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On The Verge of A Zoom Breakdown

Gail Forrest discovers the horrors of seeing one's own face on a Zoom call — and how to make it more bearable

I admit I’m a techno dinosaur and have always lagged way behind on the technology curve. Mostly because I was really happy living in the time of a Filofax and self-correcting typewriter. Those were the good old days. When forced to step up and buy a computer and PalmPilot, I sought therapy. I am certain I was the last person to learn to copy and paste but I admit it changed the laborious job of re-typing. I also loved having a car phone because you always knew where it was! Then along came the 5lb cell phone which could only fit in a purse bigger than I was. Walking around with it did improve my upper body strength, however. A nano second later, Samsung and Apple arrived with teenie tiny devices and I dumped the clunker. And finally, under pressure from every single one of my friends, I abandoned my Android for an iPhone. I am embarrassed to confess it took me three days to figure out how to answer when it rang! I went back into therapy. 

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FaceTime was a game changer in my phone life. I never ever pick up when anyone calls me that way. If you must FaceTime, call someone else. I almost blacked out the first time I answered a FaceTime call. My arms were not long enough to get it far enough away from my face to look human. I was tempted to throw the thing across the room but then remembered in the nick of time how much it cost. I hung up on my friend Diane instead.

When I saw myself in a Zoom meeting, a little voice in my head screamed, “Call a plastic surgeon!”

But now, technological necessity has driven me to the edge of sanity and happiness. Zoom arrived and with it misery. When I saw myself in a Zoom meeting, a little voice in my head screamed “Call a plastic surgeon!”  Was that me? Beads of sweat began pouring down my face; I hadn’t perspired that much since sixth grade boy/girl parties. I have never looked worse! I ran to the mirror to reassure myself that I had not aged 35 years since earlier that day. Did I really look that old, wrinkled and chinless? To make matters worse, Zoom is the new reality. No more in-person meetings, appointments or friends. We are all now bound together by a screen.

Zoom is not for the faint of heart. Preparing for Zoom time is all consuming. I have learned the hard way that going makeup free is a certain path to self pity and re-thinking a face lift.  It is makeup and hair products for me to face my face! Thankfully, it only requires dressing up half of my body and not hours swapping outfits for the perfect total look.  Truthfully, I haven’t had on anything but sweat pants or gym shorts since March 14 and am not hopeful my skinny jeans will go on my COVID-19 body. Thankfully, all my tops still fit but they looked better with jeans or cute pants than pajama bottoms, which is my Zoom outfit. 

Tricks to Zooming

By necessity I am learning there are tricks to Zooming that are way less expensive than a face lift. Never ever look down at the screen unless you want to meet the enemy — gravity! One sagging chin is bad enough, no less three! Lighting is critical and when directly over head I looked like a deer in headlights. Side lights are a big help as I tend to look a tad less visible. A big discovery to maintain Zoom sanity I have discovered is to always have the screen looking down at you. I have gathered up all my favorite books and created a towering stack of literature to save face. This lifts my eyes up and my cheeks and chin follow which also lifts my spirits. The single most important trick for me, however, is to have the screen as far away as possible; in a galaxy far far away would be best, but across the table also works.

A good background setting is important for visual interest but I am usually sitting in front of a white wall which isn’t the most attractive or exciting.  I am in the process of thinking about more fun ideas like a large photo of an alligator with my arm in its mouth, or Martin Scorsese handing me an Oscar. Even better might be a big picture of me when I was 22 hitchhiking across the Golden Gate Bridge in bell bottoms and waist length hair; the good old days of a landline and unpaid phone bills.

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Gail Forrest
Gail Forresthttp://www.gailforrest.com
Gail Forrest recently started doing standup which she finds is a complete blast. Gonepausal is her blog and she has a book on Amazon by the same name filled with stories of her skewed, funny view on midlife and all its attendant surprises. Humor is the only way forward at this point.

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