Picture: 123RF/Jovan Mandic
Picture: 123RF/Jovan Mandic

Do you remember when we had conversations that weren’t about Covid? If I close my eyes and really concentrate, I can conjure a distant time, say November 2019, when talk was entirely different.

Actually, what pops into my mind is not being able to hear much at all.

I’m on a bar stool, squished next to a friend. There’s a group of us jammed into the corner. Everyone is talking and laughing at once. Another round of margaritas manifests. My friend shouts something into my ear, but I can’t hear a word.

On my Joburg couch, alone, I don’t think I have felt more lustful in my entire life. And all for an enclosed space. I’ve got the hots for crowds, smoke (I hate smoke), the frisson of flirting, loud music, staying out late and talking about nothing important. I can even find the romance in an old dude mansplaining while we wait alongside each other to order drinks. Hell, I need to take a cold shower just imagining it.

This is my rich fantasy life — a respite from Gauteng’s Covid nightmare — but overseas it’s happening. Both in the flesh and of the flesh.

In the US, UK and parts of Europe where many have been vaccinated, they are living different lives. That parallel universe is a big jol of festivals, dinners indoors, weddings, dating with abandon, and sex — so very much sex.

Some are calling it the "Whoring Twenties", a riff off the "Roaring Twenties", only where the fun is much, much dirtier but does not require hand sanitiser.

With all New Yorkers over 16 eligible to be vaccinated, The New York Post is reporting on the new "slutty summer". It cites one resident, Ashwin Deshmukh, describing something he hadn’t seen in months: "Uhhhh, it’s happening. Host is escorting a couple out of a Soho restaurant for bathroom shenanigans. They met outside an hour ago." The paper said: "Twitter had one response: ‘New York is back.’"

As pictures from last weekend’s Pride march in New York show, that’s not wrong. Instagram offered a dazzling, jubilant timeline of crowds in the sun, in fountains and hanging off fire escapes.

Who isn’t madly jealous that they’re getting Pfizered and reclaiming the good times so easily?

In the UK, despite half the population being fully jabbed, they are venturing into revelry more gingerly. While it’s illegal for more than 30 people to gather, thousands of people descended on an unlicensed rave in the farmlands of West Sussex on Saturday. According to The Guardian, after this gigantic knees-up, 23 people were arrested "on suspicion of offences including drink-and drug-driving, possession of drugs and theft".

By comparison, in the Netherlands a sexual health foundation has introduced a "summer of love" campaign. Its aim is to remind youngsters how to flirt, now that they’ve stepped away from their screens. As Dutch News put it: "As lockdown loosens, some are concerned that the younger generation has missed out on vital physical and emotional development by not being able to hook up during the pandemic."

If only that was all we had to worry about in SA. Such blithe frivolity sounds utopian but nothing is perfect — the delta variant is making sure of that.

While 55% of Israelis are fully vaccinated, they’ve now had to return to wearing masks indoors, because of the emergence of delta.

Nearly 50% of the US is fully vaxxed (and waxed, as the oversharing saying of the moment goes) but many aren’t. And delta has dawned there too.

Either way, who isn’t madly jealous that they’re getting Pfizered and reclaiming the good times so easily?

Here, we live in hope. Maybe this time next year we’ll all be sitting at the bar, vaccinated and boggling over how terrible June 2021 was. Until then, join me in my mental palace of merriment — the margaritas are perfect and no one has even heard of masks.

Buitendach is contributing editor at the FM

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