Query update: Sorry. Nothing yet. I know I said soon– it’s coming. I promise.
OMG, you guys. Yesterday, I went to a restaurant. Like, a real restaurant, with people and tables and menus. Inside the restaurant, even. And get this: I didn’t wear a mask. I looked around, and none of the other customers were wearing masks either. I couldn’t believe it was really happening after fifty thousand months of isolation, and I have been slightly freaking out ever since.
It has been 17 real-life months since the shit hit the Covid fan and everything got shut down. I have been super-lonely being home by myself, without any other adults to talk to, and with my mind stuck in the same patterns over and over. Despite how much I tried to break my thought-cycles through counselling and writing and generally keeping myself occupied, my thoughts cycled on and on and on.
But now here we are. It’s warm out. I just got my bike back from my ex’s house. And now I can go to a restaurant without a mask. I have started considering the possibility of dating. Like, real in-person dating. With a real human person.
I am not handling this all well. It’s like that old MS-DOS operating system. Every time I think about restaurants, in-person dating, or going out without a mask, my brain short-circuits: BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME. It’s a surreal feeling to see the things you’ve been imagining for so long actually happen. I often daydreamed that I would get to be in a place outside my home with a person and without a mask, but it felt like it would never happen. Like, never ever. It felt like Covid would go on forever and we would all stay super-lonely.
There is also an emotional opening up that comes with the physical opening up. Not having a mask on means that we can see others’ expressions, and they can see ours. No more hiding a smirk or a frustrated grimace behind a piece of fabric. Having my whole face exposed in public feels weirdly vulnerable. Standing or sitting in a place that is not the farthest-possible distance between two bodies feels incredibly intimate. Too intimate? Yeah…. maybe….. Our tolerance for being near each other has decreased a ton, but our need for closeness is still the same. This deficit has created some weird unwillingness to be vulnerable, along with a massive desperation for nearness.
Masks and physical distancing have been like battle armor; opening up means we need to start being present and unguarded once again. We can be near each other physically, and hopefully our physical closeness can allow us to be more emotionally intimate as well. Without our perpetual focus on physical symptoms and risk-management, we have room to be in community once again.
Pretty soon we’ll be able to let our guard down, and not just our masks. We are hard-wired for community, and we will be in community again. Slowly. Surely.
Featured image was created by the author using elements from canva.com.