allow your beloved mother to get a bit of extra shuteye! You can understand how hard she works to keep kibble in your bowl and thus permit her to start her day without the unsettling sensation that she’s being hunted. In conclusion, the state finds this behavior unacceptable—what say you?

Unsurprisingly, the jury never rules in my favor.

But in the last two months, something has changed (and it certainly isn’t Paul). I didn’t notice the shift at first; it was only when, on one particularly sunny, glorious Brooklyn morning, we were two miles away from the apartment by 6 a.m., it occurred to me that Paul’s sharking no longer upset me, or annoyed me, or made me utter obscenities under my breath while bitterly lacing my shoes. Instead I was truly thrilled to get up and meet his demands. When I asked myself why, I realized that though his behavior was the same, what it meant for me had totally shifted: Instead of an early morning call of duty, it was an opportunity to get out into the world and see things. Sometimes we even see other people (from a safe distance, of course).

Love in the Time of Corona—Your Stories

We were married on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, at the Wake County Detention Center—all the courts in Wake County were closed because of the coronavirus, so they told us it was the only option! The magistrate married us from behind bulletproof glass.

The date is special because it coincides with the auspicious Hindu holiday of Gudi Padwa. According to sacred Hindu scriptures, this was the day that the world was re-created after a natural calamity stopped time and killed many people—it marks a New Year of sorts.

—Priyanka, 31, and Thomas, 32, North Carolina

“We’re two humans and two cats in a studio apartment. It’s very cuddly.”

Courtesy of author

I’d been living alone almost eight years before I met Jacob. We’re both in our mid-30s, so by the time that we met, it was like, “Oh, you, I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” We knew really quickly. I think, gosh, probably like our second or third date, I blurted out, “I think you’re my person.”

I lived alone for almost 10 years before we were together. We moved in together right before the holidays this year, and there’s a side of me that could be getting very stressed out about handling another human living with me. We’re two humans and two cats in a studio apartment—it’s very cuddly. I could be getting stressed out about that. But honestly, I feel like it’s helping us get to know each other even better. There’s not really any way to have mystery in a studio apartment when you’re on 24/7 lockdown. It’s definitely been helping us with communication, and being patient with each other and being patient with ourselves.

We were both so busy before all this happened. It’s nice to have time to hang out and connect whether that’s cooking together, or taking a walk, or playing video games, or hanging out with the cats. It’s nice to have that little cocoon. I’m totally a workaholic. So this has been a very interesting challenge for me to learn to just slow down a little. But it’s a lesson I need to learn. So it is really nice.

— Jess, 34, and Jacob, 37, New York

“I don’t know what will become of this tender, new shoot.”

We were supposed to have lunch a couple of weeks before the crisis, but schedules did not permit. But still, the odds seemed good—both of us work careers in service of others, and most important, he resonated with my Bumble profile statement that I wanted to meet someone who “had done the work,” and worked on themselves.

Our text conversations were incredible. If there is such a thing as “text chemistry,” we had it. The longing I felt, as I texted, “All I want is to fall into you, to rest my head in that place where your neck, shoulder, and chest meet, and to be wrapped up in your arms,” gave me a bittersweet ache that I hadn’t felt in years. But meeting would have to wait.

This period of discovery was so fun. We shared deep dark secrets and spoke about our inner demons that we keep hidden from others. Our conversations heated up, and while we never quite sexted in earnest, we got as physical as one can in a virtual world while staying in our comfort zones—we are middle-aged!

I became dependent upon our conversations. So imagine my surprise and anguish when, despite sending two alluring photos, and a desperate, “Hey, I’m having a rough day. Can you just send me a hello,” I got nothing. I was filled with self-doubt and anxiety. Had I turned him off? Had I been “too much”? This is crazy! I don’t even know this man! I rationalized. On the second day of silence, I told him that I was grateful to feel 16 years old again and that I would miss our conversations, but that I could not tolerate not being responded to. Of course that got a response.

