“Today is…Saturday,” I said recently to my husband.
“Are you asking me, or telling me?” he responded.
It’s true, I approach each day with a mix of contempt, curiosity, and confusion. Haven’t you seen those memes indicating each phase of quarantine? Schitt’s Creek, Britney Spears, Nicolas Cage–they each have nine distinct looks to which we can all relate during lockdown.
I’ve been averaging four of these on any given day since embarking on the long, strange journey of social distancing in March.
COVID-19 weight gain, quarantine morning boozing, pants-free Zoom calls–these things exist now, at least with more regularity. All of these shifts can be attributed to the trials and tribulations of social isolation and fear-based mania and malaise.
Another characteristic I’ve noticed well into month two of lockdown is the extent to which some of my loved ones seem to identify with fictional characters on television. As a tortured empath, I fell prey to such emotional meltdowns even during times of peace and relative good health, but can usually separate the good, bad, and ugly from reality.
The more rational, alpha individuals in my inner circle have recently been infected by dramatic engagement with fictional characters, and the results are delightful.
One incident occurred while I watched the season 16 finale of Grey’s Anatomy, prematurely ending due to Covid-related scheduling disruptions. One evening after the original episode aired (Saturday? Tuesday? Does it matter anymore?), I hunkered down solo in the den to soak in the medical soap opera I have been enjoying with only a tinge of guilt since 2005.
I nearly always watch this series alone, save the company of a sleepy Coco and glass of rosé. On this particular night, my husband was in the other room, working on a puzzle and a pint (his Thursday night Grey’s equivalent, at least in the time of Covid)–out of sight but not earshot.
During the shocking scene [*SPOILER ALERT*] when Teddy (accidentally) calls Owen while cheating on him (intentionally) with Tom, my eyes widened and then rolled. That breach, and the careless voicemail, broke from character so egregiously that I found it hard to believe. I’m forced to suspend enough disbelief as it is to watch the hospital drama and fantastical storylines, which I’m willing to do, provided that the character development and dialogue remain genuine and consistent.
While Owen listened, in horror, to his fiancée’s breathless message from the OR, I SMHed and silently asked, “WHA-? Well, that’s just unlikely. Maybe the final three cut episodes would explain this clusterfuck in greater detail.”
Audibly, from the other room, Mr. Astrid yelled, “What is wrong her?”
“That woman. What’s her name? The doctor who is cheating on her husband,” he shouted from the puzzle table, unable to see the TV screen.
“They’re not married yet…wait, sweetie, are you listening to my show?” I asked.
Ignoring me, he continued, “She shouldn’t be getting married if she’s banging some other dude.”
I couldn’t agree more. I asked if he wanted to join me to finish up the season finale together.
No, he didn’t.
He did, however, want to know if “that doctor” plans to go through with the wedding, because, he had some strong emotions about that choice he felt compelled to share while piecing together a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of colorful bugs.
I had to pause the program to field his many questions, and opinions, about the fictional situation. He just wasn’t having it. All from thirty feet away from the action.
“If Tammy isn’t sure, then she just needs to talk to, uh, Adam about their relationship,” he said, more adamantly than he speaks even about people he knows in real life.
“Teddy and Owen…”
“Whatever! They shouldn’t be together. And she’s an asshole,” he added with passion I rarely see emerge after watching a program to which he has committed for years. He has watched a total of about 37 cobbled-together minutes of Grey’s with me, and vanishes whenever a patient is opened up in the OR.
Meanwhile, his ability to watch (fictional yet explicit) CIA or Al-Qaeda torture scenes while enjoying a cheese plate continues to baffle the more squeamish types.
After several hours of distractions and occasional heart-to-heart conversations, KD eventually moved beyond the dramatic denouement of my medical brain candy.
I chalk it up to Covid fatigue and normal-life sensory deprivation. The struggle is real, and even the most impermeable are affected in the most unexpectedly poignant of ways.