Herd Disunity

We’ve just passed the year marker of our Pandemic, we’re all a bit tired and I don’t mind telling you that I’ve officially banned from our home the phrase “Cozy in the House”. Now it’s quite possible that this unholy expression might have had some reasonable use at one time or another. But I don’t think this is language any of us really need to hear right now.

My wife -an enthusiastic and frequent user of this expression -has retaliated with a decision of her own. She is now insisting I refrain from using the phrase “Bustin’ Out” (as in “Honey, I just can’t take it anymore -this weekend I’m bustin’ out!”), which of course I think we can all agree is rather important emotional language right now. And language I firmly believe we can’t really say quite often enough.

(Before anyone concludes that I am over-reacting, let me just remind folks that online pajama sales have now reportedly spiked to a 143% increase according to Time Magazine. A disturbing statistic from any perspective.)

Now I don’t mean to suggest any domestic unrest in my locked-down domicile (which of course there isn’t), or to use this sacred column space to leverage my position (which certainly would be unethical), but I think history clearly will be on the side of those of us in need of “Bustin’ Out”. Peek through America’s windows and you’ll see far fewer folks happily nesting on their chesterfields than desperados clawing at their front doors, hungry for even a modicum of a social life. (Let me cite as evidence the fact that many of my friends now commonly refer to Saturday trips to the hardware store as a “big day out”.)

So you can imagine my surprise when I learned just recently that a Yale professor was studying this very question. A Yale Professor mind you! And if I was to litigate the matter publicly (which clearly I’m not) I would think some serious attention might be paid to this rather prophetic individual.

In his recent book “Apollo’s Arrow” Nicholas Christakis theorizes that those wildly social “Roaring Twenties” a century ago should really be understood as a reaction to the Influenza Pandemic of 1918 — and might be read as a forecast for coming Post-Covid behavior. (Which I might add would seem to be a completely healthy frame of mind.) Similar to the restrictive Influenza Pandemic of 1918, Christakis predicts “People will relentlessly seek out extensive social interaction.” (A line I think we can say is essentially academic lingo for Bustin’ Out.)

Now I’m sure that my wife will be the first to point out that I have not exhaustively studied the complete work of the good professor. But the point here is that Pandemics should not somehow be stirring up warm and cozy feelings for the great indoors. No one was nicely settling into contented, house-bound monastic living after that 1918 Influenza was under control. History’s label for this time, we might say for the sake of argument (which I am not having with my wife), wasn’t the “Boring Twenties”.

To further enlighten my wife in the matter I have recently taken a more literary tack. Drawing from my extensive reading of the American classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” (over 17 times -an unfortunate necessity for English teachers) I’ve latched onto something I’m now calling the “Boo Radley Effect”. Boo, you may recall, is the mysterious housebound figure who doesn’t leave his home until the end of the novel. But what evolves as an interesting side story is the children’s attempt to “Get Boo Radley to come out”. What eventually dawns on the kids (and readers) however is a troubling discovery: Boo’s years of enforced hermitage seems to have tragically morphed into a preference to stay indoors! Boo wants to stay house-bound!? (That I missed this dire thematic warning all these years is unfortunate, but certainly will not happen again now that I have nicely underlined all these portions for my wife.)

I suppose there may be those who would laugh off such a notion — that there might be some among us who might be moving toward a kind of Agoraphobic new-normal. People who have become strangely uncomfortable with the unpredictability outside their living rooms. Folks for whom “cozy” is still an active (and troubling!) part of their vocabulary. But maybe not.

So let me be the first to say it: we were not meant to live in state of perpetual room service! Sure those Amazon packages, those cold-packed grocery deliveries and those live-stream movies were fine for a while. But do we really want to live in adventure-less, anti-social, “come-to-me” economy? Come herd immunity I think it will be time to get the herd moving again. Perhaps a time to institute “national pajama burning day”. And maybe a collective declaration that we will not go gently back to that good couch! Ships weren’t meant for the harbor!

I am happy to report here that my wife and I finally resolved the argument (we weren’t having). We kicked off our slippers, masked up and headed off for a date. To get vaccinated. I guess it wasn’t quite the restaurant experience we were used to. But it was certainly social — and just a little more exciting than the post office. The vaccine table we got was nicely located. And I daresay we had a pretty lively conversation with the needle lady. Afterwards we both got a nice selfie with the life-size, cardboard display of Dr. Fauci. And not once, I’m happy to report, did my wife use the word cozy.

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David Praamsma

David Praamsma

24 Followers

English teacher, father and monthly columnist for the Brandon Reporter, a small Vermont rural newspaper. The following are reprints of my monthly contributions.