In Quarantine, Love Is My Relationship With Celebrity Gossip

A friend of mine recently turned me on to an Instagram account that posts the dishiest celebrity gossip. She recommended it with a warning: “It will fully take over your nightly reading.” She was right. The first night I had access to the account, I stayed up until 3 a.m. reading outrageous blind item after outrageous blind item. I couldn’t stop. And when I discovered the DMs posted from users rehashing supposedly real celebrity encounters, I felt another rush of dopamine. It was the happiest and most alive I’d felt since the world fell to pieces in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Judge me if you want, but I love trashy celebrity gossip. Yes, I’m using the word love here. When the world is normal, I treat it like tequila shots, cotton candy, or listening to Nickelback—fun to indulge in every now and then, but too much will make you sick. Celebrities may have the most privilege human beings can get, but they’re still humans after all—reading about their sordid affairs, debaucherous nights, or allegedly wretched behavior does feel invasive after a while.

But the world isn’t normal right now. We’ve been self-isolating and social distancing for weeks, and people are trying to find joy wherever they can. For some, it’s baking loaves and loaves of banana bread. (I burn simple toast.) For others, it’s doing puzzles. (I would just cheat and force the pieces to fit.) And then, of course, there’s old faithful, a.k.a Netflix. (Sadly, I’ve seen everything, even an episode of that Ashton Kutcher ranch show. Mind you, I’m gay.) So for me, a daily diet of celebrity trash has been my lifeline to happiness. It really is a love affair—a summer fling, if you will. I check in with my celebrity trash like I would a new boyfriend, giving him lots of time and attention. My love life with other humans may be at a complete standstill, but I’m fully in a relationship with other people’s relationship gossip. And I’m head over heels.

To be clear, this is gossip I know is fake and from sources that have as much credibility as the Fyre Festival. I’d say my trash consumption at the moment is—hmmm, well, a lot. It’s certainly more than the time I spend reading actual books or articles. Red, White, & Royal Blue is collecting dust on my nightstand because I’m glued to Twitter, inhaling deranged threads about stars ignoring their fans at restaurants, or hilariously long Instagram Stories about TV actors partying with their neighbors. It’s as much a part of my daily routine these days as brushing my teeth or wearing a mask.

Here’s the thing: I don’t feel an ounce of guilt over it. Much like this writer from Los Angeles is embracing her need for ice cream and cheese, I’ve wholeheartedly accepted that reading blind items is essential to my pandemic survival. Food is providing her comfort the way celeb trash gives me an escape—more of an escape than I’ve experienced watching even the most addicting new shows. (Outer Banks kept my attention, sure, but at the back of mind I was still thinking, “Coronavirus, coronavirus, coronavirus.”)

With celebrity gossip, it’s a different story. It’s like combining the best parts of Gossip Girl, The O.C., and Scandal, while keeping in mind there’s a small possibility what you’re reading actually happened. I think that last part is why I find it so intriguing and necessary at this time. Sure, I can imagine what it’s like to make out with John B. from Outer Banks, but at the end of the day, he’s a character. That’s a script. It’s a role. But when I’m knee-deep in a blind item, I’m transported to a nasty, thrilling universe that could have been reality. Even just a fragment of it. Maybe 90 percent of the story is total bullshit, but 10 percent might be true. For me, it’s so much easier to dream about that—and, ultimately, escape, which is what we’re all desperate for in 2020.

Also, let’s be real: Celebrity gossip is fun. You’d be lying if you said you hadn’t talked endlessly with coworkers about a rumor or broken down an A-list breakup at happy hour (remember those?). Celebrities rarely sue tabloids anymore because the general consensus is they’re bogus—heightened soap operas that you should trust as far as you can throw. But there’s a reason soap operas are the cockroaches of TV: They endure because they’re fascinating. As is tabloid fodder. I’m certainly not telling you to take what you read as fact. Take it as fantasy; a fantasy that, yes, may be (but probably isn’t) grounded in some reality. It’s harmless delusion.

And it’s a delusion I’ll be entertaining for the foreseeable future. If I can’t go out dancing or to the movies or do other activities that typically make me happy, I’m filling my brain with preposterous (but plausible) stories about the rich and famous. You can keep your vinegar and baking soda baths, thank you very much. Just let me have my blinds.

