Video meetings don’t scare me really. I’m not too shy, nor am I embarrassed about my hair popping out like a bent antenna under my headphone. Well, thats what I tell myself, but I secretly admit— I pep up my appearance before I hit the video ON button. Once I was alone in the chambers of a zoom call, and while I waited, I tided up my hair like one would do in a powder room of a dim lit restaurant. I moved in close to the camera, and arched my face in various angles to see how my hair looks, my eyebrows raised. I didn’t realise my colleague had logged in and caught me at the end of my face exploration. 

Working from home has given us new experiences while we’re getting used to a new normal. Definitions have changed— late to a meeting, is now 3 minutes. Work shoes are chappals. Work pants are pajamas. Status is measured by how many meetings you have on your calendar. Power posing is sitting with one leg crossed on a rotating chair. Power dressing is shutting off the video.

More than half of my colleagues don’t put their videos on, so once in a moon, we suddenly request video to be ON. I’m so sure someone’s scurried to the mirror to pass the needles of a restless comb through their hair— to look neat for the online show. But while their videos are off, I watch as their pictures talk from inside the circle it is seated in– making radiating sound waves like a boombox, (or 3 bouncing dots in google hangouts). Sometimes I wonder, what do they look like, behind that circular frame? What are they doing, behind the curtains of a switched off video? Cooking? Writing emails?

In meetings where I’m just listening in, I sometimes push my chair away to go hang out with the mirror. Still listening, I reach out to that palatte of lipstick— lapping a brush into it and using varied colours to paint my lips. What if someone asks a questions while I’m not at my desk? I can’t take that guilt, and I hurry back— last time all of  it took me 17 seconds. Standup, dash to the mirror, pout, deeply scoop out some lipstick from the already dented lipstick palatte, paint, keep the brush down, and hurry back. All the while, listening.

Since I cannot change too much of how I look, I have invested heavily in how my background looks. My videos show you a burst of fake flowers behind me, the pink petals glued together like a half yawn, enticing many onlookers to ask “Wow, are they real?”. There’s a round alarm clock I’ve perched on the window— it shows the time, inverted of course, and the two bells on top mimicking an antique alarm clock. The wall behind me, has a mural of random  words like “heart, treasure, honor”. So photogenic and modern is my background, that one might wonder if I’m trying hard to live inside an Instagram account of an IKEA Store.

The camera isn’t always kind, and neither are people. “You look sick today” is an often heard comment to women the day they decided to detox from their makeup kit. “You had a haircut!”, “You look different”, “You didn’t shave!” are all comments innocently made— but are they easily taken?  Within a year, HR leaders will come up with WFH ettiquette— you can’t comment on how someone looks, because the homely look– offset hair, no makeup and un-ironed t-shirts has become the default and dominant. Are we ready for all this?