September 21, 2020
It is a common phenomenon for someone to go through “phases” as an adolescent. This could include an “emo” phase with loud music and a bad attitude or a “hippie” phase with a “peace and love” mentality; the list goes on. While these phases may not last long, they can help people discover who they really are. Someone in their “hippie” phase can acquire a passion for social justice but not necessarily flower power. Many people can experience these phases over a couple of years or just over a couple of months. During the span of quarantine, I had gone through several phases.
From the very beginning I knew that if I just wore pajamas or sweatpants every day I would lack the motivation to do anything productive and would have nothing to look forward to. I had decided that I would start my own game of dress-up every day whether that entailed a black-tie outfit or a literal costume. Doing this each day would give me a new personality to try out and would allow me to see what suited me best.
At first I would wear extravagant outfits with elegant dresses and plenty of jewelry to accompany it. I knew there would be no reason to save the outfit for a later event since everything around me had been on an extended pause. In these elegant ensembles I would start to watch old films from the 1940s, almost as if I was attending a premiere event in Old Hollywood. This would soon be a common activity for me: building my own fantasy world to escape the real one around me. After a month I stopped wearing these kinds of outfits. This was mostly due to my comfort winning out over how I wanted to look. It turned out that wearing frilly petticoats and dresses every day becomes uncomfortable after a while.
To keep up with the theme of escapism I started to dress up as fantastical characters. One character that was often my “go-to” was a pirate! I already had a frilly shirt and a plastic sword in my possession so putting together the rest of the character was not that difficult. Watching the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies and listening to sea shanties helped me get in the mood of being a pirate on the sea, looking for adventure. Alongside being a pirate I would also apply specialty makeup to my face to look like an elf or a fairy. Doing this would make me feel like a child again since I was free to dress up however I wanted to without the scrutiny of others.
What character would I embody next? What new world would I create? For the first time in months I felt like I could do anything I wanted and that this was the secret to staying sane during the quarantine. It wasn’t until I stopped myself and looked at myself in the mirror to look at what I had become. Dressing up like this wasn’t out of the ordinary for me, but fully taking on a new personality was. What had happened for me to go down this route? Was it a nihilistic look at the world? Did I want a distraction? Did I just want to ignore my problems and become someone else? The answer to all of these questions is yes.
Unfortunately escapism is a poor coping mechanism. It works great for short term issues, like watching your favorite TV show during a break; it’s not so great when it’s long term. The world was starting to catch up with me and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Refusing to face my issues was only going to make matters worse, both for me and for others around me. I had decided that while it was fun to dress up and escape, I should catch myself before I lost my sense of reality completely. I compromised with myself by continuing to dress as if everything were back to normal: a perfect balance of reality and fantasy. While dressing up as a pirate is considered unconventional, so was behaving like everything went back to normal.