Love and Loathing in the Age of Social Distancing

As is usually the case, my wisecracking daughter and sharp-witted sister made two of the most astute observations concerning life in the face of COVID-19. “This will provide an easy out for a lot of people,” said my daughter, in referencing relationships. “’Sorry, it’s not you, it’s social distancing.’” My sister—never one to suffer fools—was exchanging text messages with me about our family’s health and well-being in light of current events. One text read, “I saw a woman on the news crying because she couldn’t find disposable diapers. Come on! Learn to do laundry!”

Both comments made me think about two things that our society could improve upon: communication and our dependency on all things disposable. These things are loosely related in an odd way.

Loneliness is a real concern in today’s society and it’s no surprise that the older populations are the most at risk in terms of social isolation and depression. I still regret not making more frequent visits to Mr. Wehunt, our elderly neighbor, after his wife of decades passed away. Sure I was busy, but I still remember that sinking feeling that July morning when I was walking the dog before daybreak. It was a Wednesday morning, which usually meant Mr. Wehunt would rise early to meet his old Army buddies at the Toot ‘N’ Tell in Garner for breakfast and gossip. I commented to my husband that the lights were not on as I passed by, which was unusual. My fears were confirmed when a friend called with the bad news…

Mr. Wehunt was a country boy from Lincoln County, a World War II vet, a gifted story teller, and a comforting constant in the community. My family and I were lucky to have the Wehunts in our lives and I still miss them.

Why does it take a pandemic to make us aware of our communication skills? Or lack of communication skills? Has politics and the players on that stage pushed us to the point of not wanting to communicate? Or are we not able to communicate our values? Is it me, or since this social distancing thing is in place, why do I want to visit my neighbors, friends, and family more than ever?

And how in the world is communication linked with laundry? Sure it’s a stretch, but work with me here. With an increasing demand on the Earth’s resources, communicating the need to think about the welfare of others (especially those who are thousands of miles away and whose lives are hard to imagine) makes conservation a harder sell. If you can stay in your own little Tide pod and not worry about anyone but yourself, why bother?

For the record, my sister hates laundry, but knows it’s a necessary evil in life. She’s a good mother and a good nurse, both of which involve lots of laundry.

empty toilet paper roll

Photo by Jasmin Sessler from Pixabay.

Overnight our society went from overstocked groceries and big box stores to an epic shortage of paper processed to wipe our bums. People are pulling out shivs in Wal-Mart over rolls of Charmin. These are people who never took a road trip with my dad. If you needed a bio break that wasn’t convenient, you learned that toilet paper was a luxury and not a necessity.

Our society has become so accustomed to all things disposable—bum wipes, napkins, nappies, and even relationships—that we have lost sight of the cost on our environment and our well-being. Here’s hoping that this COVID-19 crisis is short-lived and gratitude for not canceling my printed subscription to the daily newspaper.

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