How to Behave Well in a Quarantine

(this lovely painting by our favorite, EVERYONE’S favorite, Alma-Tadema, shows people spending their quarantine decorating their apartment. What a lovely example! See how a fake leopard skin makes the whole room feel cozy? Wear comfortable clothes, strew flowers everywhere, light candles, and have large plants, an indoor fountain and useless pieces of sculpture – these people are an excellent model for all of us to follow)

There is honestly no need for advice columnists in a public emergency as the standards of decency slip rather a lot. Have you not intentionally coughed on strangers today? Refrained from licking food and replacing it on the shelf? If you haven’t ax-murdered, kicked, slapped or stapled-gunned any person or creature today, why then you are practically perfect.

But everyone must do their part in the time of crisis, Darling, so I will soldier on.

If you are healthy and able, don’t do anything that will cause anyone to take care of you  – punch pillows. Do not punch walls as you will break your hand and have to go to the emergency room and waste medical resources.

Don’t hurt anyone – never be the reason a person prays for God’s mercy (or makes voodoo dolls)

If you can, give in the way that makes sense for you (but don’t give so much that you put yourself in trouble). Donate money, goods you have bought, masks you have sewn etc. but the first principle stands. It’s awful out there – don’t be the reason that you waste someone’s time and energy to rescue you from a situation that you created. Now, more than ever, live deliberately, plan ahead.

This means ask for help in good time, if you are running low on food ASK FOR HELP before you get to the point of starving or you are out of medicine.

A lot of you are finding out that all of those ‘if I ever I have time, I will…’ wishes were totally unrealistic – you having time is still not sufficient reason to bake bread, learn that language, do X or Y, and that is totally fine. Recreate famous paintings with your cat, use a Sharpie to color all the tiles on your bathroom floor, dye everything in your house lilac, look at old e-mails – the main point is to get through and the second point is to not cause worry in another person.

Try to push yourself to spruce up the homestead a little – minimal cleaning, wash your sheets, shower once a day – don’t fall into a pit of slovenliness (Darling, one word: cockroaches. Not that I have ever seen one. I have not. But I have heard about them and, Darling, better alone in a studio apartment than alone in a studio apartment overrun by critters skittering over all your dirty plates. Clean up.)

And read! What to read in quarantine? Books in which everything is upset and at odds, then comes back into place again, which means mysteries and fairy tales. Yes, fairy tales! If you always wanted to learn Japanese, read Japanese fairy tales, you will pick up a few words and get cultural insights while forgetting that you haven’t been outside for a week. Fairy tales have a lot to teach you.

For mysteries, we (that’s the royal we, Darling) recommend gentle ones – Agatha Christie is perfect, as is Tony Hillermen. Read them all. Or for more excitement, pick ones with a LONG story arc; Louise Penny, Elizabeth George, Lee Child, and Stephen Hunter will keep you busy for days. Or go traveling: Elizabeth Peters (Egypt, Amelia Peabody), American West (CJ Box, Craig Johnson), Maine (Paul Doiron), Venice (Donna Leon), Victorian England (Anne Perry), supernatural (Simone St. James), CA (Robert Crais, Michael Connelly), Boston (Dennis Lehane), medieval England (Ellis Peters).

Take care of yourself, take care of others if you can – that’s all that is required. (And don’t horde. Buy reasonable amounts because hording causes excessive nose hair growth – this is medically documented. Look it up, right after you have cleaned the kitchen.)

y - alma tadema - preperations