After weeks of struggling with self-doubts and fears, two days ago I finally decided to come out. Coming out was not an easy decision. Family and close friends who knew my inner Bob were understandably worried. What would be the reaction of neighbours and those townspeople whom I have not seen for a while? Criticism and harsh judgement from others certainly awaited. I was even warned that my life could be at risk. People like me are still being urged to remain at home, out of sight, where the experts say ‘my kind’ belongs. Yet, I have to live my remaining time as I want it to be lived: free of undue constraints and barriers.
To be clear, the only “closet’ I recently came out of was the cramped confines of my small home. And now I have to learn unfamiliar norms and rules to be able to function as a cooperative participant in what is—–(alert: an already boring phrase ahead)—the “new normal”.
As our Premier has cautiously nudged Ontario into “Step One,” of this new normal, I have completed a few trial runs beyond home, with nimble skill and much success. Well, perhaps I did navigate the BAKING SUPPLIES aisle in the wrong direction, drawing not-so-subtle looks of annoyance. But who can blame me? After patrolling those same familiar aisles in any direction for 15 years, I can’t be expected to notice one-way arrows suddenly appearing on the floor. Instead, my sharpened shopper’s eyes were focused exclusively on the shelves, seeking in vain a coveted package of yeast.
Yes, I also admit to becoming so thrilled at spotting bananas with that rare variety of ripeness on a single bunch that I impulsively invaded the verboten six-foot space of a young clerk. As I triumphantly clutched my prize, she promptly kicked her loaded cart into reverse, almost dislodging her remaining boxes of fruit.
It also may be true that I lingered too long on another practice outing, bending thoughtfully over my selection of grapes. Green or red, green or red? How many can I afford? How can I dislodge only a few from the thick bunch? I slowly became aware of eyes burning into my back, like the UV rays of August on Lake Huron’s sandy beaches. I had somehow forgotten that frustrated shoppers were lined up behind me like a Hwy. 401 traffic jam, not willing to transgress the red six-foot marker in that narrow aisle.
“—it’s really difficult to see how people are going to get that human connection that is so, so vital—that sort of comfort, of human face=to-face contact with physical touch—.” (Tara Henley, quoted in MacLean’s magazine, May, 2020.)
This new normal also demands a hugging etiquette: Beyond family, do not hug! Dr. Peter Lyn, a guest on CBC Radio May 18, acknowledged this dilemma and offered a desperate-sounding compromise: perhaps we could lessen the risk if the huggers hold their breath for those intimate 20 seconds, stopping the flow and exchange of germs. I would happily initiate twenty second, non-familial hugs, but only with explicit signed consent. My personal rule is that any hug beyond three seconds becomes a hold. I wonder if anyone might be open instead to back-to-back hugs?
Perhaps a solution for unfulfilled, wannabe huggers is to follow guidelines issued today by the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention. CDCP warns that “—a sneeze flings heavy droplets” (good grief!) whereas, the report implies, hugging a dog carries far less risk of catching the virus. Just be sure to first ask permission of the dog, but not necessarily in writing.
And thus, I tread carefully into this new chapter in my life journey. I plan to basically remain at home as is prudent for all elderly, aged, senior, old retired, tired people. (What label shall I most accurately pin on myself?) I accept that wearing my mask in public is a courtesy I will follow. Yet step by step, I am coming out, eager to find my own path through this new normal.
I am strongly motivated by one lesson I quickly learned in that grocery store, one-way aisle odyssey: once committed to BAKING SUPPLIES, like life itself, there is no turning back.