I Speak for All Pandemic Moms When I Say: F**K 2020

Bess Kalb
·7 min read

The end is in sight.

2020—the year that brought us a deadly pandemic, the near-crumbling of American democracy, and a sitting president shouting out neo-Nazis during a debate—is almost over. Finally.

People will ask, “But how do you know next year will be any better?”

The short answer is: “The vaccine.” The longer answer is: “and Trump won’t be President.”

But thanks to the scientists who worked all year to make the vaccine while I wrote jokes on Twitter, next year you are going to feel slightly better than you do now. Unless you are crazy and refuse the vaccine, in which case, you’re on your own. There are going to be bars! And there are going to be bottomless nachos! (Are bottomless nachos a thing? I forget what restaurants have.) I don’t know everything that’s going to happen. But I do know that in the very near future, you are going to be able to share a plate of french fries with your friends. That means that it can’t be as bad as what it is now.

Of course there is going to be real rebuilding that will have to happen that jokes can’t fix. I recognize that, and am humbled by the people who are actually doing the work to make people better, because I have no skills that could contribute to that effort at all. If I were in charge of fixing America there would be some bizarre laws, like banning people who reply “best” to an email that I end “XO” from entering the country.

My fantasy for the day it is safe to stop social distancing looks like this: I hug my friends. I drink with them, in extremely close proximity. I’m going to be one of those people who’s just petting my friends’ hair and holding their faces. I’ll wrangle my baby into whatever Bjorn he’ll fit in at the time and my husband—who I definitely have not forgotten—and we will go across the country and see our family on the east coast. Of course, I say all of this, but the first thing I’ll do is make a hair appointment.

Bess Kalb with her well-read, Evermore-loving baby.

Bess-Kalb-Mom-Baby

Bess Kalb with her well-read, Evermore-loving baby.
Courtesy of Bess Kalb

I want to be clear: this year has been horrible for everybody and tragic for many people. As an anxious Jew, throughout my life I have taken my pain and trauma and made it into a joke—the only way I know to deal with pain and tragedy and loss is to find some humor in it. As a purely personal psychological coping mechanism, I recommend this. There is certainly nothing funny about what we have lived through. But there are aspects of the smaller things that we have lost and the various indignities we have all faced, and I think there is comedy in communicating how this has been a shared experience.

In the spirit of that, I will share what a good day in 2020 looks like for me.

5:30–6:22 a.m.: My one-year-old baby wakes me up. What a fun time this is! We’re in the 6:22 sweet spot right now—my husband and I just feel like we’re at a Club Med. To clarify, the fact that my baby sleeps until 6:22 is a brag, and I would like it to be printed in Glamour.

6:22-9 a.m.: This hour and a half is where I really get in the mom time and hopefully implant in him good memories of me being present. First I read him all the books he’ll tolerate before throwing his hands in the air and moaning at the ceiling (Raising a reader!!). Then he has breakfast that I prepare in front of him so that he’ll have memories of me cooking—it’s just oatmeal with hot water, but still it’s very exciting for him to be so nurtured and loved! And then after examining various toys and naming what they are with some degree of accuracy, he gets put in his crib for a nap and I abandon him for my workday!

9-9:30 a.m.: All throughout my work on Yearly Departed, the writers’ assistant would send an email saying, “Bess is unavail from 9-9:30” and it made it sound like I had a standing meeting maybe with other executives, but the real answer is that I was rocking and shushing a baby to sleep in his crib. That was always my first meeting of the day, on everybody’s Google calendar: “Bess is unavail.” Between 9-9:30 I read all of the writers’ submissions for the day while rocking my baby. I select jokes, and figure out a game plan for the day with the writers’ assistant, Caroline Anderson, who is as tolerant as she is talented, which is to say: VERY.

10:30 a.m.: I am lucky to be co-quarantined in a pod with my parents, who live about five minutes away. My dad or mom show up at around 10:30 when the baby wakes up and take him for the rest of my workday. All day he’s just on the other side of this door, doing his little Montessori blocks with my dad, who hadn’t raised a baby in 30 years.

11-1:30 p.m.: Writers’ Zoom, with the brilliant all-women writing team of Yearly Departed, Karen Chee, Akilah Green, Franchesca Ramsey and Jocelyn Richard. So we would really dive into each topic, and figure out what is the funniest angle and what makes us laugh. It’s incredibly productive, fun, supportive Zooms that felt like hanging out and processing the year.

1:30 p.m.: Put the baby down for his next nap with lots of kissing and proclamations of love and apologies. This is another “Bess unavail” calendar notification for various Amazon executives to work around. I am very important in that I am reading Goodnight Construction Site to a small, food-covered baby.

1:30-5:30 p.m.: Meetings! Figuring out all aspects of the show with our team from set design to music to casting.

5:30 p.m.: My next “meeting” is where my baby has to feed again. Because I was in a room with all women producers [including Rachel Brosnahan, who stars and executive produces] if meetings went beyond 5:30 I would sometimes say, like, “Is it okay if I turn my camera off? I have to pump, or I have to feed the baby.” And they were like, “Leave it on! This is motherhood in a pandemic!” And so I eventually got comfortable enough to leave the camera on such that the only thing that they would see is a tiny hand occasionally coming up onto my neck.

6:30-7:30 p.m.: Another intense hour of focused mom-hood.

7:30-10:00 p.m.: Starting the next round of emails that piled up in the time I was being, unfortunately, a mother.

10:00 p.m.: I acknowledge my husband, who’s really lovely, and whom I DEFINITELY did not forget! We fall asleep in front of the TV watching Great British Bake Off as classic stories of happily-ever-after promise us.

I want to be very clear that there are some things about 2020 I want to hold on to: I would like to keep the stretchiness of the pants that I have worn in this time. I hope to never go back to zipper pants again, and legally, I don’t have to. Below-the-waist comfort is coming with me into the future, the vaccinated future. It’s one of many things I have learned from being a new mother during a pandemic—stretchy pants, living in the moment, really attaching to joy when it comes, and playing a lot, a lot, of Taylor Swift to the extent that my son holds up one finger during “The One.” I am most proud of that.

Bess Kalb, a longtime writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and the bestselling author of Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, is the head writer and executive producer of the Amazon comedy special Yearly Departed. The special, which takes place in a funeral home, is a series of eulogies on the small, strange things we lost in 2020—casual sex and beige band-aids, to name a few. They’re delivered by a team of the funniest people alive: Tiffany Haddish, Rachel Brosnahan, Sarah Silverman, Natasha Rothwell, Patti Harrison, Ziwe Fumudoh, and Natasha Leggero, with Phoebe Robinson as host. Yearly Departed, which was written, directed, costumed, and edited by women, drops on Amazon on December 30.

Originally Appeared on Glamour