Columnist

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

If there’s a record for going the longest without looking into a mirror, I think I might have broken it. Not since the cave woman days before the creation of glass had a female gone so long without checking on her face.

As with everything else unattractive these days, the pandemic is to blame. Now that there’s no place to go, nobody to see and no reason to put on makeup, our collective vanity seems to have fallen by the wayside.

It is possible to go though entire days without looking at one’s reflection. All baseline grooming – brushing, flossing, combing – can be accomplished without looking into a mirror.

Still, I’m seeing my face in other ways. In-person work at the TV station has been replaced by Zoom meetings, those ubiquitous teleconferences that place me and my co-workers into onscreen cubes, like the stars on “Hollywood Squares” or the family at the beginning of “The Brady Bunch.” Several times a week I sign in, look at the little camera dot on my computer, and, yikes, there I am.

What appears on screen is a version of myself that doesn’t quite match what I would see in the mirror. Because my desk is near a window and the light is all wrong, I appear partly in shadow – a good thing. And because the computer camera isn’t all that sharp, I’m blurry – also good.

These Zoom calls have been happening since March, and for much of that time, I would see myself in the meeting and think, “I’m kinda youthful.” Later, facing my real self in the mirror, I would have to downgrade things. The wrinkles that Zoom kindly ignores are willingly pointed out by the bathroom mirror.

The Zoom meetings were a novelty at first. When our production team moved from telephone conference calls to video, we were happy to see each other. Sometimes we would let our dogs and cats join us in our cubes. The technology was exciting. I looked forward to the next Zoom meeting in the same way I was obsessed with sending and receiving texts when they first came out.

And I primped for the Zoom meetings in the same way as I would primp for going into the office: hair, makeup and clothing. But as the weeks and months dragged on, I grew weary of the routine. Now, when faced with the choice of spending a half hour on blow-drying my hair or getting ahead of some research, I ditch the hairdo, appearing in my Zoom cube with furry weekend hair, no makeup and glasses. Waist-down it’s all pajama land.

At least I always wear a collared shirt.

I’m sensing that we all share a general malaise about our appearance. I’m seeing a lot of people wearing sweatpants and baseball caps at the grocery store. When it’s time to go shopping, I look at my droopy pants and t-shirt, consider changing into something more public appropriate, and then think, the heck with it.

Who will even know who I am? I’ll be wearing a face mask.

After months of producing content with Zoom interviews and our smartphones, I am finally venturing back out with a film crew. A trip to a local park for some interviews inspired me to get back on track with grooming. I would fix my hair and put on makeup.

Shampoo, conditioner, towel dry, leave-in conditioner, blow-dry, under-eye concealer, eyebrow pencil and mascara – I went through all the usual steps. Things were beginning to look like the face I remember from before the world shut down.

And then I reached for the lipstick, and stopped, remembering the virus and the face mask. Why bother?

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