Star of the small screen

I’ve always worked full-time from home, and mercifully, for most of my career, video chat wasn’t an expected mode of work meetings. I mean, sure, on rare occasions, we’d cram into a camera equipped meeting room in Silicon Valley, and the other team would cram into a camera equipped meeting room in New York, and we’d wave at each other until someone brought the room to order. It was a simpler time, and actually required you to be in a building with your colleagues (at least some of them).

Over the last five years, video meetings at work became the norm, and depending on what time of day they were happening – I had a lot of 6am PT meetings – my camera may have been “malfunctioning” or my internet connection could have been “unstable” or a variety of other reasons why I didn’t want to bring my unshowered, craggy mug into the office of my fresh-faced colleagues.

2020 has introduced a whole new level of video angst. Remember back at the beginning of all our stay-at-home orders where we were having Zoom dinner parties and Zoom cocktail hours and Zoom get togethers? That was more socialization than I typically pursue in 6 months, and it introduced a world of virtual backgrounds and ring lights and other tips and tricks for putting your best face forward on these endless video appearances. I have a few virtual backgrounds (and a green screen that I string across the landing of the stairs where my “office” is, and I’ve worked out my good angles, but I don’t have a ring light yet so…)

I’m a professional and this is my thoughtful listening face, apparently.

I’m glad that mania seems to have evaporated, as my workday still involves plenty of screen time, and frequent video chats. My standards have dropped about how “camera ready” I need to be, too, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. So, for the last few weeks, I’ve been forcing myself to get dressed in something that I wouldn’t, like, wear to wash the car, and trying to do something with my hair, which is Laura Ingalls Wilder long right now, and slapping on a coat of makeup.

Then I sit down at my computer and type away at my email and work on my projects and honestly, it’s like waiting for a date to come pick you up. Right before a meeting, I have to dash into the bathroom to check my hair and makeup and touch-up my lipstick and then I perch on my chair and wait for the other people to join. And then when they do, I quickly act casual, like, oh my gosh, how funny to run into each other on this video thing. It’s just the weirdest.