They say you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. Let’s do the math.
I live with my boyfriend and an orange tabby we call Fry. The three of us spend a lot of time together, eating dinner, washing dishes, and falling asleep to Restaurant Impossible in our queen size bed. So far, that’s one person and one cat.
But during the day, I work from home. I wake up every morning with the option to stay exactly where I am, dressed in pyjamas and staring into the depths of design projects on my laptop.
Believe it or not, I almost always get out of bed, swipe on some lip gloss, and head to Starbucks so I can exchange 10 words with an 18-year-old barista.
“Can I get a tall coffee for inside, please?”
Me and my coworkers chat throughout the day via online messaging, usually about work matter, but sometimes about TV shows and our favorite foods. You know, water cooler stuff.
I wish I could say the Starbucks barista and my co-workers counted as people I spend time with, but since the day I borrowed my mom’s Motorola to text a boy named Brayden, I’ve never believed text messaging to be an authentic form of communication. There is only so much you can express using just the alphabet and punctuation emojis.
Without a cubicle and the conversations that come with it, I have to find human connection elsewhere.
I play volleyball on Wednesday nights with a random group of people, but so far I only know them by their first names and Boston Pizza drink orders. I keep up with friends in group chats and see family on the weekends, but for 10 hours a day, five days a week, I am all by myself.
So, who do I spend all my time with? YouTubers.
Twenty-something-yoga-stretching-matcha-drinking-boss-babe bitches who live their lives on the internet are my biggest guilty pleasure. And before you roll your eyes or call me to make sure I’m okay, please hear me out.
Every morning, you stroll into an office and head to the break room to chat with Megan about her kid’s hockey game. I sit down with my coffee and open up YouTube notifications to see Marla Catherine went on a family roadtrip yesterday.
At lunchtime, you sit at a table with six other people eating out of plastic Tupperware while talking about The Bachelor. I spend half an hour with Gretchen Geraghty, talking about her morning spin class and discussing what she needs to pack for her upcoming trip to Miami.
When my boyfriend gets home, he tells me about so-and-so’s vacation to Barcelona then I fill him in on Sarah’s Day surprise engagement in Hawaii.
While Photoshopping images for Pinterest and writing content for our website, I keep YouTube open in the background of my tasks. True-crime podcasts and Spotify playlists get boring, but most of all, you get lonely. Research shows remote workers experience symptoms of anxiety and depression at a higher rate than people commuting into traditional office spaces.
I love what I do and enjoy the perks of getting to work from wherever I want, but like most things, there is a “Honeymoon Phase”. In the first few months of working from only a laptop, I developed this growing sense of emptiness. Something was missing. It’s not that I needed more friends, I had plenty. I had my fantastic relationship and a tight-knit family, so why did I feel so lonely?
On a day-to-day basis, your level of happiness largely correlates to how many interactions you’ve had with strong ties (friends and family), but the weak ties (co-workers, baristas) also play a major role.
So, whether you’re talking about buying a house with your boyfriend or asking Susan from finance if she’s seen the stapler, both kinds of connections matter for your mental health.
Since I don’t have a Susan from finance, I’ve turned to YouTubers.
I go to Maggie MacDonald and Brooke Miccio for girl talk. From skincare and smoothies to cheese boards and Channing Tatum, they have me covered. When I need something a little more “juicy”, I’ll put on Hailey Sani and she’ll “spill the tea” on Tinder dates and Turkish nose jobs.
I’ve never met these girls, and I probably never will, but a few times a week they update me on the mundane details of their ordinary lives. I tune in and out of their un-edited makeup tutorials and raw day-in-the-life vlogs while getting my work done. It feels like I’ve spent my day catching up with friends and keeping up with the latest. Goodbye, lonely.
From the moment I could stand up to pee, my life has been immersed in unwavering masculinity. For me, the only way to becoming a man, was to learn to live like a man. For the record, I still miss the bowl sometimes. Don’t tell anyone.
I learned to hock loogies before I could tie my shoes. I studied playboy.com before I mastered my times tables. I’ve been a drunken carpenter, a nonchalant boxer, a venomous salesman and a wannabe Casanova. But after a long week of living the life of the proverbial man’s man, I get home, I slip my wingtips off, I pour myself a Jameson on ice, and I tilt my head up. From the pit of my sin and cigar-suffocated esophagus, I muster up a voice that would make Clint Eastwood sound like Macaulay Culkin.
Then, I casually beg a robot to give me my guilty pleasure:
“Hey google, play “More than a Woman” by the Bee Gees.”
Then, any coal-miner, beef-eater exterior I put up vanishes into a romantic, soft-pop ecstasy. I am lost.
Lost in the falsetto shriek of Barry Gibb. Lost in the slow, dramatic drawl of Robin Gibb. Lost in the intimate key touches of Maurice Gibb.
Amongst the crowd of hard-livin’ country outlaws and authority-stomping punk rockers in my music collection stand three, disco singing brothers in a competition to have the biggest set of teeth and the hairiest chest. They defiantly wait for me to choose them. They seduce me in vulnerably tight bell-bottoms and perfectly tuned British isle accents:
“Z, baby. It’s us, the brothers Gibb. Don’t you think it’s time for you to feel something, man? Time for you to give your heart something to listen to; something to beat for, baby.”
I choose the Bee Gees. Not always. But sometimes I find myself on the way home from watching cage fighting with the guys, or even in the middle of a workout, and they succinctly strut into my ear stream. There’s nothing quite confusing as going for one more rep, drenched in hard-earned sweat, sprawled in a bench press position, and these lyrics come on:
“I know your eyes in the morning sun. I feel you touch me in the pouring rain.
And the moment that you wander far from me, I want to feel you in my arms again.
And you come to me on a summer breeze. Keep me warm in your love, then you softly leave.
And it’s me you need to show, how deep is your love?”
But this isn’t about disco. This isn’t about corny adult contemporary or soft rock, riddled with overly-produced sounds and goo-goo gaga lyrics. Music doesn’t have genres. That’s something record companies invented to sell more and to categorize human beings. They told you you’re this way for liking this kind of music. You bought it. But really, your favourite music is your favourite music because it speaks directly to you. Barry, Robin, Maurice and me have our own connection. And I’m not ashamed of it.
To me, the Bee Gees are living room dance contests and shriek-offs with my mom. She would do funky kung-fu kicks and twirl around the coffee table, channelling the week the songs were released. I’d stare at the compact discs, looking at their their eyes and their jewellery, wondering who these nicely dressed sasquatch men were.
Their music means childish memories of yesterday and heart-throbbing feelings of tomorrow. And while others music makes me feel profound, and proactive, and productive, these three sappy sons of bitches overcome me with a glistening, disco-ball reflection of joyous human emotion. They stand out to me. They wail and jive talk and boogie, completely capturing the soft side of a hardened heart.
If that’s a guilty pleasure. That’s only words.
And words are all I have to take your heart away.