Someone messaged me recently to say he had COVID. My response was typical — concern. He recovered fine, and so did some people he knew.
“But now I’ve got antibodies,” he said, adding, “Being somewhat safe from the virus makes it tempting to meet up with a handsome guy.”
So this is dating in 2021, not that I’m especially surprised. Spring has sprung, and the seasonal depression I heard so much about during holidays has now given way toward an optimistic summer and fall, when many of us are slated to get vaccinations. I keep hearing from friends and bar owners that they’re anticipating a big bash: a return of the Roaring 20s, and I’m sure that will happen. For me personally though, it is hard to un-see so many realities of this past year.
I feel like personal stories like these go one of two ways — people relate hardcore to them or they think I’m being “Mommy Manners.” Many ask if I’m doing OK, and the answer is no.
Functionally, yes I am: I’m writing stories, making apparel, taking my vitamins, restricting calories, lifting weights and whitening my teeth, all in anticipation of a resurgence of my favorite annual soirees. Pride, Dore Alley, Folsom, Halloween — whether you think they’re coming back in full force this year is a valid question and concern. But I do think we’ll see them in some form, and I’m here for it. I think we are due a party or 10 of them.
Still, on the emotional side, I can’t ignore that one time a social bubble read one of my columns about visiting a winery, and then told a mutual friend to stop seeing me. Or when I wrote about a small Pride gathering and my then-roommate commented, then deleted, “Stop putting my life in danger.” Or in the subsequent months when I lived alone, and seemingly all the virtue signalers went on hiatus while visiting their families for the holidays. I wrote at the time that staying home and quarantining was the smart thing to do, and then the book flipped on me: someone at brunch not long after essentially said that was high and mighty to say that, and snoozed my posts for 30 days.
“I feel like this year has been a fun one of — I don’t know — hibernating, punctuated by periods of intense productivity, all while burning the occasional bridge,” my friend said on reading what I just wrote, adding with a laugh: “I feel like you’ve burned your fair share this year.”
People tell me they’re ready to wipe the slate clean, forgive with open arms, and rebuild the connections we all lost. I am too, except when I hear it framed that way, I imagine the person saying it had a boyfriend or best friend or social bubble that saw them through these times.
Whereas I’m sort of floating on this iceberg, and while I do get out for some hikes and picnics with people, the highlight of my calendar in other weeks is a guy telling me that sex is safe with him because he has COVID antibodies.
My personal life has now condensed itself to a point I remember in high school and undergrad, where people are taking care of their own business, and I’m pretty resentful about it. Don’t get me wrong: in many ways, I think people are doing exactly what’s needed to pull themselves through this time. My rational mind knows — to the best I can muster it — not to judge anyone for what measures they took to keep themselves physically safe and mentally grounded. I just wish I personally had been better prepared for global catastrophe, especially on the social scale. And for me, that means making different decisions when I choose to rebuild my life and community.
Warmer days are ahead. So are vaccinations, and along with them, mask-less meetups, movies, dinner parties, quiet moments in public libraries, and louder ones surrounded by old and new friends at concerts, underground raves and dance marathons. The narrative around me has shifted toward optimism, and I think it’s past time we had a little more of that. I look forward to putting this entire mess behind me — but I felt like reflecting on it at least one more time before looking ahead.
Saul Sugarman is a San Francisco-based writer, event producer and apparel designer; visit him at saulsugarman.com. He is a guest columnist and his opinions are not necessarily that of the Examiner.