Christopher Rosa is the staff entertainment writer at Glamour. Follow him on Twitter @chrisrosa92 and Instagram @chris.rosa92.

In Quarantine, Love Is Wearing My Emmys Gown

Earlier this year, my old-fashioned Filofax was filling up with notations about my spring book tour, which was to have started May 5—New York, Memphis, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Now those cities have been crossed out and replaced with very different itineraries: “Superhero. Paris. Sushi pajamas. Wedding dress. Orient Express.

These notes are ideas for the daily selfies I post it to Twitter, a practice I fell into when New Yorker writer Rachel Syme suggested that March 22 be the first #DistanceButMakeItFashion group action. I pulled out a sparkly never-worn Ted Baker jumpsuit, shared my photo, went back to watching What a Way to Go with my daughter, a beloved old favorite that happens to be extremely fashion conscious. In fact, that whole weekend was dominated by movies in which clothes were integral to the story—The Devil Wears Prada, Desperately Seeking Susan, even Crocodile Dundee. (Thinking not of Paul Hogan here, but Linda Kozlowski.)

I couldn’t help noticing how good it felt, getting dressed up and putting on makeup, even if I never left my bedroom. Before quarantine, my life as a stay-at-home writer had been lived largely in sweats, and I sometimes got into my pajamas as early as 5 p.m. I prized comfort—soft fabrics, loose clothing—above all else. Now most of the world was living as I had lived, wearing clothes that had been dubbed WFH, assuming they were wearing clothes at all.

Two days later, preparing for a video meeting, I found myself picking out a pretty plaid frock, pairing it with over-the-knee red suede boots with four-inch heels. I sat on the foot of my bed, took another selfie, uploaded it to Twitter with a rhetorical question: “Rachel Syme, what have you wrought?”

The next day I was back at the foot of my bed, staring down the mirror in our Art Deco armoire in an outfit that always makes me feel chic and put-together: knit black pants and a Brochu Walker sweater with billowing white sleeves. When friends mock-protested my untimely embrace of style, I slipped on a leopard print coat and bright red Celine sunglasses, then took another selfie.

Courtesy of Author

Eight weeks later and counting, I am still dressing up, still posting a daily selfie. Some of the outfits are, in fact, what I have chosen to wear during this unseasonably cool and surreal Baltimore spring. Others are donned only for the photo; given how much I cook, I can’t swan around in a gown. But I put on makeup every day, style my hair with my trusty Revlon heated brush, choose an outfit that I would be happy to wear at a convention or bookstore event. Although I have almost no manual dexterity, I have learned to paint my own toenails (who gets close enough to judge one’s toe nails, after all?). I touch up my roots, having promised my brilliant colorist to avoid DIY color kits. I even do my own waxes.

In Quarantine, Love Is My Own Little House on the Prairie

I won’t go so far as to say we’ll be anywhere near being self-reliant homesteaders when we emerge on the other side—after all, I just poured my morning coffee thanks to a Keurig—but it’s been an empowering experience to broaden my idea of what a life I love might look like. Turns out, I am someone who can plod through a field of cow poop to move cattle to greener pastures (I mean, the symbolism in that) and enjoy it. I am someone who can raise a baby chicken to a hen to collect my morning breakfast from my backyard. I am someone, who after years of jokingly killing off scores of house plants, is getting serious about the baby spinach sprouting in my basement because it’s one less thing I will have to buy from a store.

There is a strange sort of contentment that has settled down into my bones at this new way of life. Unlike the constant go-go-go pace of the life we led before this, the inbox that I never really stopped checking, the work as a freelancer that never really ends, and that constant, looming anxiety over where my next check would come from, this work on our land feels refreshingly straightforward. Animals need to be fed, manure needs to be hauled, weeds need to be cleared. As a farmer—even the pretend variety, as I imagine our four steers make us to real farmers—you go back to the basics: food, water, sunlight, fresh air.

