Saturday, March 14, 2020

Coronavirus: A Stress Test for Relationships

Prompting the closing of schools, places of work and worship plus venues of entertainment, the novel coronavirus is thrusting partners and families together for extended periods they heretofore did not necessarily endure other than on vacation. To put it succinctly, 24/7 living together has the potential to stress relationships. Or, as my mother said after my father retired, “I married him for breakfast and dinner, not for lunch.”

Some may know my parents worked together for more than three decades, he in the production factory, she in the small glassed enclosed office in the corner of their rented loft on lower Broadway. Mom retired about a decade before Dad. She had gotten used to daytimes without intrusion when she uttered her Garbo-esque “I want to be alone” line.

I can appreciate her position. I retired 10 years before Gilda did 14 months ago. My golden years have been enhanced, but they are different. 

Forced togetherness for couples and families without the luxury of going to movies, plays, concerts, sporting events, museums, even some restaurants and small gatherings with relatives or friends, can strain even the most equanimous of relationships. The uncertainty of not knowing how long togetherness must last is a hidden cost of COVID-19.

Next week’s poker game among my senior citizen friends has been called off. Not as all encompassing as what residents in one Florida retirement complex have to endure: “It is in the best interests of the community to close the social hall, card rooms, aerobics room, arts and crafts, and billiards room as well as the demo kitchen in the clubhouse for 30 days. No HOA (Home Owners Association) or Club events will be permitted,” a notice reads. “… Going forward Bingo, women’s canasta, open canasta, men’s canasta and the March 21 show,  Cove Players, March 30 Board meeting, etc. are all cancelled.” 

Penalty Stroke: Maybe it is because I am bearded, but I have a problem keeping my hands off my face. I am constantly stroking my beard. No amount of coaxing by health authorities advising against it as a precaution against the virus can counterman a habit born half a century ago.

Ah, well, perhaps I’m a little like Trump who repeatedly ignores healthcare advice. He seems to be blasé, even dismissive about professional protocols. A disciple of the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking doctrine, Trump must conduct his life on the theory he is immune to everyday man’s concerns. Exhibit A—his fast food diet, which apart from the girth it has packed onto his body, apparently has not clogged his arteries (or so we must believe absent details on his physical examinations). 

The public has been told not to shake hands. Yet there Trump was during his Friday press conference announcing his declaration of a national emergency to confront COVID-19 pressing the flesh of CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and other executives. You would think leaders of the two largest drug store chains would know better than to shake hands. Most of the assembled team of business and medical leaders did not shake hands (at least in public) with Trump. Only Bruce Greenstein, executive vice president and chief strategy and innovation officer of LHC Group elbow bumped with The Donald. He did it right after the CVS handshake.

Let’s not gloss over Trump’s prior disregard for acceptable hygiene. Despite widespread warnings not to look directly at an August 2017 solar eclipse unless wearing protective eyewear, Trump stared at it with the naked eye even as Melania and Barron wore protective glasses next to him.

And let’s recall porn star Stormy Daniels claims Trump did not wear a condom during their alleged tryst.

Trump’s macho personality and belief in his invulnerability was on display in his initial disdain for taking a test to determine if he contracted COVID-19 after close contact with a Brazilian official last Saturday. Only after repeated questioning during the press conference did he say he likely would be tested at an unknown time when his schedule permits, though the White House physician subsequently said testing was not necessary for him. The test—a swab of the inner cheek—takes seconds to perform. 

Jekyl and Hyde: Trump’s appearances are Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde in nature. He is the latter when reading prepared texts, the former when speaking extemporaneously as evidenced by his dual display during Friday’s Rose Garden statement and press conference.

Answering questions he appeared assured. But as he did Wednesday night during his prime time address to the nation, he seemed boxed in by diction and an inability to comfortably read out loud when making his official pronouncement of national emergency powers. Self proclaimed as a genius with an extraordinary vocabulary, Trump has difficulty reading a speechwriter’s words. 

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