WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS MATURE CONTENT… it’s not for young eyes and ears… it’s for the love of my dad!
In the weeks since the stay at home order has gradually lifted, there is an awareness building of the vastly different approaches to getting back out into the world.
At one extreme, there are those who were never into it and didn’t participate to begin with and on the other extreme, there are the fearful who are not yet ready to venture out.
Somewhere in the middle, we have those who are “over it” and those who are strategically calculating their exposure and cautiously weighing their every move to optimize their time spent “out there” while staying within the bounds of their risk-comfort-zone.
I’m admittedly in the latter camp. But, I’m incredibly envious of the “over it” crowd – it seems so luxurious and free.
In the same breath, I’m legitimately stymied by the “over it” crowd. When did that become an option? How does one get over a pandemic while it is still happening?
Speaking of still happening… The Black Lives Matter movement has effectively resurfaced many buzzwords in the media including the following: privilege, bias, and shame.
I bring that up because those very words come to mind when I observe and experience the post-quarantine re-entry approaches identified above. And I’ll pause there to say that I’m not putting this on the level with hundreds of years of racial oppression, however, I am paralleling the psychology of human response and the detriment of group-think.
group·think /ˈɡro͞opˌTHiNGk/ noun: group-think the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.
I’m going to take some heat from that comparison; so allow me to explain…
I acknowledge that I am biased. My dad is in the high-risk category for COVID and while he is outwardly the picture of health (where 75-year-olds are pictured), on paper, he’s the poster-child for those who should avoid exposure AT ALL COST.
In other words, he doesn’t have the luxury – or the privilege – of being “over it.”
And so, neither does my mom… or anyone else who’d like to see him remain in the “picture of health” category (or in the picture, period); i.e., me.
So, I’m doing the things – running the numbers, if you will – to be calculated and intentional. I’m limiting my exposure, wearing my mask, getting “social” again (but still physical-distancing). I’ve also had to make the tough decision to be selective and only fraternize with those who are also taking a calculated approach. All for the love of my dad.
Have you heard the analogy that staying safe during Covid is like practicing safe-sex? While amusing, it really does nail it (pun intended).
My husband came across this Facebook post written by Dr. Alicia Zysman Cromwell, a Family Medicine Physician:
I see many posts and get many questions from patients about what level of socializing is safe in the time of COVID. Can my kids play with friends? Can we have a socially distanced barbecue? It’s challenging because there are so many unknowns but, fortunately, we do have a very good framework to think about how to do this and that is SEXUAL DECISION MAKING…
Social activity, like sex, is an intrinsic biologic drive…
Here’s how I think about it in order of lower to higher risk:
Safest: Stay at home equals abstinence. The only 100% safe method. Not sustainable in the long term AND abstinence-only education only leads to people taking more risk because they don’t have the knowledge to keep themselves safe.
Next: Mutual monogamy with protection. In sex this means condoms. In COVID it means masks and social distancing. In sex it means one partner. In COVID it means one other household. Very safe. Minimal increased risk compared to abstinence.
Next: Monogamy without protection. Also very safe with one major caveat. It ONLY works if both partners are monogamous. Before you do it you have THE TALK and you have to have trust and open communication. You need to know that your partner is not having unprotected interactions with anyone else.
But what if you don’t want just one partner or family? What if you want to see more people? The answer is PROTECTION. If you are going to have multiple sex partners you must use condoms EVERY SINGLE TIME. If you are going to have multiple social partners, you must use masks and social distancing EVERY SINGLE TIME.
And, just like sex, not all protection is created equal. ALL parties in masks are safer than one party in masks. Masks are safer than physical distancing (since no one can really follow 6 feet apart 100% of the time.) Smaller groups are always safer than larger groups. Few interactions are safer than many interactions. And alcohol and drugs cloud your judgment and put you and everyone at higher risk.
So, find where you fall on the spectrum. What level of risk feels comfortable to you? But please be thoughtful and safe, to protect you, your family, your friends, and your community.
Call me a prude but the good doctor’s analogy really resonates with me.
For the love of my dad, I need to not “get in bed” with the “over it” crowd. And don’t think it’s not creeping me out a little bit that I’m talking about sex and multiple-partners and disease and MY DAD all in the same sentence. Eew. I digress…
Let’s next talk about the pressure associated with the decision to limit exposure to the “over it” crowd. It’s sometimes heartbreaking. It means having awkward conversations with friends and loved ones and missing out on events. But what I’ve learned the hard way is that those conversations are imperative! We must have THE TALK!
Initially, I feared what others would think; that I’d be judged (and probably I am, but outwardly, the response has been positive thus far). Letting people know where I stand is good for everyone. It typically results in me acknowledging your COVID-promiscuity comfort level and in return feeling validated in my prudence.
I’ve found the “it’s not you, it’s me” approach to be most effective.
As I’m out more and more, it feels like “no one” is social distancing or taking measures to protect one another. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if it’s more so a matter of group-think – that we get out there and see that “most people” aren’t doing the things and so we get a) a false sense that the protective measures are no longer important, or that b) we’ll be judged (or look ridiculous) if we play it safe. I have to believe that I’m not the only one thinking this way. Anyone with me on this?
Look, I don’t think all of this is going away any time soon. I’m no doctor or scientist, but my money is on another year before we have some resolution or antidote. But I’d rather suffer through a hard year and get to keep my dad around for twenty more than risk it all because I had the privilege of getting “over it” – or worse, felt shamed into it.
So, for the love of my dad, my message is this…
Don’t assume. Don’t judge. Be respectful. And give yourself and others grace! If you’re practicing safe-contact, be confident with your stance and don’t let others shame you. Know that you’re not alone. Don’t get peer-pressured into not using protection, and finally be prepared to initiate AND RECEIVE the hard conversations! You’ll have to make sacrifices but in the end, it won’t be someone’s life you’re sacrificing.