Along for the Rye’d
Life in 2-D
By Annabel Monaghan
Pullquote: “I try to hold my face like Meryl Streep’s to project a little dignity…”
As we’ve all transitioned from racing around until we fall into bed exhausted to sitting around until we fall into bed exhausted, we’ve come to rely heavily on Zoom. I used to go out to have drinks with my friends, now I Zoom. My husband used to travel to and from the west coast in a day, now he Zooms. I am doing speaking events and am running a writers’ group that meets on Zoom. While it certainly keeps us connected, it’s just not the same.
Engaging with people in this two–dimensional format makes me miss the other dimensions of human contact. It’s not so much the third dimension of depth that I miss, but rather that extra dimension of personal energy. We are flat on Zoom, in all senses of the word. Whether it’s a dinner party or a packed auditorium, a group focused on one thing creates its own energetic entity. From an angry mob to a cheering crowd, everyone taps into this new thing.
But since we only have the two dimensions on Zoom, they become all-important. When have you ever had a conversation with someone while you are staring at your own face? I have never in my life seen so much of my own face. I get distracted by my own topography. I see what I look like when I talk and wonder when I decided to become a cartoon character. I raise my chin so that people can’t see my roots, but then I have exposed them to the full breadth of my neck. Zoom is not fifty-friendly.
Suddenly, other people care what I look like. I participated in a panel recently and was told at the rehearsal that we would all be expected to wear makeup. We were then given express instructions on how to turn on Zoom’s feature called “Touch up my appearance.” This really gave me pause. In 30 years, I don’t remember ever having been told I wasn’t pretty enough to talk about my work.
What’s worse is I get distracted. I Zoomed with a woman in a professional capacity who was seated right in front of her open closet door. I could not look away. That’s a cute dress. Wait, does it still have the tags on it? Has she been out shopping? Could I order that online? I bet it’s cute with those shoes by her laundry basket. That’s a really full laundry basket. Is she working harder than I am? “Oh. Sorry. What were you saying?”
Same goes for the news anchors who are broadcasting from their home offices. My ignorance of world events can be partially blamed on the presence of their vacation photos and their book choices. Steve Liesman has a copy of his wife’s novel just to the right of his head, which I find adorably supportive. Becky Quick likes model planes. Andrew Ross Sorkin has a hot pink bookcase. No, I don’t know what’s happening in Hong Kong.
Like every other person on earth, I am looking forward to getting together in person. I look forward to experiencing people in their totality, rather than focusing on that one uneven sideburn, that stray sock they thought was out of view. I think we have all met someone who we found beautiful because of the energy they bring into a room, and I am looking forward to experiencing people that way again.