I feel a deep sense of frustration? grief? that it has taken a global pandemic to strip down the busyness of the outside world and narrow our family’s focus down to working together, but because that’s the reality we are living in right now, I’m trying to see it as an opportunity to learn together. I’m hoping the lessons about caring for animals will translate into bigger lessons for my children. Already, they have picked up on some life skills, like driving (#tractorlessons), and the fact that there’s no such thing as “male” or “female” work—my daughters are pitching poop out of stalls every week, right alongside their brother, and thanks to all of that poop, my 7-year-old son is doing laundry every day. Apparently, pig poop is the great equalizer we’ve all been looking for—who knew?

Courtesy of author

Farm life is easy to romanticize—all Instagram-worthy images of children playing under clear blue skies and humble, homegrown food dotting your table—but I’ve also learned that there’s a deeper, sometimes darker, symbiotic nature to working with animals and plants. Even as you learn how to respect and work with nature, you also have to learn how to thwart it. Like the tarp we used to coax the weeds in the garden to sprout early, the better to kill them off later, or the strategic chicken tractor my husband built to drag through the pasture, allowing the chickens to eat the fly larvae from the manure before they get a chance to hatch. Because nature can be beautiful, but it can also be terrifying. (And yes, I’m looking at you, murder hornets.)

Regardless of what happens in the future, or if and when we go back to our “normal” way of doing things, I feel like this time together has bonded us in a way that can never be lost. Whether it’s memories of “Monday Funday,” when their dad made them clean out the stalls, days spent playing in the dirt, or the Garden Journal my 12-year-old started, I hope that this time together has planted a foundation my children will grow from.

I’m learning right alongside them, soaking up the bright spots in our new way of life. After all, I did always think Pa Ingalls was kind of hot.

Chaunie Brusie is a writer in Michigan covering parenting, health, and finances. Follow her @chauniebrusie.

In Quarantine, Love Is Rediscovering My Hair

My aunt Jacqueline has been heavy on my mind during quarantine. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are of me sitting on the floor between her knees as she braided my hair. We’d talk for hours, laughing at episodes of Golden Girls, as her hands weaved back and forth.

I always liked the way I looked in box braids, especially during the summer when I would undoubtedly be spending my days at the pool or in Antigua, where my family is from. But as is the case for so many young black girls who grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, I distinctly remember the moment I stopped feeling pretty in them. It was a silly insult—a kid in my fifth grade class called me “spaghetti head”—but for a girl who already stood out from her classmates in so many ways, it was all I needed to hear to want hair like everyone else. And just like that, my tradition with my aunt died.

I started relaxing and straightening my hair regularly in middle school and graduated to wearing weaves in high school. I also competed in pageants at a time when natural hair wasn’t really accepted, leading me to put my hair and scalp through so much trauma. It was only last year that I stopped wearing weaves and decided to embrace my curls and natural styles again. It took more than a decade, but I finally got tired of quite literally hiding my hair, and by extension, hiding who I was and the culture I grew up with.

My little sister and niece were also catalysts for me to embrace my natural self. They’re growing up in an age where they are constantly bombarded by images of perfectly edited faces and curated lives. I don’t want them to feel as if they need to alter themselves to reach some arbitrary standard of beauty. If I wanted them to believe me when I said they’re beautiful just the way they are, I had to believe in myself, too.

In March, I was planning on calling up my stylist for some Seneglese twists; I wanted to give myself a break from doing my hair everyday and wanted a protective style to help me grow out my hair and retain length. But before I could, New York went into lockdown as COVID-19 ravaged our state.

For everyone in New York City, it has been a supremely challenging time. It’s hard to focus on anything but the illness and death that has swept over our communities, our everyday lives disrupted beyond recognition. We are all grasping onto anything that can make us feel the tiny bit “normal” again. The term “self-care” is often thrown around to sell women products; it’s still happening during the pandemic. But for me, self-care during this time didn’t mean buying an expensive face cream or leisurewear set. It meant sitting with myself and focusing on truly caring for my health, both mental and physical.

