I received a text and email (emphasizing urgency) the other day from a former acquaintance informing me that her oil paintings would be appearing in a permanent exhibition, at a Gallery in Virginia.
That’s nice, I thought and continued reading. She is one of the few self-promoting artists I know, as most need the support and assistance of an agent. The artists I have known generally shy away from exposing their talents, as many suffer from fragile egos. At the end of the message, came the real reason for reaching out. She casually asked for the name of my housekeeper, as she remembered I raved about Maria, who is more family than employee. When I responded that she was booked, she urged me to share her number as she was in desperate need of house cleaning. I should mention, this ‘friend’ is someone I knew casually, at best.
It occurred to me that this type of request, on demand, could be a perfect example of the after-effects of the pandemic.
She lives alone, and from what I recall, has never been married. Not an excuse for this type of confrontation, but just an observation, having had much time to reflect on a variety of personalities, during the downtime imposed by the pandemic.
For many, the company of others is a necessity not an indulgence, and for more, living alone presents a list of conundrums. I’m beginning to believe that the ‘side effects’ of the coronavirus coupled with too much time to ponder, might be worse than the disease itself. I’ve been thinking of it as ‘the onset of homebound hostility’ – a 2020 disease onto itself.
There is a wide range of people afflicted with personality disorders roaming the streets of NYC, and we have little to no knowledge of what lies beneath their surface. We often presume that a person who is reasonably presentable, projecting a confident self- image, is someone just like us! Foolish, I know, but fodder for further analysis.
In my circle of friends, there are many who live alone, and have adjusted well to the situation, often a choice not a fate. However, during this most unusually difficult period of time, other ramifications have emerged. One friend recently confided that she is no longer putting up a façade of interest in the long-winded stories of others. She has made a decision not to pretend to be interested in news and gossip, having little to no value in her life. This may result in what may appear to be rude behavior after years of possibly being disingenuously compliant, simply to appease the ‘storyteller’. I commend this decision, in spite of the possibility of losing a host of friends in the process! This is reinvention brought to another level.
On the flip side, another friend who falls under the category of ‘feisty’, and who over the years has bemoaned her lot in life, and the ex-husband who nearly drove her insane, has softened to the extent of unrecognition. She’s been exercising more, has lost weight and seems more content than in all the many years I’ve known her. The upside of this ‘post- existing condition’ called pandemic.
While we have choices as to the path we will take, the uncertainties associated with the surreal outcome of Covid-19 are still a dangling question mark. Unlike Trump, the average person (and I say that with respect for the average person) who may get the disease will not be given a variety of cocktails in the form of cutting-edge drug therapies. And as yet, his recovery remains a mystery. Hard to tell if he’s simply acting like Trump, or is still under the effects of the treatment!
And finally, I should add that for most of us there have been serious if not devastating alterations in our personal lives; from a loss of work, to a fear of the election outcome, to the unsightly for sale / for lease signs dotting the streets and avenues of the city, making many sidewalks unrecognizable. We have adjusted to outdoor dining, not necessarily al fresco – but makeshift to accommodate the needs of the stir-crazy folks like myself, who long for the restaurant experience.
But mainly, my sadness focuses on our children who have been deprived of schooling as it should be, and have been forced to sit in their rooms staring at a computer screen.
Most would agree, this being one of the saddest consequences of this dreadful disease. My hope for the coming season is for all friends far and wide: feisty, fierce, frightening, and of course, foreign, to come out of this crisis a stronger, more confident, wiser, and possibly more grateful person – while realizing how much we have lost, and how hard we shall fight to get it back. Perhaps in a new and improved form.