Bad Girl, Good Business

My COVIDiary #5: Let’s Talk About Intimacy

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In middle school, we took a mandatory class called “Hygiene.”

It didn’t really prepare me for the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a combination of sex-ed, tips on avoiding body odor, and other random health-related facts. Obscure educational films like these were a part of the training.

Fast-forward to the AIDs era, when “safe sex” became part of our lexicon. When my kids went to school, they learned all about good touch and bad touch too.

Now we’re living in an era where all touch is bad (and potentially fatal) touch.

Among my PREDICTIONS for the post-pandemic world is an increased focus on health and hygiene.

We will not only be more mindful of who we get close to — but also how we touch them. Handshakes, hugs, and high-fives have taken on new meaning. And sharing large group experiences — like concerts, sporting events, and celebrations — will be very different.

We’re washing our hands more, abstaining from sex unless we’re in a committed relationship, and standing at least six feet apart from friends (if we get to see them at all).

This is unlike any other health-related crisis I’ve seen.

I was too young for the polio outbreak, and I was vaccinated for MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) before I went to school. But scientists ultimately figured out how to put an end to those diseases, and even HIV now has a cure. I trust that minds much greater than mine will discover tech-powered ways to identify and manage COVID-19 — way faster than they cracked the code on the “plagues” that came before it.

The COVID-19 epidemic will give rise to a whole new range of gadgets and tech-powered health care innovations.

Lack of physical touch takes its toll on mental health.

Skin hunger” is a real thing. Although the #metoo movement put a damper on most at-work touching, we all still need closeness and flesh-to-flesh connection in our personal lives.

But how will all of this ultimately change our mental and social hygiene? Will we be afraid to get too close to strangers? Keep an ample supply of hand sanitizer everywhere we go? Wear masks to concerts and ball games (when they ultimately resume)? Wash our hands constantly? Pay way more attention to health grades at our favorite restaurants?

Or will we simply become more selective about who we hug, kiss, and share food with?

As the quarantine restrictions gradually lift, will our lives be changed forever, or will we go back to our old intimacy levels? Only time will tell.

But the word “hygiene” has taken on a whole new meaning.


One Comment

  1. In my travels over the past few years, I have often seen Asian tourists and business people sporting face masks, under the most normal of circumstances. So there is a precedent for widespread use of PPE. I suspect that for at least the next year (or 2 years, if COVID 19 pops up for Season 2), we will be doing the same at the theater, in sports arenas, concerts, etc. Then entropy and lassitude will kick in, with a few tweaks. Remember, there is no way to eradicate infectious disease. MMR vaccines work only if employed universally; crazy anti-vaccers have proven that these viral diseases still lurk. (And HIV hasn’t been cured – just transformed into a chronic disease.) Widespread overuse of antibiotics promotes mutations of common bacteria and medicine scrambles to keep pace. Right now we are rubbing against the past, when infection was a common cause of death and the lifespan far shorter. And keep in mind that exposure to various antigens throughout our lives can strengthen our immunity. Therefore, it an be dangerous to live in a bubble. As a doctor, I view the body as the most intricate and adaptable machine, with an almost infinite number of checks and balances. The best we can do is to stay informed, to remain calm and intelligent in the face of health challenges, and to embrace the healthy lifestyle that works best for ourselves, tailored to our individual needs and limitations.


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