I don’t think I’ve written a single entry in this blog since the dawn of COVID. I should have documented it. I intended to document it, but I didn’t. That’s why I make a bad journalist, and that’s probably why I became a teacher and NOT a journalist. You can know what to do in many situations, but your follow-through indicates what your true calling is. Mine is not to be a journalist, I suppose.
Now—now, however, I am experiencing a backlash of some sort. I’m looking around and thinking, “I need to note this.” We’re over a year into this pandemic. We’ve experienced how two presidents have handled and are handling it. More importantly, however, we’ve experienced how our colleagues, neighbors, friends, and family are handling it. What comes out of the White House and the Capitol are still actions out of the reach of the ordinary citizen. We can still file those actions into our cerebral depository of noteworthy things to remember come election time. But we can’t do the same with the people we spend our days with, the people with whom we are inextricably emotionally and economically connected.
I went to my first party last weekend, my first social-gathering since getting vaccinated—a party at a neighbor’s house. When my husband and I arrived, we weren’t directed to a gate leading to the backyard. We were invited to come inside where the usual pre-COVID spread of food filled every countertop and table in the kitchen. Neighbors of parties of old greeted us at the threshold with hugs, and new acquaintances held out their hands for us to shake. We were startled into submission. Yeah, I’d like to say we said, “Hey, not comfortable with that!” But we didn’t. We succumbed.
The party was so-so. We danced around the periphery. The conversations were the same as they were over a year ago when we had attended our very last party at the same house—not very enlightening. But this time the cultural/political gap between us and our neighbors seemed wider. A year’s worth of alienation and each of us absorbing our own version of reality during that time was very apparent. Political and cultural inclinations could no longer be brushed off for levity’s sake. We were among superspreaders, and we had just validated them. How weak we really are when we’re faced with tough choices that go against the grain.
On our way out, our host asked us if we would attend the next neighbor party, a bigger one in a much smaller space with loads of attendees (everyone was encouraged to bring friends), a DJ, and a live band. Sure, sure, we replied, as we slunk out the door. Of course, we had no intention of attending that party. We had learned in one evening that our “friends” really aren’t our friends.
Severing the ties with frienemies isn’t the worst thing to come out of the pandemic. How often had we used COVID as a convenient excuse to avoid them last year? Now, we just have to remember our values, and we have to keep those values in mind when someone might try to challenge them—to shake our hand or give us a hug. Those once congenial, friendly responses to meeting people are now red flags. They’re statements. They say, “I don’t give a fuck about this pandemic, and neither should you.” And, sadly, they draw party lines.
Now that the liberals are starting to emerge from their caves and adjust their eyes to the sunlight, we’re looking around and seeing what the world has been—not what it’s become—for the year that we’ve spent in quarantine. It’s time to figure out how to move forward. The superspreaders have already taken the lead. Now we’re on the defense. How well will we hold up?
Next installment: family post-COVID