During a Zoom meeting way back in the early days of Covid life, a colleague shared her key to pandemic success: wearing pants with a button. Every. Single. Day.
I waited until my camera was off, then giggled as I looked down to see my favorite perk of virtual life: the trusty leggings I’d worn daily since phrases like “social distancing” became part of our vernacular.
You do you, coworker. As for me, after just a few weeks at home, I was already far too smitten with wearing smooth-as-butter, stretchy pants around the clock to even think of entertaining her advice. My favorite Covid companions have been consistently — and literally — on my side for almost a year now. And while I’ve found joy and comfort in little things, like iced coffee and Netflix binges and furry pink slippers, my leggings take top prize for “pandemic bestie” during this crazy time (sorry, real friends).
Maybe it’s the delirium from spending so much time at home, but I swear that in addition to providing me with the utmost in physical comfort, I’ve also learned a thing or two from my preferred pandemic pants. The lessons I’ve learned from my leggings will hopefully tide me through the rest of this chaotic time — and beyond — and maybe they can help you, too.
1. Keep your friends close.
The other week, I was hustling through the grocery store checkout, ninja-like in my black ski cap, black face mask and, of course, black leggings. I glanced up and — gasp! — spotted the face of a long-lost friend. We squealed and then talked at warp speed for three whole, joyful minutes, until I noticed the angry glares of those behind me in line. That was one of the happiest moments of my week.
Real, live friend sightings are as rare these days as using the bathroom without one of my three kids joining me — so phone calls and texts with my pals have become my lifeline. Studies show that a simple text between friends can boost moods. Is it a coincidence that leggings have the most convenient cell phone holders ever? Thanks, deep side pockets, for reminding and enabling me to stay connected to friends. You’re light years ahead of your denim counterparts in pocket placement.
2. Be forgiving with yourself.
No matter how much I eat my pandemic feelings — which taste best at night once my kids are in bed — my leggings are there for me the next morning, stretching politely. Forgiving. Free of judgement. Those friends I’ve been trying keeping in touch with? We’ve done so much venting along the way. We’ve failed at all the things. We were the worst moms ever. Our productivity levels were barely detectable. And we’re not alone in feeling this way: According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than a fourth of parents reported a decline in their mental health during this pandemic. I find myself telling my friends they’ve got this, that they’re enough, that they’re doing great. I’ve tried to stay optimistic and talk to myself the way I talk to them. It’s not always easy — but I’m taking cues from the forgiving nature of my loyal leggings.
3. Hug the ones you’re with.
Pre-pandemic, my husband traveled the world for work. My kids shuffled between school and activities, and family mealtime was barely a thing. We all felt jolted when all five of us, plus our furry family member, landed in the house together 24/7. There were months of absolute chaos, with each of us awkwardly dancing around the others trying to accomplish our own daily goals. There was fighting and yelling. But there was also immense satisfaction in vanishing commutes, family strolls, eating chili and cornbread made from scratch, endless rounds of Disney Villain-themed Monopoly — a gift of togetherness during the formative years of my young kids’ lives.
True, some mornings I have to jump, squeeze, and contort to pull my leggings on — but then, there they are, providing support and hugging my thighs (sometimes a little tighter than I’d like). My pants provide a gentle hint to take a minute to cuddle my crew. And snuggling those in my house reminds me of our privilege and good fortune — and that, most of the time, I actually like them. (PSA: Hugging has ample health benefits, too.)
4. Keep it colorful!
It started with basic black. Then came camo. And then, an all-out Amazon spree. Was the world a bit sunnier when I wore my purple marble leggings? I thought it might be. Turns out science agrees: There’s a connection between color and mood. As the months ticked by, I found I enjoyed the daily carousel of my brightly-colored lower limbs so much that I subconsciously looked for other ways to invite color into our lives. We hung Halloween decorations on the last day of September. Then came the turkey window clings and shiny harvest-colored ceiling swirls dangling from our chandelier. Between Hanukkah and my kids’ birthdays — which all fall in November and December — our house looked like a bonafide Party City annex. I was never a big holiday decorator pre-pandemic. I’m not alone in the mental boost that decorating for holidays, and doing it early, has given me. We’ve been ready for Valentine’s Day for weeks.
5. Only YOU get to define yourself.
In the heat of summer in my D.C. suburb, I took to signing up for a lap lane and absconding to my neighborhood pool in the wee hours of dawn when the sun was up but the rest of my family wasn’t. When I mentioned my new hangout to a friend, she innocently asked if I was a swimmer — a simple question that prompted a mini identity crisis. My stroke is severely lacking, and I swim painfully slowly. I was the kid at summer camp that prayed for rain on instructional swim days. Enter that ridiculous debate over whether leggings are actually pants. (Is it any surprise that I firmly believe they are?) What that silly question taught me, though, is that the answer must be up to the wearer. Thanks, leggings, for the nudge towards self-definition. I contributed to the nationwide flour shortage in 2020, but I am decidedly not a bread-maker. But, yes, inquisitive friend: It may not be pretty, but I *am* a swimmer. At least this past summer I was.
Leggings, thank you for the love and lessons. You helped me survive this past year. And friends — actual people friends! — I can’t wait to see your faces, in-person, sometime soon. You know what I’ll be wearing.
Header image by Grace Yagel