Sorry I’m late. A situation came up that I had to resolve. You see, my husband just asserted that Skittles are a type of gummy candy and I had to deal with it personally. I had my phone in my hand, ready to ask the manufacturer on Twitter, when he finally capitulated.
Then we both laughed really hard and hugged it out.
We counted it up, and he is on Day 21 of self-isolation already. Remember when we thought we might have been exposed at the beginning of the month? Turns out we were lucky. The week he stayed home was the week we might actually have been exposed by someone who has since tested positive.
The situation changes when you start to hear of people within one or two degrees of separation who are sick... or who have already succumbed.
One degree of separation: Someone you know
Two degrees of separation: Someone they know
Stanley Milgram’s 1967 experiment leading to the “6 Handshakes” rule was confirmed by Microsoft in 2008. The idea is that everyone “knows someone who knows someone” who can eventually carry a message to basically anyone on Earth. A case could be made that with social media, the distance is much shorter, as almost anyone can send a message to any organization or celebrity who has an account. (Or whose agent has an account).
If I’d tweeted @Skittles, the official brand account, asking them to resolve my “argument” with my husband, there’s a good chance I would have gotten a response. Possibly a public response. It’s funny, right? Maybe they’d even send us some merch.
We could use some humor right about now.
I feel extremely fortunate to be isolated with someone I like. World affairs have nudged us just that little bit closer. We’re putting in more effort to be considerate and thoughtful, to set up little surprises for each other, to demonstrate affection.
We’ve realized that touch is the new luxury.
We used to have a joke that one of the best reasons to be married and monogamous was incurable STIs. Every now and then, one or the other of us would see a headline about some emerging sexually transmitted gross-out, and we would show each other, followed by one of our tag lines.
“Oh, darling, let’s stay married... forever”
This is even more true for COVID-19, where standing within six feet of someone is the new cheating.
“You touched the same doorknob as WHO?!?”
When the news started getting thick and viscous, we were still venturing out in public, though we had already stocked up on siege supplies. We would run across someone we knew, and they would rush over to bump elbows with theatrical glee. I was impressed that this bizarre social innovation had spread so quickly.
Ideas - memes and jokes - can spread around the globe in a day. Crazy to think that we are all united by this, our ability to internalize new dance moves, gestures, or catch phrases and use them as social currency.
I’m with it, I’m in the game, I get it
I got it
(You thought I was going to say that I just lost the game, didn’t you?)
It’s more important now than ever that we focus on what unites us, because it’s so easy for a single individual to break the new social contract. I’ve seen at least three cases in the news already of a person aggressively coughing on someone - or something, like $35,000 worth of groceries - and what is the point of that?
To feel powerful in the face of fear? To fight the invisible?
There are two sides to the pendulum, with individualism on one side and community on the other. The perfect medium is for each person to balance self-interest with regard for others, to find self-actualization in a way that contributes to the greater good. It’s good for all of us when any one of us is happy and doing well, right?
This is one of the main differences between America and other places in the world. We value extreme autonomy. I DO WHAT I WANT. This is why we’re perpetually fascinated with serial killers and so many of our movies and TV shows involve a murder. Other parts of the world place a higher value on their shared culture, or the family unit. The pendulum swings back and forth, between ME and US, and we didn’t really have much farther to swing on the selfish end.
We can’t hug it out anymore, either.
I think there will eventually be a thing, like a huggable robot toy, that sends virtual hugs. Say it’s a stuffed sloth with actuators inside. You can hug yours and have it send a hug to mine, and it can awkwardly pat my back.
I’d be one of the first customers, because I’m a FREE HUGS person.
Last week I was on a group video call with one of my Free Hugs friends. I saw her face, I heard her voice, and I could feel the ghost of a memory. She is the best hugger. I told her once, “I just can’t resist you!” She was sharing how hard it’s been to be isolated at home, since she lives alone, and I would have done anything to reach through the screen and hug her from 2000 miles away.
Sometimes I just sit and think of all my friends and what they are like as huggers, and I remember the last time we gave each other a big squeeze. Sometimes it’s been years and years, but I still remember.
I remember you.
We’ll get it back. One day, we’ll be able to mix and mingle freely again. I’ve been thinking of that day, of the first weeks after we’re free to touch each other socially, of the cries of joy that will rise up as friends run to each other and lift each other off their feet.
I’ve missed you so much!
I hope we carry this with us, this longing for social contact. I hope we always remember how much we need each other. I hope we can keep reminding ourselves, even as the current moment makes us testy and irritable... I hope we can remind ourselves to be kind and caring, to hug it out if we’re lucky enough to have someone TO hug.
C’mere, you. Aww.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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