“You look tired,” a former leader had said to me, peering into the screen.  “You don’t look so good.”
He seemed to shift in his seat and readjust his laptop. Maybe to get a better look at me.  To study the dark circles that had seemed to have found a permanent pandemic home under my eyes.  
“Oh,” I had shrugged it off, laughing nervously. “I didn’t get much sleep last night, my daughter had a nightmare,” I had responded, making up some excuse for why I looked so tired.
“Well, you should get some sleep and prioritize your well-being,” he had said. “Because honestly, I have been really thriving during this pandemic. It has been incredible.”
And then he had swiftly moved onto the next work topic.
So on the growing list of everyday microaggressions we encounter, I have now added this phrase: “You look tired.” The “you look tired” has been yet another subtle dig, sometimes intentional and other times unintentional. Hurtful, embarrassing, and infuriating. In the case of that former leader who had made the comment, there was no concern, no care, and clearly no glimmers of empathy in his words.
“You look tired.”
The “you look tired” has been yet another subtle dig, sometimes intentional and other times unintentional. Hurtful, embarrassing, and infuriating.
Thanks for pointing out the obvious. Unlike you, I am not living my best pandemic life ever. In case you are wondering, I haven’t slept since March of 2020. So you better believe I am tired.
Yes, I am tired. I am exhausted. I am pooped, I am tuckered out, I am trapped in a perpetual state of burnout. I feel drained and drowsy like I am buzzed except I haven’t had a sip of alcohol in 6 months when I decided drinking on my couch had lost its luster. On the weekends, my husband and I take nap shifts like we are toddlers in an attempt to temporarily recharge. While one of us naps, the other one watches our 8 year and 5 year old who have suffered “pandemic regression,” once again becoming toddlers themselves.
I am running off fumes, constantly on edge and shaking as a result of my addiction to instant coffee with lots of milk, the smell of Crayola markers, and the never-ending ping, ping of emails, and texts coming through.
So sure, I look tired. Some days I look like I have lost weight. Other days I look like I have gained weight. Some mornings, still in my sweatpants with my hair in a messy bun, I look like I am back in my college days having just pulled an all-nighter. On other days, I look like I am 10 years older. My hair is graying, my eyebrows nice and fuzzy, and lipstick hasn’t touched my lips in exactly 59 weeks and counting.  
Just because I am tired, because I looked tired, and because I am acting tired, doesn’t mean I need your friendly reminder. I don’t need you to tell me how tired I look. That’s what the bathroom mirror, my Zoom reflection, and my kids' random snaps of me on their IPads are all there for.
Am I being too sensitive?  Well, guess what, you would be too. Ask just about any mother this same question who has managed to survive 2020, and now is close to halfway surviving 2021. We have earned the right to be “too sensitive.” 
I wonder. Do men get the “you look so tired” comment as well? Do we comment when men have gray hair, bags, and circles under their eyes?  When their hair is messy, unwashed, and not combed? Or do they have the privilege of throwing on a hoodie without being subjected to the same line of commentary?
So as we approach a second Mother’s Day in this pandemic, here’s my one simple request: please don’t tell me, remind me, or ask me why I look so tired. I am tired of people telling me I look tired. I am sure other mothers are as well.
To my kids, please just let me sleep in, past 6 am.  To everyone else, please feel free to send me some eye cream. 


Mita Mallick