No Holds Barred: The Quarantine Conundrum

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An iconic scene from Woody Allen's "Manhattan." MGM

I feel like I am digitally destructing. Two months of facetiming, zooming, streaming, and screening has left my eyes dry and bloodshot, my sleep strangely disturbed, and my brain fractured.  Already there have been medical alerts about an overuse of technology. But we can worry about that after we get our antibody test, or any swab stuck up your nose or in your mouth for whatever virus.

Social distancing or social separation?

It’s already become a discussion that our new social distancing lifestyle is causing anxiety, rage, mistrust, family disputes and divorce. I was thinking how thirty years ago when plastic surgery arrived, and many young girls were getting fake boobs for their high school graduation gifts.  My best friend at the time was appalled and said, “I’m so worried my 13-year-old son will never experience a woman with real boobs.” That “boy” is now a leading plastic surgeon, or was until Corona pushed him into the front lines serving in a Manhattan ER.

But now I wonder if young kids will ever be able to regain real social skills.  Most of them are already addicted to their games on phone and tablets.  Now that home schooling is separating them for so long from their friends, many are becoming “virtually” introverted and vaguely fearful.

We’ve all been “Home Alone” and some of us are feeling a bit affected by Agoraphobia.  I haven’t driven my car in four weeks. I was a little shaky about going around the block, but I finally did it.  So now we are getting a kind of “all clear” sign?  Sort of?  Kind of?  What is that honestly going to look like?

First post-quarantine outing.

As Dr. Fauci explained this won’t be a complete “flip of the switch.” We get that it won’t be all systems “go.” But what is “go?”  Talk about a delicate balance. Who wants to go to a restaurant with strict distance seating for 4 tables of 5?  Who wants to go to a sporting event and sit every 3rd row with 5 seats in between and completely masked?  Who wants to stand in any line with 6 degrees of separation (feet) and readying to take a forehead temperature scan at any business entry?  

Am I ready to enter this brave new world?  Will we ever start singing “Happy Days are Here Again” (the anthem for the 1930 post-Depression).  Meanwhile, kids in Florida are packing the beaches and protesters screaming in the streets. How is that going to work in the long run?  I’m all for getting back to work — and in phases is fine, but how will it translate in this big beautiful country of ours?

Shopping?  I understand purchasing essentials in the local Target, CVS and grocery store, but heading for an afternoon at the mall?  What’s that? You need confidence and loft and money to celebrate consuming like we did 2 months ago. Walgreen’s is enough, thank you. “Essentials” is now the new brand. Not navigating through Bergdorfs’ first floor of luxury bags and jewelry (and Neiman Marcus already filed).  I think our “diversion” levels will change and “back to normal” doesn’t seem feasible.  Maybe the summer heat will help us loosen up and feel more buoyant and freer.

Auditioning clothes closet.

The masks at times seem alienating, and the daily corona virus briefings keep us anchored to peak death scores rather than baseball tallies. “Opening” doesn’t mean “returning.” I think it means “inventing” a new way to relate to ourselves and that takes time and patience. So, forget traditional dating and weddings and even funerals. But try to tell that to the kids on the Miami beaches.

Everyone I know has cleaned out their garages and closets 12 times already since Covid isolation began.  I actually “auditioned” every sweater, pant, top and shoe.  I looked at closet cleaning in a new way.

Everything came out and I had to be VERY thoughtful what would make the cut to go back.  It was a way of confronting myself, and not just a giant Goodwill purge. I kept more than I thought since I think clothes will not be a priority for a while.  Also, retail will get hit hard (it already has) – so best to keep what you really love and need.

Actually, I think we are all past Marie Kondo “re-organizing.”  I think we are now “re-selfing” our bookcases, closets, kitchens, garages — you name it.  Who will we be when we finally “come out.”  Nervous, excited, strong, apprehensive? And no Governor or President has the last say on THAT inner personal adjustment!

I bet there will be a lot of “soft openings” and some “closings” as we become more “peak” and “hot spot” obsessed. Of course, all of this depends on where you live. The greatest “opening” video I saw was one about Boris Johnson’s recovery showing Boris as Austin Powers dancing his way through “Swinging London’s” streets post-hydroxychloroquine Covid cure.  That video gave me hope for anyone’s return to action!

No one is talking about “summering” in the Hamptons or the South of France or even the Jersey Shore. Those days? Are they gone? What will summer barbecue even look like with Covid being everyone’s uninvited guest?

And then there are all the emails stacking up from retailers trying to connect via irrelevant sale offers.  They are seemingly tone deaf to the financial wipe-out. At least I applaud Tom Ford for not coming out with a line of clothes or another lipstick or silly mask but a decent manual on “How to look good on camera” for your next Zoom appearance.

Basically, he suggests 3 easy methods.  Put the computer on a stack of books — slightly higher than your head.  Put the lighting source behind the computer so it shines on the best side of your face (if you know what the best side of your face is) and put a piece of white paper or a table right below you to bounce the light up nicely on your face.  Lastly, blast your face with a ton of powder.

Leave it to Ford to come through with some sense of relevancy in a time when most people are looking and feeling awful on screen with grey hair, roots and only wearing underpants on camera below the waist.

The other odd email came from the CEO Doug Parker of American Airlines expressing his “concern” for US — his frequent flyers “at this difficult time.” His speech was all about customer care and assuring us of the well-being of his pilots, stewardesses and reservation agents and engineers across the world.

But he didn’t say a word about how he planned to sanitize every single aircraft; the seats, bathrooms, aisles, overhead compartments — not to mention that awful germ-infested seat-back pocket in the seat in front of you.  The bottom line about airlines being flying petri dishes is all about DISINFECTING!  Good luck to them and hotels on that issue alone.  And don’t thank me for my loyalty after years of abusive cancellations, overcharging and bad baggage claim!

But let’s leave long range business comeback plans to the experts who are slowly “returning” to whatever they can salvage.  Nobody can predict this new landscape — nor should we.

In the meantime, the other night I decided to watch Woody Allen’s masterpiece, “Manhattan,” for the 50th time. I sobbed all the way through. 1979 was my era of living in NYC. It was the city I loved with Elaine’s Restaurant, Bloomingdale’s first floor, the Carlyle Hotel awning, actual phone booths, and people on the street walking and talking to each other (not on devices) and connecting! The streets in “Manhattan” were for meeting and greeting (not just hooking up) and that exciting sense that anything could happen and did in NYC!!  

I wept for the city, I wept for the Gershwin soundtrack and I wept for Woody!!  When I first saw that movie in 1979 it didn’t even shock me that Woody’s 42-year-old character was having an affair with a 17-year-old Mariel HemingwayAll I knew was it was all a part of the colorful New York City neurosis, but most of all it was an amazing city at an amazing time, and Allen caught it all pitch perfect.  More than just nostalgia, I realized that I will never see the likes of that time again and it broke my heart. Thank God — I knew it when.

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