The #FlatBlackSheep Project & T-Shirt Giveaway

The #FlatBlackSheep Project & T-Shirt Giveaway

“You’re STILL not eating in restaurants?”

I was asked this question by friends who had called to invite me to a party. When I mentioned that I’m still doing everything I can to avoid Covid, they suggested we meet at a restaurant instead.

Baffled by whatever logic drove them to believe that indoor dining would somehow be less risky for me than attending a party, I politely declined.

“You need to get out and live your life,” I was told. “It’s just not reasonable to avoid restaurants forever.”

I don’t avoid restaurants. I love restaurant food. I love having a meal prepared for me that doesn’t require any cleanup afterward.

I just don’t love Covid.

So I still go to my favorite restaurants, but I order takeout and eat outdoors or carry it home. Turns out restaurant food tastes just as good outside of a restaurant.

It’s one of many changes we’ve made in my home to adapt to the new normal. We’re living in a world in which public health no longer exists and every indoor public space carries the risk of getting infected with not just Covid, but a whole smorgasboard of other airborne pathogens which could disable or kill us. Masking with an N95 or better respirator helps us reduce that risk when we have to be indoors with others. When it isn’t necessary to be indoors in public, we usually opt not to. I don’t think this is unreasonable, but some people seem to think it means I’m not ‘living my life.’

Last time I checked, I still had a pulse. I’m still breathing. I’m still alert and aware of my surroundings. I’m still a functioning human being. I’m living my life. Those friends don’t see it that way. They think that if I’m not spending time indoors in densely packed settings with strangers breathing in my face and money flying out of my wallet on shit I don’t really want or need, I’m missing out on living.

“Don’t you miss being around other people?” my friends asked.

“Sometimes,” I replied. “But you know what I miss even more? Being in relatively good health before I got Covid, which turned into Long Covid. I miss how people used to care about each other, and how we all agreed that it was a bad idea to spread viruses that could disable or kill us, so we all masked to keep each other safe.”

“Well, everyone else has moved on. It’s just weird that you haven’t.”

I know it’s weird to them. I don’t fucking care.

I’m proud to be weird. Proud to not fit in. Proud to be a black sheep. I wrote about it last year in Black Sheep, Your Time Is Coming to Shine, which resonated with many other Covid-conscious people. I was so happy to hear that it helped some of you embrace your own inner black sheep. My online Covid-conscious family grew by a lot last year because of that piece. It’s a big comfort to know I’m not alone in living cautiously and continuing to value life, health, and concern for others above risky social gatherings and unnecessary indulgences. I know many of us are on the same page.

It just wish everyone who isn’t would stop giving us a hard time about it. Some of our friends and family members are genuinely concerned that we’re too isolated and missing out. Usually not enough for them to put on a mask or make other adjustments to help us feel safer, but they want to make sure we know how uncomfortable it makes them feel. It gets old.

You need to go live your life, they keep telling us.

We are, we keep telling them.

Remember the Flat Stanley Project? A teacher in Ontario started it in 1995 as a pen-pal project based on a children’s book. The teacher had each of his students color a picture of the Flat Stanley character, then mail it to a student in another school elsewhere in the world. His students would then get their Flat Stanleys back in the mail, with letters that would share the adventures that the Flat Stanleys had enjoyed in a different city or country. They usually included photos.

It gave the students a unique and delightful way to see how their peers in different places around the globe were living their lives. Almost 30 years later, Flat Stanley remains a beloved figure to kids everywhere and is still out there today, enjoying new adventures around the globe.

Since the black sheep has become a mascot (or maskcot, when in his trusty N95) for many of us, I think we need a Flat Black Sheep Project.

So I’m kicking it off this weekend. If you want to join in, here’s how:

1)      Screenshot or save the image file of the masked black sheep pic in the header of this post.

 2)      Print it if you like, or just enlarge the pic on your phone/tablet/laptop screen.

 3)      Take a picture of the black sheep with something in the background that shows how you’re living – or even thriving – safely during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Take black sheep to the farmer’s market, or on a hike in the woods, or to a picnic with takeout from your favorite restaurant. Send him out on a walk with your dog or on a scenic drive with loved ones. Put him in front of the TV for a movie night at home. He’s masked, so you can also take him indoors to an art show or shopping at the mall or anywhere else where an N95 or better respirator significantly reduces infectious disease risk. Take him to a football game and let him get kicked out after shouting profanity at the referee. Then take him to church tomorrow morning so he can think about what he's done and get right with the Lord. Whatever you do, wherever you go, bring him along and grab a picture or two.

 4) Lastly, post your pic on Twitter or Bluesky with the hashtag #FlatBlackSheep.

*If you’re anon on Twitter of Bluesky or have any concerns about privacy, you don’t need to appear in the picture yourself and don’t need to include any location info. It's a weird world and online safety matters. I get it.*

On Monday 2/26, I’ll do a drawing for everyone who shared a #FlatBlackSheep pic and will give away two $25 e-gift cards (delivered by DM on Twitter or Bluesky) to The winners can use it to get their own Masked Black Sheep tee or any other design they prefer on sale at Bonfire.

So let’s start #FlatBlackSheep out with a bang this weekend and see where in the world he shows up! Visibility matters. Validation matters. Scattered across the globe though we are, we are a community, and little things like this can help us build connections and support each other through this bizarre era of our lives. We’ve still got a long road ahead of us and it helps to know we’re walking it together, even if we’re far apart.

Go live your best life, black sheep. Show ‘em how it’s done. 😉

In good humor and solidarity,

Guiness Pig

Sunsets are my favorite part of the day and #FlatBlackSheep is here for it.

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