The race is still on between the distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine and me having sex again.
It’s a race that started at pretty much the same time, but work on the vaccine has been going on around the clock, and there’s been much progress.
On my end? Twitter, writing, working, walks around the block and…yeah.
Part of pandemic existence is anxiety over the future, on every front.
And for those who entered and have endured the pandemic single and alone (even if, like me, you just barely made the cut) one of those anxieties is sex.
In a world where we must remain six feet from each other, it’s difficult to realistically imagine rekindling a sex life.
Of touching another person, skin to skin. Of welcoming someone new into my home, of being welcomed into someone else’s, of sharing space, sharing bodies.
I realize, of course, that if I want to beat the vaccine, I’m going to have to start dating. Though, with so much anxiety and stress present in daily existence, is anyone right now truly emotionally available?
Or does that even matter?
But that’s not me — especially during a pandemic.
For someone who is still vigilant about distancing, still getting groceries curbside and avoiding going inside where I can avoid it, a sexual encounter seems so dangerous that it would set off a siren at the CDC and prompt a warning call from Dr. Fauci.
I’m not afraid to admit I’m….eager. But the thought of first-time pandemic sex also makes me nervous…and not just about undetected virus particles.
A Different Kind of First Time
I’ve been through break-ups and separations before — and even then it felt there was a teenage-like wondering about the next “first time.” With who? Where? How soon? What will it be like?
How will it even happen?
Any new relationship brings jitters and nervousness. That’s part of the excitement and joy of it — especially working through those anxieties and fears and getting to the fun part.
Naturally, my next sexual encounter will be fraught with anxiety about the coronavirus. It will require a deeper trust up-front than usual.
But after all this time alone, I can’t help but wonder…will months of isolation make me (and perhaps my partner) more sexually awkward than usual?
Sex with another person seems like the polar
opposite of pandemic existence — totally alone on
one side, total intimacy on the other
The New York Times reports extended time away from normal social interactions has left us socially awkward. We simply haven’t been around other people enough.
Like astronauts in space, we are stuck in our capsules, where going outside poses risks. We are like soldiers stationed overseas, planted indefinitely away from normal life.
By decreasing the number of interactions we have, and by taking away the variety of our interactions (attending parties, speaking to a stranger in line at the grocery store, making small talk with co-workers at the office) our skills of relating to other people, reading body language, adjusting our tone of voice, timing our conversational interactions and knowing when to speak or listen, when to lean in or stand back, have atrophied.
Since we’re so used to interacting with people in person all the time, reading and responding to subtle verbal and physical cues is a skill we take for granted.
Not anymore. We’re out of practice.
And reading and responding to subtle and physical cues? That comprises a large chunk of being physically intimate with someone.
Couples who have been together for years can struggle with this. Knowing what your partner likes and dislikes, is expecting and not expecting, understanding their mood and temperature of desire, learning their bodies and their reactions — these are things we learn through repetition and communication.
Starting a sexual relationship with someone new is exciting, of course. There is so much to discover.
But I can’t help but wonder how our new normal might affect that.
Have You Been Tested?
That’s a question I expect to be asked when I become sexually active again (choosing ‘when’ instead of ‘if’ as a display of optimism).
But will that test refer to Covid, or something else?
What a time to be alive.
In truth, I’d suspect that by the time any sexual encounter occurs, me and my partner will have reached the point where we trust each other enough to occupy the same indoor space, that we’ll have negotiated our way through concerns of contracting the virus from each other.
Oh, and somehow building and developing that trust in each other.
Once past barriers the virus creates in dating and courtship, what levels of clumsiness and awkwardness will there be from having gone so long without sex, and having gone so long without any kind of physical intimacy at all? Without touch? Without sharing space?
My guess is the effects of the pandemic upon this dynamic will be similar to the effects of the pandemic on so much else: it will take what is already there — and magnify it.
It Might Make Things Hotter
No matter how the logistics play out, one thing I know is that this first time won’t be like any other first time.
Will anxiety get the better of me? Will I rush and not last and then bemoan that this first time was so quick…or will I linger and savor every touch, every feeling and sensation…or some combination of the two?
The sense of touch will be that much more powerful.
Will we spend the night together, and give ourselves the chance to slow down and appreciate each other’s bodies? Will we be instantly comfortable being physically intimate, or will it take some getting used to just breathing the same air, bringing our mouths together, being completely connected in trust?
The act of kissing will be that much more…risky? Brave? Fraught? Physical and complete proof of mutual trust, in a way that has never existed or been communicated with a kiss?
This heightened intimacy will make it all so much more intense.
Perhaps I’m reading into it too much. Maybe it would or could be just a fling.
But I don’t think so. To me, there would be nothing casual about it. In some ways, it would be the most meaningful intimate relationship I’ve had: I’ve never put my life on the line just to kiss someone before.
It will take a high bar for me to get that comfortable with someone. There will be a lot invested upfront.
And there will be so many levels of weird to pass through, like a checklist or video game: being close together without a mask on, going inside together, kissing, disrobing, touching other…and more.
It will be a first time similar to the actual first time — but so, so different.
Then again, between age, experience and a pandemic, maybe it won’t be like that first time at all — and be a thing I can’t even imagine.
Except for one thing.
I’m going to want to do it again, and soon.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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