Vexations and Conundrums
By Katina Pontikes
How to Murder Your Social Life
I think it all started with the pod concept. Covid required us to check out companions who had similar risk assessments for avoiding the disease. If they shared our precautions, which were very strict, we formed informal “pods.” Typically, one would only have one pod, a household, but we needed more than that. We had three pods. There was one fourth pod out of state, but we could only see these family members rarely due to distance.
If we violated socializing limits and “broke pod,” then we had to count five days before we could see our other friends. Everything was based on trust. Disclosures of deviations were required. We turned down many invitations because people were more casual in lifestyle than us.
Here was a typical example of how conversations went:
Dear friend: “Why don’t you come and dine on our terrace, outdoors, this Friday? It would be so lovely to get together!”
Me: “Oh! That sounds like so much fun!” (Pause, lump in throat, realizing I must ask The Questions) “Have you been Covid safe?”
Dear friend: “Oh, yes! We are very careful.”
Me: “So are you seeing adult working children?”
Dear friend: “Well, yes.”
Me: “Do they mask at their jobs?”
Dear friend “Uh, no, that isn’t required.”
Me: “How about the grandkids?” (Thinking: Unvaccinated)
Dear friend: “You know, we aren’t really as careful as you. Let’s wait until things calm down.”
In the two years of Covid, I had conversations like this often. I was left with the feeling that I had offended my friends, asking my probing, damning questions. I may have seemed “holier than thou” with my inference of our superior medical hygiene. Very few people could pass our due diligence test. Sadly, many of them eventually contracted nasty cases of Covid.
There were one or two dips in caseloads, and I hurriedly made quick plans for an outdoor lunch or two to mend my social fences. Vaccinations and then boosters allowed a slight easing up on restrictions.
Then came Omicron. We returned to being extremely cautious.
Conversations changed. Here were friends’ comments responding to my social reticence:
Friend A: “You do know we are all going to get this, right?”
Friend B: “You are just delaying the inevitable. We want to get this, so it becomes endemic!”
They looked at me with sad eyes, like my intelligence was waning due to prolonged isolation. I was the only one to mask if we had a brief encounter, such as an exchange of a gift. I refused to join in group activities outside of pods.
My medical gurus on television were asked questions about just these issues. Esteemed doctors claimed that these positions of disease acceptance were not advisable. There was a risk of what is called “Long Haul Covid,” where symptoms don’t disappear after the illness clears up. For example, sense of smell can disappear for up to a year. And the doctors pointed out that if one got the disease, they risked spreading it to vulnerable individuals.
One doctor gave a great explanation of why one didn’t want to catch the milder Covid variant, Omicron. He said he would recover from the pain of a broken arm. Still, he didn’t want to break his arm. In the same vein, he didn’t want to catch Covid and be sick, even for just a few days.
I have worked hard to develop a robust social life, which I nurtured for decades. I wrote countless notes of appreciation for lovely dinners and worked hard to find creative host gifts. I tried hard to be a guest that lent sparkle to the table. Now I have turned into the Grand Inquisitor, and it feels like no one wants to face my interrogation.
When the next dip in caseloads comes, I plan to have a whirlwind of gathering opportunities to revive my comatose social existence. This Grim Reaper is ready to morph into the fairy in the tale who waves my wand and turns the clock back, so that everything springs to life again, like the Before Times.
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