Getting real in the age of Virtual Meetings

In the old, pre-virus days, I used to always dress up to the nines for my author tours and festivals. I’d carefully lay out just the right dress (almost always black), the right earrings (the more flamboyant the better) and the right hair products (curlyheads need a whole arsenal.) I’d watch myself in front of the mirror, posing, until I felt more confidant. I even had a talisman, a ten dollar pair of red cowboy boots from ebay, to make me feel like the kind of woman who could not just strut confidently across a stage but own it.

It should be noted that nobody was going to see me without makeup, without my boisterous hair beautified, and without my wearing something coherent and new.

And then came the virus and everything changed.

These days, I conduct all my author exchanges and bookstore exchanges through Zoom, a wonder video service that lets you have up to 100 people there. It’s become my virtual bookstore tour, my virtual conference with writers I work with privately, my place to meet friends. And it feels and looks and sounds different. And that makes me feel and look and sound different, too.

Because what’s going on is so important, I have been overwhelmed trying to help other authors, so I don’t always think about changing my clothes. Putting on makeup seems like that is ten minutes where I could be helping another author, or talking to my niece Hillary and her kids. Now, on Zoom video, I see myself interacting, and I’m messy, uncoordinated…but I’m real, too.

But maybe it’s this realness—the stray hair, the mascara flaking off, that makes it all the more real. And maybe that’s what makes everything all the more precious right now. As the virus stomps through our country, we’re realizing what is important, we’re making our connections more precious. We’re seeing not my perfectly applied eye makeup anymore, but the circles under my eyes, like stains, my hair that could use a washing but I haven’t had time, the zit that is popping up on my cheek, and yes, the same Love’s Baby Soft t-shirt I have been wearing for three days because it is so comforting.

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times Bestselling Author of Is This Tomorrow, Pictures of You, Cruel Beautiful World and more. Her new novel With or Without You, will be published August 4, 2020 from Algonquin Books. Visit her at