This feels weird.
The last time I had plans or wore pants with a zipper was March 8th. I know because I Instagrammed it. It was a sunny Sunday and I sat on a roof with some friends thinking how nice it was to be sitting outside again. I assumed it was the first roof of many. We talked about Netflix documentaries over beers and wore jackets because it was a little too cold out. After that we went to dinner and hugged goodbye and I haven’t touched a person since. That was 30 days ago. It was a simple, casual event I had no idea would be my last human contact for the foreseeable future. Ignorance is bliss, but it is also a motherfucker.
I have been self isolating, socially distancing, quarantining, basically pretending I’m a princess in a tower from a 5th story Brooklyn window since the evening of March 8th. I didn’t really know that’s what I was doing until March 11th, the day the shit hit the fan. I wish we’d all known to get started in January. Maybe back then the idea of our lives stopping on a dime was too much to fathom. You don’t want to know the things I’m allowing myself to fathom now. Sometimes I tell my WhatsApp group. They’re kind to me.
As a single woman who would rather be rent-poor than ever see another human being’s dishes in the sink again, I live alone without roommates. The only other inhabitant of my home is a 13-year-old long-hair mutt cat that resembles what might happen if an average member of the feline species and a Swiffer duster on a shelf at Wal-Mart decided to mate. It’s just the two of us in here, and only one of us has a prescription for Xanax.
I’m used to being alone. Yes, I will admit that the current climate is thoroughly pushing it, but overall I’m used to a life containing a minimal amount of human touch. Having experienced my fill of casual sex AKA sex where I was hoping it would turn into more than sex and he was hoping to go home and play video games as soon as soon as possible, I’m pretty much over trivial touch. In this phase of my life I value connection with more depth. I intend to ensure that the next man granted bedroom privileges intends to spend quite a bit of time there and would indeed be disappointed if that were not the case.
So while the online dating moronic masses are still trying to get quick, easy, and free ass during a global pandemic, getting the bed to myself is nothing new. That’s not what this is about. This is about human contact of any kind which, for me, has been limited to the lady at the grocery store who passes my lemons over a scanner and yells at me to stand back. I have found this interaction wanting.
The assumption was that I’d feel lonely. That was a given. Even me, a stubborn, minimally patient advocate for single women encased in NASA-grade titanium would be susceptible to the very basic human emotions and wants that come along with solitude of this intensity. But what I’ve actually come to feel after 30 days of not sitting in the same room as someone else is fear. I feel a very permeating fear around 12:30pm every day that doesn’t let up until I go to sleep or, on occasion, find something good on Netflix. And even then, the relief is a sham. It’s scary feeling this alone, and this void of human connection. The cat does her best, but she weighs eight goddamned pounds, what’s she supposed to be, the big spoon?
The fear is a kind of new normal, not without variation, lest I get bored. Occasionally it offshoots into bouts of extreme impatience, deep sadness, or consuming apathy that finds me standing in the middle of a room doing literally nothing, as if under a spell of nothingness that not even the sparkliest craft project could pull me out of. I’d get into the anxiety, but you have Twitter. I’m sure you understand.
I’ve tried to find ways to minimize my discomfort, including but not limited to meditation, white wine, and eating lemon curd from a jar, but really…nothing fixes this. This is just a thing I’m living through, and will live through, for the duration of the pandemic. Heaven knows there are healthcare workers, sick people, and their families dealing with actual problems. My complete restructuring of self and fear that I’ll meet the end of the world alone is laughable in comparison. But I also think playing the comparison game both invalidates people’s feelings and sends us all down a dark path we don’t want to see the business end of. Everything sucks. Let’s agree to that.
When we first started existing in closed quarters, our faces seen and voices heard only from behind suddenly VERY clean screens or not at all, I was so afraid for my coupled friends, and especially for my friends with kids. Trying to unexpectedly earn their living from home with other people around, some of whom require constant care and attention, sounded…forgive me, fucking horrendous. If it’s been difficult for me, a grown woman, to establish and stick to a reasonable schedule and something resembling smart nutrition, how the hell are parents doing this with six year olds?
But as the days have marched on, and as rules regarding sleeping, waking, snacking, and Zooming have melded together like a box of crayons over an open flame, I’ve come to see my friends who have partners and families as lucky, at least from my perspective. They’re not actually alone. They’re stepping on Legos and Instagramming ungodly defilings of their sofa cushions with household products, sure, but they’re not alone. The scenario in my apartment is really alone. It is also some bullshit.
I don’t want children and I’m very happy to ramble into the internet about that, but dammit if they don’t look convenient for cuddle purposes right now. Is that why people have them? For hugs? Those tuition fees have to have some kind of tangible ROI I’d imagine. I could do with a hug I think. I get a little sad trying to imagine the next time that will be considered an acceptable activity. Do you ever just stop and think for a moment how batshit all of this is? How truly bizarre life is right now? Actually, you know what…don’t. I’m sorry.
There’s an understanding about check-in texts, calls, and FaceTimes. We’re probably technically seeing more of each other now than we did before. But what I think is becoming keenly aware to us in a way that was always true but is now impossible to ignore: Digital doesn’t count.
Yes, I am living for my Friday night House Party app happy hours with friends from New York, London, and Sydney all joining in despite one of us being on his way to work at a hospital while the rest of us are, ahem, shitfaced. I do treasure an unscheduled FaceTime from a friend as one might regard finding an unbroken shell on the beach. But it isn’t enough. It isn’t nearly enough. I don’t know why that is, but I do see some irony in the fact that during a technological age when we’ve never been more connected, we’ve also never been further apart. There are some things, friends, an app cannot exist for.
It’ll change us. I don’t think life operates normally after something stops the entire globe from spinning around like COVID-19 closed her eyes and put her finger down on it. I would like us to be less digital. I would like us to hang out more and charge our devices less. I would like us to stop being so relieved when someone cancels plans. I would like us all to take more initiative to make plans.
I want to be outside this summer. I want to be back on that roof, mad at myself for forgetting sunscreen and not afraid to let a friend try my beer to see if she likes it. I want to find out if somewhere out there, there’s a human being who wants to make sure I never sit through another global disaster alone. Being single is just fine. Being alone and afraid for this long is not.
There’s lonely, then there’s whatever this horseshit is. I feel home, and not at home. Quiet, and silently screaming. Productive, and also like I never accomplish anything at all. I’m off. It’s all off. And I’m one of the lucky ones. I work from home, did I tell you that? On its face, my day doesn’t look very different. But remove yourself from society involuntarily and it becomes pretty clear that the thing that keeps us together is our freedom and ability to be together. Maybe when we can’t connect, we fall apart.
Please stay home. And, if possible, give someone a hug—for me.