(CNN)Normally reserved and conservatively dressed, my friend was outfitted in a strange mishmash of colorful wigs and Hawaiian shirts and a sequined gown. Her boyfriend was equally festively donned for New Year's Eve.
Are we getting weirder? Perhaps we're simply becoming ourselves
There may have even been multiple alcoholic beverages in her hands. I wasn't sure how it was possible to wear all of those things at once. More importantly, what had the universe done with my khaki-inclined friend who gravitated toward yoga and crudités?
When I looked beyond my friend's metamorphosis into this unfamiliar and strange being over the past year, I realized it wasn't just her. I didn't have to look far to witness weirdness lurking at every turn.
"The pandemic has made me a little bizarre," said Mika Mooney, 38, a lawyer who lives in Long Island with her husband and three kids. "I now do everything by candlelight. I work with a candle lit, exercise, watch TV. My husband is scared I'm going to burn the house down!"
"Earlier today, I overheard a young woman holding the most beautiful blueberry muffin I've ever seen singing, 'ooh ooh blueberry muffin! I'm gonna eat you, blueberry muffin!'" said Noah Michelson, 40, a New York-based editorial director, via email. "At a different point in my life, I would have mocked her but now I feel like we'd be really good friends."
Whether it's a newfound disdain for modern appliances or a kindred connection with songs about baked goods, people's eccentricities seem to be leaking out of our pores. Is it possible that our brains have moved from panic to boredom to just plain weirdness the past 10 months since Covid-19 upended our normal lives?
It's possible that we're not getting weirder. Maybe we're relaxing into our authentic, uninhibited selves. After all, we don't have the constant barrage of people interactions to keep our quirks in check.
"During a crisis and isolation, many take an inventory of their lives and dare to be themselves, and engage in weird, creative, and non-conforming patterns," said Judith Zackson, a clinical psychologist based in Greenwich, Connecticut, via email.
Some of her clients are more outspoken than they were pre-pandemic, Zackson said. They have experienced changes in personal style, weird sleeping patterns and hobbies, and even sillier humor.
Of course, she also hears from people annoyed by their partners' stranger tendencies, which include apocalyptically hoarding food and supplies, and hobbies like collecting stones or walking their cat.
Mental health has been a real concern during the past 10 months of pandemic-induced stay-at-home orders. Anxiety and depression are up and social isolation may very well have long-term impacts we won't begin to even make sense of for years to come.
There is, though, the lesser studied phenomenon of people just becoming weirder. All those months devoid of normal human contact compounded with navigating the trifecta of a global health crisis, economic uncertainty and political division, and a lot of us are a little (or a lot) weirder than we were a year ago.
The image we sketch in our brain when we conjure the hermit is a disheveled man with wiry hair and crumpled clothes who mutters to himself and picks at plates of half-eaten food strewn all around an unheated cottage buried deep in the woods. I know I've felt like this man at least a dozen times in the past year.