Tuesday night, former Vice President Joe Biden will face President Donald Trump in their first presidential debate. It will be a seminal moment in history, and one of the most important debates this country has ever seen.
There is no way in hell I’m going to watch it. If you need me, I’ll be doing something less anxiety-provoking, like being covered in tarantulas or getting a root canal.
Worrying about the election, about climate change, about the shattering of democratic norms, about the weakening of democratic institutions, about the politicization of the Supreme Court, and, oh yeah, about the freaking pandemic does not have me in the best place mentally right now. Anxiety, which I’m prone to during the best of circumstances, currently feels like a boa constrictor has its body looped around my heart and is putting on the final squeeze.
So yes, there is no way I’m watching. But I do want to know what’s happening and how it’s turning out so I know whether I can let myself feel a little relief or if I need to ratchet up the anxiety and dread past 11. It’s important to me, as a devoted follower of politics, to know precisely what level of screwed we all are.
For all of us who want to know how the debate is going but can’t bear to watch, then, I present this guide.
The trick to keeping yourself sane during the run-up to the debate is to consume as little media about what’s going on as possible. This may be difficult, especially for those of you, like me, who obsessively inhale articles about politics every waking hour of every day.
So try to find a new obsession instead of politics. How about baseball? I hear baseball is happening, for some reason! Did you know they’re playing in empty stadiums and are living in a “bubble” where they can’t leave? Taiwan is actually playing baseball in front of fans, which is because they have leaders who aren’t sociopaths, and – oh no, here we are, back at politics.
What about cheerful baking shows? The Great British Baking Show is back with new episodes. They’re also living in a bubble, but it’s in the United Kingdom. It turns out their leaders are nearly as inept as ours, which is a wonderful relief. It’s so nice to be able to fall back on the dysfunction of the mother country. Thanks, Boris!
If you can’t kick the political habit, try redirecting it. There’s a fight on for a Supreme Court seat that will define the next 30 years, why not obsess about that instead?
During the Debate
The actual debate is happening late Tuesday evening. I’m not sure what time it starts because I’ve been keeping myself in the dark! Ha (It’s 9 p.m.).
While the debate is under way, maybe pick out a movie to watch. Go with something soothing, like Jaws or Gravity. You could catch up on some of the TV you’ve been meaning to watch, too. Try watching a series about a pleasant fantasy world that will help you take your mind off this one, like The Man in the High Castle.
My own plan is to try to do something else for a while, like absorb myself in a video game or obsessively track COVID-19 statistics.
When you do go on Twitter or Facebook to check in on the debates without actually watching, which you totally will, try to ignore the hashtags. Maybe look for one or two moments that have gone viral. If things are going really well, then maybe tune in for a few minutes. Don’t do too much, though. Let the misery junkies and journalists who drew the short straw watch the debate so you don’t have to.
After the Debate
Congratulations, you made it! Now go and soak up as much post-debate coverage as you can. Find some reassuring Twitter threads, check in with that one guy on Facebook who writes a really, really long recap, and absorb a couple of takes here and there.
Don’t stay up too late, though! You have to be ready to answer questions from co-workers who will want to know if you watched the debates last night. Sure, you can say, even though you didn’t. You’ll know about the best parts.
Take a moment to relax and breathe. The debate is over.
Only two more to go!
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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