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Wearing lipstick in the middle of a pandemic

When COVID-19 brought lockdowns to Eastern Ohio and sent many people home to do their jobs as best they could, I heard a lot of people say they were happy to be working in sweatpants.

Over the months since that began last March, people in various industries have told me they were still wearing their pajamas at 3 p.m. or even lying on their beds with their laptops, still working but from an entirely different posture than we all had become accustomed to during more “normal” days. While that might sound like a dream come true to some, that incredibly casual approach to work — even from home — is not a good fit for me.

My parents were early risers. Mom worked for public schools beginning when I was 5, and she usually reported to work by 7:30 a.m. Dad was a machinist for a coal company, and he was almost always in his shop by 6 a.m., even if he worked through much of the night before.

I have never been as good at mornings as they were, but many of the lessons and standards they instilled in me remain at the forefront of my mind. Regardless of whether I had school or if it was a weekend or holiday, I was expected to get out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth and comb my hair first thing. It was then required that I put on regular clothes before heading downstairs for breakfast. We simply didn’t eat meals in our pajamas or a robe.

So, for me, not much about that part of my life has changed when working from home. I still get out of bed and shower before starting my workday. I make sure that I look presentable, in case I need to go out to respond to breaking news or in any other way happen to be out and about representing the newspaper.

I will concede that my choices of clothing may not be quite the same as if I were reporting to the office every day. I might wear jeans instead of slacks with my sweater, for example. During the summer months, I admit that I did wear shorts on hotter days and nights — but I always had something more work-appropriate handy in case I needed to slip into a different outfit on my way out the door.

But it isn’t just my upbringing that causes me to make these choices. I believe that spending the day working in my pajamas would make me feel like I was giving up — surrendering to the coronavirus without even being infected by it.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. A colleague of mine wrote a few months ago that her mother often asks her why she still bothers to apply lip stain, when the pandemic requires us to remain distant from one another and to cover our faces with masks. Although she had some practical reasons for using lip color, such as appearing on camera on occasion, her real reason went much deeper than that: She said it was a “little bit of normal that I’ve held onto. That tiny piece of another time, pre-masks and foggy glasses.”

That same colleague has continued to do her job, covering difficult topics, facing criticism and carrying on. She even lost a loved one to COVID-19, but she still perseveres — and she puts her lipstick on.

I have never worn a lot of makeup, but like my fellow journalist I have continued to follow my regular routine even though I am not always reporting to the office. Before I begin my day, I dust my face with a little powder and apply a bit of eye makeup. After all, I want to look like myself during any online meetings I may participate in or when I go out to get the mail or take a photo.

Whatever it is that seems “normal” to you, cling to it now. Make every effort to go about your day in a way that tells you — and everyone you happen to encounter — that you can and will prevail. We can get through this pandemic, although not all of us will survive. Those of us who do must find ways to deal with the inevitable loss and grief. And one way to do that is to demonstrate that we are determined to carry on — as normally as possible.

So, don’t put a padlock on that closet full of work clothes. Even if you don’t do it every day, consider putting on a blazer or dress shoes from time to time. And if you typically wear makeup and style your hair, keep it up. In my experience, it will help you keep going even when you don’t really want to.

∫ ∫ ∫

As January winds down, it is time to look forward to the rest of the year. February will bring thoughts of love on Valentine’s Day, as well as the opportunity to reflect on our nation’s past on Presidents Day. For the faithful, a season of reflection and preparation for Easter will begin on Ash Wednesday.

February is also Black History Month. It is an observance that may be more important today, , following a tumultuous year in which racial tensions spread across our nation, than it has been since it was launched in 1976.

I would like to believe that racism is not a factor in our lives here in Eastern Ohio, but I know from experience and tales told by my friend of different ethnicities that, unfortunately, that is not the case. Hopefully, that is changing.

If you want to be part of that type of change for the better, take advantage of the resources we have here at home. Get better acquainted with the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing and all it has to offer. You can read about that on page one today.

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