Why Millennials Are ‘Quarantweening’ Right Now

quarantween cat

Picture it: You wake up in your pink-and-yellow room, then brush your teeth while looking in a mirror laden with Von Dutch and Viva La Juicy stickers before heading downstairs to grab an Eggo waffle from the freezer. Sounds like a lovely day in the spring of 2004, right? It’s not; it’s 2020 and you, my friend, are quarantweening.  

Quarantweening—which is definitely not a made-up word—is a term for what many of us are experiencing during this pandemic. Whether we’ve fled our 300-square-foot apartments for our parents houses or we’re trying to make the best of said 300-square-foot apartments, the pandemic has sent us back to some of the comforts of our youth—our tweens, if you will.

A few months ago, I moved back into my parents’ house. I’m not technically quarantining in my childhood home (my parents have left the town I grew up in and downsized to a more sensible-for-two-people space), but for all intents and purposes, I’m back, baby. Now, I didn’t realize I was quarantweening until my mom, god love her, encouraged* my sister and I to help her clean out some boxes in the garage. (*Forced.) A task I would normally find tedious was…lovely. I sorted through books and photo albums, T-shirts from soccer tournaments and a box of springform pans from that year my then-10-year-old sister was obsessed with cake decorating. There was even a certificate proclaiming that I was ready to be an older sibling, because apparently big sister classes were a thing in 1994.

It feels strange at first to find such comfort in these fairly insignificant relics. I know I felt a little bit like, “OK Sarah, get over it. You don’t have room in your Manhattan apartment for your Irish dance medals.” But then you realize why you’re “regressing,” and it makes sense. For me, quarantweening has offered an escape from the reality of 2020. A few months ago, I would’ve rolled my eyes at the thought of going through old boxes or my Facebook photos from 2008. Now, I find it soothing and a necessary reminder that life wasn’t always as dark and stressful as it is now—and it won’t always be this way.

PureWow’s Food Editor, Katherine Gillen, is quarantining in her own home, but that hasn’t stopped her from revisiting parts of her past. Notably, the video game The Sims. She writes that building her own worlds, households and families has been a form of escape from the daily deluge of bad news. “There are only so many times that I can refresh the homepage of The New York Times before I lose it. Social media is no better: On the one hand there’s Instagram, which offers a mixed bag of mommy bloggers color-coding their family’s every move and childless millennials who are somehow finding the time to meditate, work out and make a four-course vegan dinner while also in quarantine.” Video games, however, “exist in their own universe, with no news cycle and no real responsibility at all.”

It’s not just people who are revisiting their past; brands are doing the same. Lancôme recently relaunched its iconic Juicy Tubes lipgloss, and author Stephanie Meyer announced that a new Twilight book will hit shelves in August. It seems we’re all feeling nostalgic for a simpler time.

In Psychology Today, Hal McDonald, Ph.D., a professor of literature and linguistics at Mars Hill University, explains that we’re most likely to long for the past when we find the present too stressful. “Distressing experiences identified in the research as inducing negative mood, and triggering nostalgia, include loneliness, boredom, and ‘self-discontinuity,’ all of which are now daily norms as we hunker down in our homes to keep from being infected or infecting others, and watch 24-hour news coverage of the havoc that the pandemic is wreaking in the world outside our front door.” As Dr. McDonald puts it, “Nostalgia combats loneliness by giving us access to pleasurable experiences we have shared with other people in our past.”  

So go ahead and stream Dashboard Confessional on Spotify while imagining who you’d put in your MySpace top eight today. It’s called self-care.

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...