We had “the talk” today. The new talk, the quaranteaming talk. If you haven’t been party to one of these conversations yet, take note; you probably will be soon.
The young ones call it DTR, or “defining the relationship.” There’s this awkward point when one person realizes that the other may not have the same interest in exclusivity or commitment. Then comes the Catch-22 moment: the DTR conversation may kill the relationship, but it can’t continue without it.
If you thought that was awkward, wait until it actually becomes a matter of life and death and also involves a multi-familial org chart.
There are three reasons why we’re having the talk with this specific person:
I live my life in the crossroads between FREE HUGS and TRUST NO ONE, only now one of those roads is closed. After getting coronavirus in the circumstances that I did, I’m rethinking how I make decisions and who is in my circle of trust.
A big part of that is no more vouchers, no more “friend of my friend is my friend.”
Okay, it’s one thing to make connections between people, write references, help people on projects, or have conversations when it’s virtual. What I’m talking about now is being in the same room with another person.
One of the changes we’re going to see is that hugging and shaking hands will take on entirely new and deeper meanings. Another is that a couple feeding each other cake at their wedding ceremony will be doing something much more dramatic, something that may feel like more of a gesture of commitment than trading rings. The kiss! People may faint when they see newlyweds kiss for the first time.
I’ve always had an open door policy. We used to have an open house night every week and sometimes whole carloads of people would show up, only one of whom we had met before. We hosted couchsurfers all the time.
Those days are done.
I mean, I hate it? But I also just spent a month trying not to die. Until we all have spacesuits, I can’t be taking any chances.
I know for a fact that most people don’t understand this attitude yet.
Teenagers outside in groups of half a dozen, no masks, or maybe one hanging off an ear
Majority of people on the streets in our neighborhood not wearing masks
Nextdoor blowing up with posts every single day complaining about the “lockdown”
The same person who got me sick now meeting her trainer IN PERSON - somewhat legit since they both tested positive for COVID and recovered, but that doesn’t explain his other clients
Our friend’s neighbors hosting a “free beer” stand in front of their house
Our downstairs neighbor leaving repeatedly for two hours at some point between midnight and 5 AM, we know because his puppy howls on continuous loop, do his parents know? Doubtful
I think there are a few broad categories of reaction to self-isolation, based on what I have seen and heard.
Skeptics who think it’s “just a cold” or “just the flu”
Young people who feel immortal
Well-meaning people who don’t know how far 6’ is and won’t do a thorough job with hygiene
People who know the rules but think it’s okay to cheat, just a little
The category of person who is extremely strict and has strong self-discipline and self-control is a very, very small category. I can list off on one hand the people in my acquaintance who would qualify for an interview for my bubble.
Most of them live far enough away that it’s a moot point, at least right now. When we get limited travel back that may change.
Here’s the deal with vetting people to be in the bubble. You aren’t just vetting them, you’re vetting EVERYONE ELSE they may meet in person. Any one of them could be... sloppy.
The best parallel for this type of arrangement comes from the polyamorous community. We could really use some guidance from them and I hope they’re willing to share. How do you have these conversations about boundaries and trust and honesty and health and safety? In a cute way?
I know several poly groups - it’s quite common in the Pacific Northwest - and I have watched several split up in what I considered predictable ways. Lot of moving parts, to coin a phrase. I was privy to one group debate when one member kept dating on the side, outside the group, after being chastised. The main rule was that everyone in the group got tested every year, but introducing a bunch of random elements made that rule ineffective for all of them, and by ‘all of them’ I mean a lot more than three.
The reason I trust our friend is that we had this conversation about which of our local friends and relatives could be considered trustworthy, and we agreed that none of them could! She can’t trust her parents because she doesn’t trust her brother-in-law, and obviously that takes her sister off the list. I’m not her best friend, but two of her other close friends have been flagrantly breaking social distancing and a third has turned full pseudoscience.
There is another reason that I trust her judgment, besides trusting her as a follow-through person who has a strong track record of keeping her word. She has health conditions that made COVID more dangerous for her, and having been sick for weeks, she has a vested interest in not going through that again. I believe that she is at least as scared as I am of getting breathed on by a less serious individual.
“I just feel like everyone else is diseased,” she said, and that’s the attitude that I need to see right now.
What qualifies as ‘trustworthy’ and ‘reliable’ and even ‘clean’ now all has to be reevaluated in a new context. Someone who would never dream of stealing from my purse or talking about me behind my back might cheerfully expose me to coronavirus again without thinking it matters, or maybe even realizing it had happened. Right now the three of us are part of the 0.1% of Californians who have been officially confirmed to have COVID-19, so this kind of negotiation may seem outlandish, but keep it in mind. It may seem more relevant to you in a few more months.
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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