SARAH BUITENDACH: Failure to launch, Covid-style
There’s a long list of fully grown CAs, property developers, artists and fellow journalists who have taken the gap and ‘gone home’ to spend the lockdown with their parents
This morning, as has happened for a number of weeks, I was brought coffee in bed. By my mom.
Yes, much like the Matthew McConaughey character in the 2006 film of the same name, I have failed to launch. Or rather, I launched, did a nice bit of independent space travel, took one look at the unknowing vacuum of the pandemic universe, and decided to slingshot myself straight back through the atmosphere, crash landing in the comfort of my childhood home.
Being single and in my flat alone for an undefined time wasn’t something that seemed a great prospect in March. So I absconded to stay with the oldies up the road. Sure, there’s been some dynamic tension over my alleged messy ways and my father’s insistence on handling the evils of the liberal press (that’s me, I have to remind him) – and times have certainly changed from when I was last living here. Fifteen years ago, my parents would say: “Don’t forget to switch off the alarm when you come in from a late night.” Now they’re awake, watching Sky News, hours after I’ve gone to bed.
In truth, I’m delighted I got to spend this time with my folks, and I’ve realized I’m not the only one. There’s a long list of fully grown CAs, property developers, artists and fellow journalists who have taken the gap and “gone home”. Read this excellent article by the travel editor of The Financial Times’ How to Spend It magazine for an extreme and poignant story along this theme.
It’s a phenomenon of this pandemic – one that has, to some degree, made us all reconsider what is important to us and how we’re living our lives.
The same can be said for all the swift shifts in living arrangements catalysed by the lockdown. Perhaps you’ve suddenly got your in-laws shacked up with you. Or your varsity kids are back in the nest. Maybe you’ve ended up in isolation with a bunch of friends, your extended family or your step-grandchildren.
Still, living in close confines with whoever it is, over so many weeks, can really reveal the cracks. Especially with partners and children.
Way back in April, this story appeared in The New York Times as a survival guide for couples taking strain from having to see each other every day and night. Much of it is common sense, but other parts remind us of just how surreal and stressful our new world really is.
“Try to give each other space during the day. If you can, limit your verbal communication. Try texting instead,” is one suggestion. Picture yourself in the kitchen: “Do you want seconds?” you WhatsApp. Blue ticks. “Sure”, comes the text from across the table. It’s a world that science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke wouldn’t have dared imagine.
Nuclear family, nuclear fallout
Have a gander at the Telegraph’s Marriage Diary column and you’ll realise what’s happening in families right now. This section of the British newspaper collates anonymous submissions from readers.
The corona-related contributions include: “Since my husband has been working at home I feel like I have a new boss – and an extra child”, and “I was planning to leave my husband before lockdown – can I still go through with it?”
If only Days of our Lives had plotlines that were as compelling.
But it gets stranger still. Right now, so many families are separated, but through circumstances not of their making. I know a load of people who were abroad when the lockdown struck and, well, they’re still there months later.
Many are trying desperately to get repatriation flights. Even actor Bruce Willis spent a good portion of his stateside lockdown with his ex-wife, Demi Moore, and their adult kids, because his current wife, Emma, and their two girls were stuck on the other side of the country. They’ve since been reunited – Bruce and Emma, that is, not Bruce and Demi.
But for the ultimate foray into lockdown living stress, try this New Yorker article about a flat share in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Take a bunch of youngsters hustling in the big city, living together mostly out of necessity, add a virus and a lockdown, and the result isn’t particularly pretty.
It is, in fact, just the sort of tale that makes me thrilled about my early nights with the folks.
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