How TikTok Lumberjacks wrapped me up in their burly arms and carried me away from my pandemic woes
Their bearded, red-flannelled glory helped Stacey McGunnigle find love in a most hopeless place
Warm Blanket is a series of personal essays from Canadian writers and artists reflecting on the pop culture that has brought them comfort and coziness during one year of the pandemic.
To My Pandemic Love,
It was during yet another night of quarantine, locked inside, nowhere to go, when I found you. I was emotionally spiralling betwixt the four narrow walls of my one-bedroom apartment, alone. My sweatpants consumed me like a second skin, my hair unbrushed, and the concept of fresh air was becoming an all-too-distant memory. The night before, I accidentally fell asleep with a tube of Pringles and when I awoke the crumbs still remained clutched to my sweater. I left them. (Also, when I say "accidentally," I knew full well what was happening, and didn't regret a single second.) Quarantine had become monotonous, and I needed something to shake me from my rut. Then I met you on TikTok.
Everyone was talking about it. Rumour had it that the app gave people the ability to laugh again, to disappear into a sunken place far away from The Pandemic, and I was intrigued. I knew there would be risks. I was 34. Could I handle the judgment from friends? Public embarrassment? The Gen-Z criticism? In truth, I no longer had the willpower to care. I created an account. I agreed to the terms and services and jumped in with two feet, and two very unshaven legs. I was instantly hooked, caught in an endless feed of strangers teaching me, inspiring me, and making me laugh to the point of tears. All of this in 60 seconds or less. I found myself immersed like Keanu Reeves discovering the Matrix. (I assume — I've never actually watched the whole movie. I always fall asleep after everyone starts bending backward and I refuse to fight my eyelids on their sci-fi prejudice.)
After a few weeks, I was a professional TikTok user. I knew the songs, the trends, and even started making some myself. My expectations were low, maybe gain a few followers and a potential Subway brand deal, but nothing more. Until you showed up.
I was back on the couch. Sweatpants. Pringles. Gearing up for another night of scrolling. And then you appeared. Lumberjack TikTok. You stood in an open field with luscious trees, chopping wood while sultry music played. I didn't know what to make of it at first. Was this a joke? Should I laugh? And then I let the video loop again. And again. And again ... Are you my soulmate?
Your red flannel jumped out of my phone, holding my eyes, unlike The Matrix, but I digress. I was transfixed. My algorithm must have known this was love at first sight because my For You Page quickly transformed. Goodbye makeup videos; hello wood chopping and full beards. Suddenly Amazon Butt Leggings were a thing of the past. My new life was a mountain of TikTok Lumberjacks in full beards and flannel, stoking fires built with big wilderness muscles, while dogs ran free. (Unleashed, I might add. Very impressive.)
Your confidence was, and still is, intoxicating. The way you handle your axe and find studs in the walls with just your hands. The way your truck appears in the background even though there is never a paved road to be found. How did it get there? Who cares. You showed me what my life could be, if I could only stop dating thin comedians with mattresses on the floor. You make me feel like a woman who needs to be lifted up without fear of falling or sounds of distress. And I like that. A lot.
I was surprised at how quickly our relationship blossomed, and how many of you I would grow to love. I never expected to be polyamorous on TikTok. But there I was and there I still am. There's something about the whimsy you bring, the romantic novel mystique, that makes me feel something beyond my own horniness. I'm sure if I truly unpacked this love affair, it could be reduced to something pertaining to patriarchal gender roles or internalized misogyny, but lucky for you, I'm not currently interested in labelling what we have.
I wanted you to know I've started telling my friends about you. I share your videos with fervour and they're always met with unbridled horny enthusiasm. We fantasize about what you're all up to. What type of wood is "Tall One" cutting? Do you think "Blue Eyes" has a girlfriend? Which one do you think I could safely hunt down in a non-stalker way and immediately marry? Do you think "Brown Hair Big Beard" is a good kisser? Is "Burly Blonde" over 30? We all hope. Every single one of us. Our love for you has led to WhatsApp groups and Instagram threads dedicated to our new found TikTok Lumberjack passion. You've truly created a community of boned up women and I'll spend the rest of the pandemic trying to find you so I can thank you — hopefully by putting my body on yours. And please know that when some of you disappear off of my feed I worry, so for the love of god, keep going. If you run out of trees or wall space for shelving, please contact me.
Oh, and I wanted you to know, I ended things with my Pringles can; his round head and monocle have nothing on our cedar-scented love affair. I look forward to what our future holds. Chop chop you sexy beasts.
Read all 12 essays from the Warm Blanket series here.