News & Politics

DC’s Couples Are Self-Quarantining Together. But Are They Driving Each Other Insane?

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Coronavirus 2020

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When you say it this way, it doesn’t sound so bad: I get to work at home next to the person that I love, in the comfort of my sweatpants with a fridge full of snacks feet away, indefinitely?

In practice, it’s another thing entirely. It’s a fact Washingtonians and folks around the world are facing as the Covid-19 crisis forces many to telework. Sitting indoors all day can be tough, yes. But it’s even tougher when you’re in a small, cramped city apartment and the absolute loser who days ago you were convinced you loved unconditionally won’t stop chewing loudly on the end of his stupid freaking pen.

“I have Randy here with me,” says Shelby Parish, 34, when I call her on the phone. “Obviously, he has nowhere else to be right now.” Parish lives (and now, works) with said Randy, aka her fiancé Randy Sakowitz, 40, in a 500-square-foot one-bedroom in Bloomingdale.

Last Thursday, Parish’s office told her she’d be working from home through the beginning of next month; Sakowitz is currently looking for a job. Although Parish would typically work from home a few days a week pre-coronavirus, she’d take her laptop to Big Bear Cafe or squeeze in a mid-day workout at a fitness studio. Now the cafe is her kitchen counter and the workout studio her living room.

I ask how they’re doing. There’s a pause. “Like what scale are you talking about?,” says Sakowitz. “Like a normal scale for two months ago? It’s all right for being during a quarantine.”

They have a desk in the living room where Parish sets her computer, and she takes calls and videoconferences into the bedroom if need be. Sakowitz has been good about getting up and getting dressed, going outside for a walk and wiping all the doorknobs down with Clorox along the way, whereas Parish says she’s fully embraced Team Athleisure. “[Randy’s] currently wearing jeans,” she says, “whereas I haven’t even looked at a pair of jeans for a week.”

The only tiff they’ve had so far has surrounded their Netflix habits. The duo decided on a quarantine binge of West Wing, even though they’ve both seen it a million times. However, Sakowitz was ready to watch something else when they hit episode three, a decision that Parish had to remind him is antithetical to binge culture. “I was like, well, we’re binging. We’re going to do more than two episodes,” she says. “That’s his goal for self-isolating. He’s going to learn how to binge.”

An additional part of coworking-and-living with your significant other is learning another side of them you may not have previously known: Professional Significant Other. It’s a glimpse into what your partner does during the 9-to-5, their water cooler discussions and overuse of office jargon like “brain dumps” now alive in your home.

“I can definitely say that I didn’t realize how loud his phone voice is,” says Emily Stokes, 30, who lives with her boyfriend Matt Vasilogambros in a Mount Pleasant studio. “Also, he has a [different] phone voice. Like, it goes like an octave lower,” she says, “which is entertaining.” 

They officially got the word to work from home on Friday, and they anticipate being homebound through the beginning of April. One helpful tip they’ve discovered for being stuck in a studio? Get a little wild with your seating choices, says Stokes.

“We have a kitchen table, and we’re both sitting at the kitchen table [now], but we move around,” she says. “We have a desk that abuts our one window, so we’ll work from that a bit. Then we go to the couch or to the table.” And then if you get really bored, you can do the whole thing all over again! And again the next day!

Luckily, the duo hasn’t had any calls scheduled at the same time as of yet, which get could get hairy in a studio apartment. I ask Stokes—if they ever do face that dilemma, will one of them have to take a call from the bathroom? “Uh, yes, probably,” she says.

But, the good news for couples now stuck at home—you’ll get through it. In fact, you may even like it.

Just take it from video editor Chris Stuart, 30, who’s been quarantined at his U Street apartment for over two weeks with his fiancé, a 28-year-old who works in sales and asked to remain anonymous. The duo traveled to Seattle at the beginning of the month to look at wedding venues, and when they were returned, their offices asked them to stay home.

Their two-week period of self-quarantine just ended, which one could argue is cruel timing now that everyone else in the country has moved indoors just as they’re leaving it. Or is it?

Like a particularly acute case of Stockholm syndrome, Stuart says the duo has grown to like the isolation now, their warm cocoon away from the world. “At the end of the first week, we felt pretty terrible,” he says. “After that, it was kind of weird. You start to like the quarantine and nesting and being in your house.”

The other day, to celebrate the end of what Stuart calls their “fever dream,” a friend stopped by their house. After weeks indoors, one foreign body was almost too much stimulation for the duo. “It was almost violating,” says Stuart. “It was like, why are you in our little cavern?”

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.