I started to think about how when I’m doing my own hair, I see it as a task to get through. And the ritual I had with my aunt came back to me. For her, braiding my hair was never a chore—it was a labor of love. I wanted to shift my perception of it back to something I did to care for myself. But my years spent trying to conform to Euro-centric beauty standards meant I never learned how to braid hair, a fact I’m ashamed to admit as a Caribbean-American woman.

So I went on YouTube and watched hours of tutorials on how to do box braids and Seneglese twists. I studied videos obsessively for a few days until I finally got up the courage to try it myself. I must admit, my first attempt ended with tears and me literally throwing a pack of hair in the garbage. But after my meltdown, I took a breath and remembered I should have the same patience with myself as my aunt had for me. Although her hands were undoubtedly sore, she would braid my strands delicately until the job was done, even when I would start to nod off.

In Quarantine, Love Is Dressing Up With No Place to Go

Earlier this year, my old-fashioned Filofax was filling up with notations about my spring book tour, which was to have started May 5—New York, Memphis, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Now those cities have been crossed out and replaced with very different itineraries: “Superhero. Paris. Sushi pajamas. Wedding dress. Orient Express.

These notes are ideas for the daily selfies I post it to Twitter, a practice I fell into when New Yorker writer Rachel Syme suggested that March 22 be the first #DistanceButMakeItFashion group action. I pulled out a sparkly never-worn Ted Baker jumpsuit, shared my photo, went back to watching What a Way to Go with my daughter, a beloved old favorite that happens to be extremely fashion conscious. In fact, that whole weekend was dominated by movies in which clothes were integral to the story—The Devil Wears Prada, Desperately Seeking Susan, even Crocodile Dundee. (Thinking not of Paul Hogan here, but Linda Kozlowski.)

I couldn’t help noticing how good it felt, getting dressed up and putting on makeup, even if I never left my bedroom. Before quarantine, my life as a stay-at-home writer had been lived largely in sweats, and I sometimes got into my pajamas as early as 5 p.m. I prized comfort—soft fabrics, loose clothing—above all else. Now most of the world was living as I had lived, wearing clothes that had been dubbed WFH, assuming they were wearing clothes at all.

Two days later, preparing for a video meeting, I found myself picking out a pretty plaid frock, pairing it with over-the-knee red suede boots with four-inch heels. I sat on the foot of my bed, took another selfie, uploaded it to Twitter with a rhetorical question: “Rachel Syme, what have you wrought?”

The next day I was back at the foot of my bed, staring down the mirror in our Art Deco armoire in an outfit that always makes me feel chic and put-together: knit black pants and a Brochu Walker sweater with billowing white sleeves. When friends mock-protested my untimely embrace of style, I slipped on a leopard print coat and bright red Celine sunglasses, then took another selfie.

Courtesy of Author

Eight weeks later and counting, I am still dressing up, still posting a daily selfie. Some of the outfits are, in fact, what I have chosen to wear during this unseasonably cool and surreal Baltimore spring. Others are donned only for the photo; given how much I cook, I can’t swan around in a gown. But I put on makeup every day, style my hair with my trusty Revlon heated brush, choose an outfit that I would be happy to wear at a convention or bookstore event. Although I have almost no manual dexterity, I have learned to paint my own toenails (who gets close enough to judge one’s toe nails, after all?). I touch up my roots, having promised my brilliant colorist to avoid DIY color kits. I even do my own waxes.

In Quarantine, Love Is Finally Prioritizing My Family

Three and a half years ago, when I packed my belongings into four suitcases and moved to London, it meant accepting a certain distance between myself and my family. It was a distance the five of us had already started to understand since one of my two sisters had made her home in Israel. I’d happily existed away from my home state of Colorado for years already, first in New York and then in Los Angeles. But there’s a palpable undercurrent of anxiety that comes from relocating abroad and knowing that you’re an expensive 10-hour plane ride away from any emergency.

My family and I are not the most affectionate bunch, something that my husband found odd when he was first introduced to my parents and sisters. We don’t usually hug, except when saying goodbye—and those hugs tend to be loose, one-armed side pats that are awkward for everyone who witnesses them. When one of my sisters and I traveled around Europe together a few years ago, we piled pillows between us in the double beds, not wanting to get too physically close. Most years, we’re not all together on Thanksgiving or Christmas. We don’t end phone calls with “I love you” the way my husband does with his family. Love isn’t something we really talk about or often express, unless something truly dire or tragic has happened.

