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Small, Touching Pandemic Pleasures

The peddlers of self-help, pandemic style, tell us that we should be savoring the small stuff. That comes naturally to me.

I’m a savorer. I’ve been here in Summerland, California since August of 2000 and not a single day has gone by when I have not gazed at the ocean or let the sun warm my face and felt immensely grateful to get to live here. (Well, maybe when I was fleeing the wildfires or trapped in place by the mudslides, but those are different stories.)

Good food is one of my favorite pleasures. I’ve looked longingly at all the social media posts by people spending their days baking. I do not dare bake an entire pan of brownies or a whole cake. I live alone. I’d share, but other people might fear that I’m giving them COVID cooties. (I doubt it. I’ve never had symptoms, but I’ve also never been tested.)

I’m not into self-deprivation or dieting, so I still want my sweet treats – and some freshly baked bread. It turns out that the lockdown in and around Santa Barbara has a charming underbelly. Local women, one after another, are taking up baking and offering their breads and cookies and scones and cinnamon buns to the rest of us. Some sell from their homes, others have teamed up with one or another of some very small local businesses.

I plan to sample from every last one of them.

The first time I ordered bread, the baker and I got our signals crossed about where I was supposed to pick it up. It was pouring rain when we figured out that we were sitting in lots in adjacent towns. I asked for directions, but she came to me instead. The bread was still warm as she handed it to me with her gloved hands, through my open window. I smiled from behind my mask. I saw her crinkled eyes above her mask and knew she was smiling back.

The next person was selling bread and scones. She asks what kinds of scones I want. I ask what kinds she has. She answers that she would probably not make more than four or five different kinds. I thought I was asking what kind she had – she was telling me she would make whatever I wanted, up to four or five different choices. I tell her I’d be happy with any two scones, any flavor. (It’s true.) A little later, she texts that she is thinking of making some cinnamon – she’s never tried that before. Do I want one of those? The next day, she leaves the bread and the two scones, charmingly wrapped, in a basket on her front porch. She comes to the door when she sees my car, and we both wave from behind our masks. The cinnamon scone was amazing.

My next outing was to a tiny restaurant offering curbside pickup. Their menu now includes homemade bread and cookies. Two kinds of cookies were available that day. I asked which one was better and ordered that one, plus the bread. When I got home and opened the bag, I found that she had given me both cookies, no charge for the second.

A few weeks ago, I saved a clipping from a local paper. Seriously – I got out a scissors and cut out a story from a printed paper. A local craft brewery was adding one food item to its list of beers – loaves of bread, baked by a relative of the owner. I called to see if that was still happening. I was told the bread was coming out of the oven that very moment. I drove over, stood on the other side of a small table outside the front door, and thanked the man who had my bread waiting for me.

Each of these experiences was just a small, fleeting human exchange, with no physical contact, ever. Yet I found every one of them to be oddly touching. I smiled on my way home, every single time.

I want the pandemic to be over. When it is safe (and only when it is safe), I want to be out and about again, sitting across from my friends at lunches and dinners, and strolling the streets and sidewalks and boardwalks, even when there are a lot of people around.

But if the local bakers recede along with the virus, that will make me sad.

Small, Touching Pandemic Pleasures

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2020). Small, Touching Pandemic Pleasures. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 May 2020
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