Can’t Go to a Gala? This Woman Created Her Own Amidst COVID-19

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Elizabeth Stuart has always been the social butterfly. The Seattle native and medical sales executive typically spends her free time taking in art shows, dropping in on the newest restaurants on Seattle’s usually vibrant dining scene, and enjoying life to the fullest with her real-life social network.

And then, in Washington State before anywhere else in the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic hit and shelter-in-place orders were issued. This posed more than a challenge for Elizabeth.

“A big part of my life is getting dressed up and going out to meet friends. I love getting dressed from the shoes up – that’s me. It’s what I normally am…I walk down the street and people are like, ‘Yep, that’s her,'” she says.

“So, I was sitting around and one day…I don’t know…day oblivion…I realized that everyone’s hunkered down with their family and I’m a single person. Nobody was calling me. I tried to FaceTime a few friends who said they didn’t want to FaceTime because they didn’t look good! I’m thinking, this is going to be a month that we’ll be sitting around in our sweats.”

Then, inspiration hit.

“While everyone’s doing Zoom, that wasn’t for me. So one night, I put on a full length, satin-skirted ballgown with a sparkly top and I started calling a few people on FaceTime. When they answered, they died laughing. They were just so surprised. It was completely random. I just picked someone in my contact list and have kept it going nightly.”

The “Stuart Salons” – which are now at number 18 – have become a pleasant retreat for both Elizabeth and her contacts. “I always call between 6pm and 9pm. First, I go into my closet and pick out what I feel like wearing. Sometimes, it’s really sparkly. Sometimes, it’s just a little black dress.” Though she always calls acquaintances – ranging from her favorite brow stylist to family members – while dressed to the nines, it’s the conversation that is naturally the focus. “I called the gal who does my eyebrows. She and her husband sat down and chatted with me. Sometimes the conversations are four, five minutes, like just to check in and how are you doing and sometimes it can be an hour.”

 

Now, because Elizabeth has been sharing photos from her Salons on Facebook, most friends know about them – and look forward to being the chosen one. And, there have been conversations that ended up surprising her in return. “This is a very intimate and vulnerable time that we’re in. And my room is dark, intimate…candlelit. One day, I happen to call a gal I don’t know very well, met her a few times. And she and her boyfriend split up that very same day I called…he was moving out of the house as we chatted and she was not in a good place. We ended up having a nice chat about life, and the journey she was about to take. That was shocking but she probably really needed that in that moment.”

I convinced Elizabeth to chat on Zoom. Her spirit and exuberance literally grabbed me through the screen. She is one of those women who you instantly just need in your life. However, in this moment when we’re forced to be sequestered, she is reaching out to friends because she’s on her own. “I’m single and am by myself right now…I think people don’t realize there are those of us who may be lonely.”

When this is all over and we’re “released” as Stuart puts it, the first thing she’s looking forward to is a very specific outing. “I want to go to the Metropolitan Grill, have a steak and some champagne with friends. I want to be waited on under great lighting and among the buzz of other people. And, even if I have to wear a mask to do it, I want to hug everyone. I have skin hunger right now…I want a t-shirt that says #skinhunger. When you’re by yourself, there’s no one to hold you and say it’s going to be okay or put your head on them and hear their heartbeat.”

“I want to hug somebody and it’s going to be long. A long, uncomfortable hug.”

Elizabeth also hopes to take the photos she has captured in her regalia while chatting through a screen and publish a journal or coffee table book. In the meantime, she’ll continue surprising friends – though at this point, most of her friends are vying to be selected – and enjoying the connections during these surreal times.

Elizabeth closes our call with her favorite saying: “I just always say, ‘Suit up.’ You get one life to suit up and get out there.”

 

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