Not Yet Ready for Bunny Slippers by
(118 Stories)

Prompted By Pandemic Summer

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This is a horrible time.  Arguably, it is worse than when we originally wrote about COVID in the spring and everyone assumed that we would be getting back to “normal” in a few months, even if we never believed any of Trump’s nonsense about COVID magically disappearing or that everything would open up again by Easter.

Now we know that it will not be over in a couple of months (and we don’t even know when), that trying to go back too soon — I’m talking to you, Red States — makes matters even worse, and that there will be a new “normal,” not the old one.  Moreover, as many other countries have shown us, it did not have to be this bad in the Unites States. “American Exceptionalism,” while typically called upon to reflect how wonderfully special we are, is actually a neutral term and right now, in many parts of the country, we are proving how exceptionally reckless, stupid and, indeed, deadly we can be.

I see very few silver linings, but there are a few.  First, if we ever needed proof that Trump is a horrible, incompetent President and horrible human being, we are seeing that now and, hopefully, that will ensure that we are rid of him and his equally deplorable administration by next January.  And second, Black Lives Matter and white America is finally paying attention.

And two, more personal, silver linings.  First, I’ve never been more grateful for my own good health and the good health of those I love.  And, second, thank God my wife and I are as compatible as we are; we certainly get to see enough of each other every day. As I noted in my spring COVID story, I can only imagine that divorce lawyers are going to be incredibly busy once their offices re-open and the courts get moving.

Given my own blessings, I almost feel guilty writing about the pandemic in personal terms.  Unlike Trump, at least I realize that this is not about me.  But it is the nature of Retro stories to focus on ourselves.  So indulge me briefly.

I retired after working as a lawyer for forty five years on December 31st.  As a cute joke, my wife gave me the bunny slippers that are the featured image.  She knew I could not just stop “working,” however broadly I chose to define that term.  But, with the pandemic, my “working” options have narrowed.  I will not be doing teaching at BU, or any other universities or law schools, at least for a while.  Nor will I be consulting for my former firm on developing its global network structure, as it had indicated it would like me to do.

Instead, I have spent a good deal of my time on my not-for-profit boards — and am forever grateful to Zoom — and on-line courses (mainly classical music and linguistics) as well as organizing my “home office” (i.e., den) and its related “data systems”  (i.e., my files, hard and soft).  And, of course, writing Retro stories. To be sure, that has still left plenty of time for bike rides, working out on my elliptical machine, reading a ton of books on my Kindle, streaming all sorts of show and series with my wife, massive jigsaw puzzles my daughters gave me,* and, yes, the all-important Zoom “cocktail” parties with family and friends.

But I continue to need structure in my life, as I thought I would, and so I have cobbled together a somewhat scheduled “workday.”  And, consistent with my half-full glass theory of life, I have been pleased that, even in the midst of COVID, I have somehow kept pretty busy and relatively fulfilled in my workdays. And, much as I love the bunny slippers, I have studiously avoided wearing them during the day, lest they somehow appear to symbolize a surrender to retirement and the pandemic. (My wife, to her great credit, understands this.)

That said, to be honest, I have considered putting on one of my dark blue business suits, starchy white shirts and a Hermes tie and then adding the bunny slippers, just to show how crazy things are now.  And also as a reminder that, especially in these horrible times, a good laugh sure can’t hurt.



* Here is the completed 1000-piece puzzle that my daughters gave me (an adorable New Yorker cover called “Hot Dogs,” showing, well, very hot dogs panting from their windows of a New York apartment building):

I have now pasted the puzzle together and had it framed and plan to give it to the daughter who professes the greater desire to hang it in her own apartment and/or professes the greater love for me.  Yeah; I can be shameless with them.

Profile photo of John Shutkin John Shutkin

Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    John, thanks for recognizing that writing about the pandemic from our perspective is a very privileged point of view. I love the cartoon you included. One of my granddaughters (and my husband) love puzzles. They used to do them together. Nw, we send her new ones via Amazon and she texts us photos of the finished product. Such is life these days. And don’t be afraid to try the bunny slippers this winter.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Laurie. I actually find it very easy to be humble and grateful these days when I think of what others are facing. And, truth be told, I have tried the bunny slippers on a few times (only at bedtime). Delightful!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    You have a remarkable capacity for keeping busy and keeping your life organized, John. Too many people just don’t know how to fill up their day, or worse, if they are not retired, are trying to do too much – work from home, supervise the kids, shop, clean, etc. The whole thing is overwhelming.

    Good for you for doing a great job of keeping in touch with so many people via Zoom. You are not letting the Pandemic get you down.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks much, Betsy. Wish I shared your confidence in my coping skills. I can imagine when we next get a pandemic “How ya doin’?” prompt, I’ll have to explain about having been institutionalized.

  3. Loved the symbol here, John! We always teased my dad when he retired that he had his “house” slippers and his “dress” slippers.
    I am now thoroughly enjoying bra-free, messy haired freedom, as well as occasionally acting as if the world is normal and the social restraints on my external appearance are forever gone. A silver lining indeed.

  4. Marian says:

    Love the puzzle, John, and very impressive solve. I like the way you’ve structured your day. Both predictability and variety, in the right balance, seem to help. Now that I haven’t been to the gym since March, I’m jealous of your elliptical machine. Walking is great, but I’m wimpy in heat and reserving walks for the evenings when it’s too warm. The bunny slippers are darling!

  5. Suzy says:

    Your first sentence is so true, this IS a horrible time. But thank you for seeing the silver linings, and sharing them with us. It does make me feel better. And I laughed out loud at your comment to Betsy that by the next pandemic prompt you will be institutionalized. Like Betsy, I am impressed by how great you are about keeping in touch with people via Zoom. It makes me want to start crashing your Zoom cocktail parties. Oh wait, I’ve already done that!

  6. John, your wonderful sense of humor is another testament to the resilience of the human spirit, something I’ve been trying to focus on rather than the steady stream of bad news that threatens to take me down mentally if not physically. Now I just wish you’d don (excuse the word) that suit and tie with the bunny slippers and post a pic!

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks so much, Barb. In fact, I thought of dusting off my former “uniform,” putting it on and taking a selfie while wearing my bunny slippers. But who has that kind of time, right? So I just went to the Magic Google Machine and found the New Yorker cartoon in a matter of minutes.

  7. Wonderful piece John!
    May your silver lining predictions come to pass, and thanx for sharing how you’re using your lockdown time.

    I’m doing what must be done each day – cooking and cleaning these past 4 months more than I‘ve done in the past 40 years! – and keeping up with our structured Retro prompts.

    But I’m letting so many other things slide – books and old New Yorkers to read, Hamilton to watch, , recipes to try, family and friends to call, miscellaneous unfinished projects, 200 blank that I’ve promised to write.

    So thanx for your inspiration John, it’s just past noon in my time zone, time to kick off my slippers and get dressed!

  8. I love the image of you in corporate drag and bunny slippers. Erich gave away dozens and dozens of Hermes ties when we moved to Mexico. It marked the end of one life and the beginning of another.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Exactly, Cynthia. I have a closet full of suits and ties and, one of these post-pandemic days, I will give them all away — even though I know Biden will appoint me as Attorney General the very next day.

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