A COVID-19 Affair to Remember
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because come hell or high water, humans are going to be human.
By Eugene S. Robinson
The Numbers Game
EUGENE, SIR: I’ve been thinking a lot during the shutdown and have decided that when/if it ends I want to make some changes in my life. One of those changes involves having sex with way more people. I mentioned this to friends; they laughed at me and said it was a “shallow goal.” I am 35 and have had sex with five people. Doesn’t seem shallow to me. — Counting Up
Dear I-CU: Shallow is spending even longer than it takes to read this sentence thinking about a Kardashian smack down. Ditto contemplating the very notion of celebrity. Thinking about how you’d like your love life to unfold after the enforced isolation of no-sex Mondays through Sundays? Anything but shallow.
The average number of sex partners for both heterosexual men and women runs between four and 26, depending on which study you believe. For homosexual men and women, those numbers are 30 and 12, respectively.
If it wasn’t apparent to you already, one thing becomes clear when perusing these numbers: We are surrounded by liars.
I stand here not to castigate liars but to indicate that numbers are just free-floating indicators of the degree to which people try to imagine what feels right and seems normal and adjust their answers accordingly. Which is to say, the number means nothing. Your desire to experience life more fully? That means everything.
So while chasing numbers might seem shallow to some, it’s a lot different from deciding to start saying yes more often than no to the rich panoply that life has to offer. And unless you have clocks at home that run backward. post-shutdown seems like as good a time as any to start.
EUGENE, SIR: My partner and I live in a nice apartment complex and sort of know our neighbors (i.e., there’s lots of waving and smiling but no real talking). The shutdown has changed things. Not that there’s been more talking, but things feel different. The other night, I took the garbage out at the same time as one of our neighbors, and we started talking. He took his mask off because he couldn’t breathe, and next thing I know we were kissing. We heard the elevator, so we stopped but …? I don’t know his situation, but my partner and I are mostly happy. I guess I went a little crazy. I’m afraid to go out now, and with the pandemic going on, I know kissing a stranger was very, very stupid. I need to do something, but I can’t see that confessing to my partner right now will help. Advice, please! — Name withheld by request
Dear Trash Talker: Did you know that since COVID-19 hit, domestic violence in China has tripled? I mention this for no other reason than to say that people around the world are clearly losing their minds. And by “people,” I mostly, though not exclusively, mean “men.” We’re in uncharted waters, and strange things are bound to happen if for no other reason than that, like Jim Morrison once said, people are strange. How and why we do most of what we do is a mystery to many; likewise I think your dumpster pas de deux was due to a combination of cabin fever and COVID-19-induced craziness and I’d treat it like other momentary madnesses. Which means pretending it never happened. Your neighbor will be looking for some sign of recognition when next you meet — partner(s) present or not — and you should just blank him. He’ll get it. Or at least he should. If you think there was something more to it, now is probably not the time to pursue relationship-destroying dumpster dances for almost every practical and logistical reason that can be thought of.
EUGENE, SIR: During this lockdown I know a lot of people are trying new things, and my partner and I are no different. We’ve been role-playing, and it’s been sort of fun, but now my girlfriend wants me to play a Nazi. I can’t do it. We’re both Jewish and we both lost family members in the Holocaust. She has this idea that, like Black people using the N-word, our play would kind of “own” it in a different way, but it’s the least sexy thing I can think of. Is there a better way to get this across to her? — Not Laughing
Dear Not Even a Little Bit: You can say what you just said here and no further justification should be needed about why you don’t want to sexualize the murder of 12 million people, 6 million of them Jewish, some of whom were related to you. I suspect, though, that this is not the ending of a discussion but rather the beginning of one about what constitutes eroticism and what doesn’t. It also feels like a form of foreplay to me. Figuring out in real time, along with your partner, what’s sexy, why what you find to be sexy is sexy, and how to meet the sexy letter of the sexy law could be a nice way to work through this. Sexy can sometimes benefit from scrutiny, so have at it. It can’t hurt much, and it might help more than a little.