A fairly good friend sends me a WhatsApp message.
“I miss you loads, Jacinta!” she writes. “Hope you and your boys are having a good time in quarantine? Or an okay time, at least? Wanna chat tomorrow? Maybe a Skype call?”
I write back: “I miss you loads too!” I wonder if I’m lying. I wonder if we would’ve actually met up in non-Corona-times, and if I might miss the idea that I COULD meet up with said fairly good friend more than the actual meeting up itself? Do I miss the freedom to flake out on people last minute more than the actual live social interaction? Sometimes I think I am in prison, and I say to myself “Jacinta, you’re in prison!” and then I remember that I am not in actual prison, and go for a walk, outside, maybe even in a tiny bit of nature, and then I see a poster for a concert that obviously never took place or never will take place and I feel so sad, so fucking sad, so fucking FUCKING sad. Not because I am in prison, but because I might as well be. Not because I would’ve gone to that concert – but because I miss the freedom of deciding not to go to that concert more than the actual concert itself.
“Skype call tomorrow?” She writes. “Just tell me when!”
“I’m pretty busy tomorrow, actually,” I write back.
She responds: “Good one!”
But the weird thing is: I am not even joking.
The thing is, I’m not sure if I am an introvert or an extrovert. Other people tend to think I’m quite loud and extroverted and self-confident, but whenever I do those Cosmo quizzes they usually say I’m an introvert. I think I’m possibly an introvert trapped in an extrovert’s body, or, perhaps, vice versa. I like people. I like other people. I even quite like a lot of racists and sexists and people like that. I love my family. I like chatting to grannies in the streets. I don’t mind hipsters wearing silly clothes and I never get grumpy, in non-Corona times, about people walking too slowly or standing on the wrong side of the escalator. (I do suspect that I am one of the people who other people get grumpy about, in non-Corona times, for walking too slowly or standing on the wrong side of the escalator.) I literally love everyone in my family, even, or maybe I mean especially, the alcoholics, and I have often have a lot of fun at parties.
But I’m not a total extrovert. I simply love my own company. I love being drunk alone, and I know this is a tragic thing to admit to. When my oldest son is at his dad’s and my youngest son is asleep – in non-Corona times, I mean – I feel so happy. It feels blissful. I am happiest on Facebook arguing with strangers, drinking red wine, and then reading a bit before bed. Pure bliss.
And you know: I don’t find other people HELL – but I do find them a bit exhausting sometimes.
So I kind of thought, as an extroverted introvert, or introverted extrovert, that I would find these Corona times strangely peaceful, you know? When our semi-lockdown was announced I expected I’d find it peaceful. I thought there would be lots of lonely evenings spent listening to Helen Reddy and blissing out with a glass of red wine in a non-thrush friendly steaming-hot bubble bath.
CHANCE WOULD BE – AND I CAN’T EXPRESS THIS ENOUGH – A FINE THING. I have so much to do, alongside my home-office, home-education and home-cleaning duties, I am also just constantly inundated with fun social activities I literally can’t say no to. My social calendar is as full as ever. Actually, what am I talking about? My social calendar is fuller than it has ever been.
I have online book club with a set of nerdy Berlin mums, online yoga class with my friend from high school, online meditation with my friend in Prenzlauer Berg, listening partnerships with other frazzled mums from all over the world, online job coaching sessions specifically to deal with any identity crises arising from the Corona crisis, online job coaching sessions non-specifically dealing with any identity crises which just exist generally speaking in my usual life, online podcast club, where not only do I have to take part in the actual podcast discussion, but I also have to prepare by listening to said podcast beforehand, online sacred sister circle AND fun Netflix watch parties. And these are just the things I’ve said yes to!
The terrible thing about my social calendar now is you can’t pretend your kid is sick to try and get out of anything… Sometimes I get filled with the image of myself if I tried to survive Corona as mentally healthily as possible, constantly gardening on the balcony, baking healthy gluten-free scones in the kitchen, home-educating my kids while home-officing at the same time, Skyping with an overwhelmed mum in Atlanta while also taking part in online podcast discussions in another Fenster… My mum used to always say, when I was little: “A woman’s work is never done!” Well, in these harrowing times of Corona, I guess maybe we have to update this saying to: “A woman’s fun has only just started!”
I have half an hour to kill before my online book club. I better google the plot of the book on Wikipedia. I didn’t actually have time to read it, obviously, because I’m just so busy, socially, at the moment.
My son points out the window at a group of kids, who probably don’t come from the same family, sitting underneath a slide we can see from our window.
“Playground aputt!” He announces gravely.
“Yeah,” I say. “I know.”
“Das ist naughty!” He says.
“Yeah, it is a bit,” I say.
“DAS IST NAUGHTY!” He calls down at them, and I shut the window, move him away. When this is all over I don’t want everyone to call me the Stasi-Tante from Number 11 or anything.
I WhatsApp my fairly good friend back. “I can slot you in for half an hour tomorrow at 15.30?” I write. “See you then!”
“Shall we do some Cindy Crawford?” I ask the baby. “Go get your little chair.”
“Cindy Crawford is booooooooooooowing,” he says. He pronounces boring exactly as he would had I never moved to Berlin, but just the few miles from Ilford to Dagenham. Booooooooooooooooooooowing- gur.
“You wanna do Tracy Campoli?” I say.
“Das one is boooooooooooooowing. Dinosaur, please, Mummy.”
I put on Dinostories and go get showered. I even shave my armpits and everything. Online Book Club, I decide, will only be half as much fun if my pits are hairy.