Opinion | Our Homes Have Had Enough of Us, Too

At home, sitting for entire days staring at our respective desks provoked a clear negative reaction. The seats of two of my kids’ chairs acquired an oppressed concave shape before entirely detaching from their frames. There is a layer of debris beneath the mesh of my own office chair that honestly frightens me. One by one the keys on the keyboard of my laptop lost their zip and snap. The more I hammered away at them, the more they seemed mired in what I suspect was a toxic emulsion of dander, fur, human hair and assorted snack crumbs. I had to turn the laptop in.

I learned that it is possible to break clothes simply by sitting in them. Over the summer, I destroyed three pairs of khakis — their button closures simply let go. Come fall, I wore through three pairs of corduroys, the fabric first losing its ridges and then acquiring a tissue-paper-like transparency. I punctured actual holes in two pairs of pants just by pulling them up — because really, who is going to bother wearing a belt when not leaving the house? It’s as if my clothes chose to slip off out of sheer boredom, an existential weariness made manifest.

While more enterprising types went full throttle on the grow-your-own-mushrooms craze, I grew mushrooms, or at least cultivated a terrifying form of fungal growth, in the shower stall of my bathroom. Once Clorox returned to market, I entered the dark grout passageway armed with rubber gloves, a stiff scrub brush and a full bottle of bleach cleaner. Two hours of hard labor later, I staggered out in a sweat, eyes bloodshot, nasal passages aflame, shouting in triumph: “I did it! I destroyed them all!” to an audience of no one. This remains the crowning achievement of my quarantine year.

Dishes came out of the relatively new dishwasher dirtier than they went in. This was an emergency, given the amount we were all eating. “How did you do this?” the repairman asked. “The spinners are completely clogged with food.” What could I say? We were six people stuffed into one house, and a good portion of us consisted of rapidly growing teenagers. We were bored out of our minds. We ate constantly. The dishwasher, apparently, got fed up.

Granted, I did nothing much to make the house feel better. I learned no craft and painted no foyers and reared no houseplants in a nook. Unlike those who gave their mundane chores and home environment a stylish revamp, mixing fresh eco-cleaners and ordering outdoor heat lamps for quarantined socializing, I was flummoxed by the range of choices in firepits and opted to freeze. An especially brutal winter only exacerbated my cooped-up behavior. While colleagues took long scenic walks and photographed birds of prey, I circled my block like a prison inmate or an elephant in mourning.

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