The Time for Love and Lust is Now
There’s nothing like a pandemic to remind us that we’re not dead yet. Reminded of our own mortality, we want as much life as possible now that’s not possible. Ideally, we would remember this feeling once it’s all over: that our lifeforms are impermanent, that we want to honour these bodies through intimate connection. Something tells me we might start taking our time here for granted as soon as normalcy returns, but in the words of Arundhati Roy, “nothing could be worse than a return to normality.”
The time for love and lust is now. Only now we can’t reach each other. Luckily there are a few ways around this. They’re based mainly on ones and zeros: pixels that pretend to be our faces and the dumb jokes we make into the void, hoping someone, somewhere, will get them, get us. We want to pass through our screens and grab onto each other, we want to hold on tight. Mainly, we want to fuck like it’s the end of the world – because it might be – but we’ll settle for what we can get, and that’s going to look a little different for us all.
Whether that is a super-hot girl we matched with who lives a few cities away (what’s a little distance these days anyway?), or texting the group chat “I have never been this horny” fourteen times a day and feeling comforted by the barrage of “SAME, this is not a JOKE!!!” For some it’s riskier: taking a walk without underwear and feeling the freedom of sensation in places they normally cover-up, stopping in a designated spot awaiting a lover – the excitement of taboo building with each moment – before both masturbating: two metres apart. Oh, and, of course, Caroline Calloway’s recently self-released nudes – she’s truly doing the Lord’s work.
The mandate to stay at home can also be the choice of love: to stay, again and again. Faced with a reminder of our temporality, shotgun weddings abound and one Spanish couple even weds from their window. A caller told the NY times Modern Love podcast that she and her best friend went from confessing their love, to spending every waking moment together in quarantine in the space of 48 hours. Many couples have fast-tracked from dating to cohabiting in the time it takes for a pandemic to take hold. The result can be a strange one: bliss in the midst of a crisis.
Fear, and the anger it creates, has a purpose: to keep us alive. The consciousness of our time running out and the fear of wasting its remainder may allow us, for instance, to leave an unhappy relationship. We often tolerate the intolerable, because that’s what we have been convinced we deserve. We give up the other side of the coin: hope. It might be hard to look to the future right now but as Gloria Steinem once said, “hope is a form of planning”. By daring to hope we open ourselves to make space for fulfilling relationships, we can look back on all the times we said to somebody, “Yes, please do take this fundamental piece of myself,” and say “no way, I’m not doing that again - I survived the end of the world, I’ve seen toilet roll turn to gold and I matter at least as much as that.”
There seems to be a key factor in surviving this without losing our goddamn minds: the bravery to make a connection. When we remember there’s only right now – our past lives took place in a foreign land, and the borders have firmly closed – and there is nothing beyond this moment where the bamboo tree is rippling in the breeze and the neighbours close their backdoor after doing the bins. When we remember that and stop worrying about an imaginary future – we get a little braver.
Before this, we might have said the internet was ruining dating, that we were too afraid to connect in real life. Now, we double text and don’t care if it seems too keen. Seven-minute-long voice notes from that guy who was on our college course – always wish we’d stayed in touch with him – land on our phones and delicately lead us through a recent loss. On daily walks, everyone we pass seems kind of unbelievably beautiful and we make the most of the few seconds of eye contact. When our neighbour says “Morning!” and pauses to really look at us through the fence it feels rich with intimacy. Conspiratorial essays about what the future might hold are shared with that guy we always fancied, but assumed was too sexy to be interested. That doesn’t seem to matter in the same way now – we’re connected, we shared these moments, these fears, this sexual frustration. We’re alive.