Drawing a line in the sandbox: Friendship in the 'new normal'

"I don't know if you are doing play dates, it's totally fine if you aren't, but just in case, I wanted to check..."  If you had told me three months ago I would now be trying to figure out which of the other parents in our social circle are on board with play dates, I would have laughed at you.  But here we are.  Twenty twenty has been a weird year so far.

I played along at first.  I distanced.  I Zoomed.  I stayed home for longer than I preferred, mostly because there was nowhere else to go, but also because I wanted to see how the virus played out.  I even wore a bandana to the grocery store a couple of times.  I admitted I didn't know everything while also openly maintaining a healthy level of skepticism of so-called experts.  But there are limits to how much stupidity one can entertain in the name of virtue-signaling.

I reached my personal limit a few weeks ago, when I saw a friend who really needed a hug.  Not an air hug — a real hug.  That's exactly what she got.  The hug was more important than any of the other stuff.  Neither of us got sick.  Imagine that.

Human beings need interaction.  People need hugs, and children need to laugh and play with their friends on the swing set in the backyard.  None of that is going to change, no matter how loudly the woke preach the gospel of "Stay Home" on Instagram.  Fortitude is one virtue that definitely isn't getting enough signaling these days.

The harder the social distancing crowd push, the more the return-to-normal crowd roll their eyes.  Mix in widespread attacks on civil liberties with an already heavily polarized political climate, and it's not hard to see what's up next.  The line in the sand has been drawn — in schools, in groups of friends, in neighborhoods, and even in churches.  Like it or not, everyone is going to have to pick a team.  There will be winners and losers.  Not everyone is going to get a trophy, and not everyone will shake hands afterward.

Those of us who actually pay attention know that moderates are the Bigfoots of American politics.  They don't really exist, but a bunch of lunatics in the Beltway sure love to pretend they do.  As Ann Coulter put it once, "by the age of fourteen, you're either a Conservative or a Liberal if you have an IQ above a toaster."  The entire coronavirus experience has likely proven that premise to even the least politically aware toasters among us.  There are no moderates in virus politics.  Sure, some of us may have gone along out of genuine concern for the vulnerable.  But now that science is proving that lockdown skeptics were right, patience for stupidity is wearing exceedingly thin — even among friends.   

Are you pro-lockdown or pro-reopen?  Do you wear a mask, or do you choose not to?  Do you end your emails with "stay safe!" or  "fear not"?  Are you selfish for going out in a pandemic, or are you selfish for telling people they can't earn a living?  Are you up for play dates, or would you rather keep your kids isolated at home for a few more weeks or possibly months?  And where exactly do you stand on hugs?  There is not going to be a middle ground in post-virus America.  No neutral.  No voting "present."  No ties.  

Isn't it something that the most polarizing figure of 2020 isn't going to be a person in a red hat after at all?  It's going to be a germ. 

Laura Walsh is a stay-at-home mother and Millennial living in the suburban South.

Image: Thijs Paanakker via Flickr.

"I don't know if you are doing play dates, it's totally fine if you aren't, but just in case, I wanted to check..."  If you had told me three months ago I would now be trying to figure out which of the other parents in our social circle are on board with play dates, I would have laughed at you.  But here we are.  Twenty twenty has been a weird year so far.

I played along at first.  I distanced.  I Zoomed.  I stayed home for longer than I preferred, mostly because there was nowhere else to go, but also because I wanted to see how the virus played out.  I even wore a bandana to the grocery store a couple of times.  I admitted I didn't know everything while also openly maintaining a healthy level of skepticism of so-called experts.  But there are limits to how much stupidity one can entertain in the name of virtue-signaling.

I reached my personal limit a few weeks ago, when I saw a friend who really needed a hug.  Not an air hug — a real hug.  That's exactly what she got.  The hug was more important than any of the other stuff.  Neither of us got sick.  Imagine that.

Human beings need interaction.  People need hugs, and children need to laugh and play with their friends on the swing set in the backyard.  None of that is going to change, no matter how loudly the woke preach the gospel of "Stay Home" on Instagram.  Fortitude is one virtue that definitely isn't getting enough signaling these days.

The harder the social distancing crowd push, the more the return-to-normal crowd roll their eyes.  Mix in widespread attacks on civil liberties with an already heavily polarized political climate, and it's not hard to see what's up next.  The line in the sand has been drawn — in schools, in groups of friends, in neighborhoods, and even in churches.  Like it or not, everyone is going to have to pick a team.  There will be winners and losers.  Not everyone is going to get a trophy, and not everyone will shake hands afterward.

Those of us who actually pay attention know that moderates are the Bigfoots of American politics.  They don't really exist, but a bunch of lunatics in the Beltway sure love to pretend they do.  As Ann Coulter put it once, "by the age of fourteen, you're either a Conservative or a Liberal if you have an IQ above a toaster."  The entire coronavirus experience has likely proven that premise to even the least politically aware toasters among us.  There are no moderates in virus politics.  Sure, some of us may have gone along out of genuine concern for the vulnerable.  But now that science is proving that lockdown skeptics were right, patience for stupidity is wearing exceedingly thin — even among friends.   

Are you pro-lockdown or pro-reopen?  Do you wear a mask, or do you choose not to?  Do you end your emails with "stay safe!" or  "fear not"?  Are you selfish for going out in a pandemic, or are you selfish for telling people they can't earn a living?  Are you up for play dates, or would you rather keep your kids isolated at home for a few more weeks or possibly months?  And where exactly do you stand on hugs?  There is not going to be a middle ground in post-virus America.  No neutral.  No voting "present."  No ties.  

Isn't it something that the most polarizing figure of 2020 isn't going to be a person in a red hat after at all?  It's going to be a germ. 

Laura Walsh is a stay-at-home mother and Millennial living in the suburban South.

Image: Thijs Paanakker via Flickr.