Zukin was in a meeting with her coworkers at Variety, where she’s a social media editor; John was in a University of Southern California graduate school Zoom class. Even in separate rooms of their Los Angeles home, they could still hear each other’s meetings. “We were both like, ‘Can you turn that down?’ ‘Can you wear headphones?’” Zukin tells MEL. “Who wants to be wearing headphones the whole time you’re in your house?”
Faced with indefinite co-quarantining and relationship stress, Zukin half-heartedly asked her Twitter followers to email her their best relationship quarantine drama. The responses turned into an onslaught of gossip from self-isolators bickering with their roommates, partners or parents.
Zukin created a Google Doc for the anonymous quarantine gossip and started asking for donations in order to view it. In just two days, Zukin raised over $5,360. “It makes me feel incredibly like Bernie Sanders,” Zukin says of her crowdfunded small donations, which she’s sending to food banks and charities across the country.
On Monday, Zukin launched the website The Social Distancing Project to make donations easier and compile even more quarantine stories.
When you can’t go out to the bars — and please stay out of the fucking bars — Zukin is your gossip guardian.
For example, one woman recently broke up with her partner but hasn’t moved out of their shared apartment. “Live with my ex. We already broke up and now this virus really gonna trap us together. The universe wants me to be with this toxic man ,” one wrote.
Another person, who I’ll call Lysol Lisa, packed a weekend bag and quarantined at their partner’s house. “As soon as I walked in, he sprayed me in my jacket from head to toe with Lysol,” they wrote. “He said, ‘We are taking the virus very seriously in this house!’ His roommate’s co-worker tested positive apparently. Shit.”
Bagel Boy and his boyfriend are fighting over carbs: “Literally this a.m. my bf asked me to make him a bagel and I told him no I’m working. And he actually looked up at me and said, ‘It doesn’t look like you’re working. It looks like you’re staring out the window.’”
Take solace that you’re not the woman who got into a fight about buying $200 worth of fruit snacks, veggies and quesadilla fixings. “This led to a movie-like scene where my bf drove down the block next to me, talking [to] me while leaning out the driver’s side window as I cried and walked angrily,” she wrote.
And pray for the person who subject-lined their email, simply, “My husband moved out over coronavirus.”
As the money comes in, Zukin sends it to people in immediate need. Zukin has made individual donations between $50 and $100 to over 30 food banks and charity organizations across the country, including Meals on Wheels, Transgender Law Center, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, United Way in Southeastern Michigan and NYC Black Folk Mutual Aid Fund.
She’s also making a series of $20 micro-donations to service workers, low-income families and anyone struggling who emails her. She has to trust they are who they say they are. “I just have faith that people are mostly good,” she says. Her bank was more skeptical: It put a hold on Zukin’s credit card, assuming her hundreds of dollars’ worth of donations was fraudulent.
Zukin is set on going about all this as transparently as possible. “Social media can be disingenuous sometimes, and I want to prove that wrong especially when the community is gathering together,” she says.
While the world buckles under the pandemic, a little minor gossip can soothe that endless anxiety we feel (at least speaking for myself). “There’s a space for people to talk about this stuff that maybe isn’t that serious,” Zukin says. People have a right to feel upset about their relationship issues, too, “even though there are way worse things going on.”
Case in point: the lime fight. This single entry has haunted me since I read it — and now I’ll never run out of limes again. “My bf got mad at me cause I squeeze whole limes on my lunch and dinner,” one person wrote Zukin. “Now we don’t have any more fresh limes left. Only got those green instant limes juice things that are shaped like a lime, and we have a fight cause I tried to reach out for it.”