So in the past, the physical space between my parents, my sisters, and I has sometimes been welcomed. We’ve all made our own choices and lived our own lives, and occasionally months have passed without real communication about any of it. There wasn’t some great rift—from my perspective, it’s just that our priorities have focused in directions other than each other.

It’s not that I don’t love my family—or that I’ve ever doubted they love me. Love manifests in many ways, not just in words or embraces. Love is remembering someone’s birthday with an improvised song; it’s sending your sister a forest-scented candle during quarantine because she can’t be in the woods of Colorado for months to come. Love is helping someone pay their rent during a financial meltdown without them ever asking for help. It’s simply remembering to call your mom every week.

Love doesn’t have to be showy to be real. But it does take effort. It requires you to consider the people around you, however far away, and to offer something to them. I never would have predicted that a pandemic that’s caused so much isolation would be the thing that brought us back together. In the most dramatic fashion, it’s taken a global lockdown for us to confront how important we are to each other. But when five people begin to put in effort simultaneously, the love that’s always been there becomes suddenly more apparent.

That’s what’s happening to us now, from our homes around the globe. My family—including my husband, who’s one of us now—have made a collective effort. Every Saturday we meet on Zoom for a weekly trivia game, often joined by my sisters’ boyfriends and my best friend from high school, who is quarantining pregnant and alone. Each week we take turns running the game. It’s not about the winner, but about spending time together and feeling less isolated.

Sometimes we talk about the pandemic or about politics, but sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we just watch my sister’s new puppy show off his latest tricks. Sometimes there are moments of silence or people walk away from the computer for a few minutes without saying anything, just as they would if we were all in the room together. No one is obligated to be here. No one feels pressure to spend this time with the family or to make the effort. Every Saturday, when we join up in our virtual meeting room, it’s a choice to be together.

Aja Naomi King Big Beauty Questions

Aja Naomi King is a planner. She comes prepared for everything, kind of like that straight-A student who anticipates a pop quiz before anyone else. But throw in a pandemic that upends daily life, and even the most focused can’t help but be rattled.

“I’m a bit of a control freak,” King says. “So being in a situation where you have no idea what’s going to happen or when it’s going to end is really hard.”

That’s why trying to focus on what she can control—whether it be her self-care routine or her activism—is the most important thing to the How to Get Away With Murder star right now. For starters, there’s her involvement with L’Oréal Paris’s Women of Worth campaign, which is working to nominate women championing change through a wide variety of causes, including fighting COVID-19. “It’s just remarkable watching how everyone has taken the time to go outside their comfort zone and make as much of an impact as possible,” she says. “It’s been really incredible.”

Not to mention comforting. In such strange times, we asked King to tell us what she’s doing to maintain a semblance of normalcy, from the tried-and-true to the one-and-done.

Glamour: How has your self-care routine changed, if at all, while in isolation?

Aja Naomi King: Before quarantine, I really had to pick and choose what I had enough time for. Now I spend a lot of time doing intense breath work and meditation to calm my mind and body. I also like to wake up in the morning and thoroughly cleanse my face and then massage it with my fingers or a jade roller. It just makes my skin feel nice and helps relax me. It’s stuff like that that keeps me uplifted.

Speaking of being uplifted, is there any music that has been keeping your spirits up?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Robyn, especially the song “Call Your Girlfriend,” because it really pumps me up. It’s just such a good song. And then also a lot of Buena Vista Social Club, because that music is very relaxing and sexy.

What have you been doing with your nails in quarantine?

At the beginning, I was still caring about how my nails looked and was doing them. I love light, pale spring colors. But then I stopped because I really don’t like painting my own nails. I’m not great at arts and crafts and they always look kind of shitty. So I actually went and got some press-on nails. I was like, “Okay, it’ll look nice and all I’ve got to do is stick it on.” But that was so weird for me. I didn’t enjoy it so I removed them immediately and gave up.