What are we missing?

Just how the effects of Covid will shake out is anyone’s guess.

Despite the ongoing waves of Covid-19, we now have reason to hope that mass vaccinations will curb the pandemic in a year or two. People will start going back to offices, events will take place again, and people will host bigger weddings, funerals and celebrations.

But I have to wonder how we’ll have changed once we’re free to take a stab at reviving the ‘old normal’. I, for one, have become so used to wearing a mask in public that I expect to feel quite naked without one in future. Hidden behind a mask, I’ve been free to mouth breathe and grimace at people for a year and a half: what if I accidentally do such things sans mask?

What about old normal things like perfume and makeup? I haven’t splurged on new perfume since the pandemic started, because the smell of sanitiser overwhelms all the best efforts of Eau de anything. Lipstick is pointless within a mask, and working from home has a tendency to make one a little slack in the grooming department. Pre-Zoom call chitchat reveals that many women in my professional circle have long since ditched the makeup, and now simply don’t turn on the camera for online meetings. In fact, one woman recently admitted she wasn’t going on camera for the call since she had been working since 5am and wasn’t sure whether she had brushed her hair that day. I’d have laughed at that, but the truth is I wasn’t sure what I looked like either.

Making the transition from wearing sweatpants 90% of the time won’t be easy either. There’s a sad little row of black suits in my wardrobe now, which I’ll probably never take out again. Plus, there’s the unfortunate fact that any online exercise classes I’ve done in the past year won’t go very far towards helping me squeeze back into my old corporate wear.

Classical conditioning

For months or maybe even years to come, we’ll be holding our hands out expectantly in every shop doorway, getting hunger pangs every time we hear a delivery scooter pull up, and apologising every time we stray within a metre of another person.

Those of us who established our adult habits before Covid will probably ease grudgingly back into some semblance of our old normal over time; but what about the children? There must be millions of babies who don’t know that strangers have mouths. Entire populations of sentient little people have never known life without masks and hand sanitiser. Some may have never seen their friends’ whole faces. Tweens and teens who once hugged each other at every opportunity might in future recoil in horror when someone moves to touch them.

Those who tended to be a little antisocial have relied heavily on the pandemic as an excuse for distant, meme-based messaging ‘friendships’. How will they ever be pried out from under their rocks to mingle once lockdown – the ultimate excuse for avoiding social commitments – is completely over?

On the other hand, people might emerge ready to party. After years of isolation and sweatpants, the pendulum might swing, and people might throw themselves wholeheartedly into catching up on all the socialising we missed. Perhaps we’ll layer on the lipstick, drench ourselves in perfume, and dress up to the nines. Maybe, with our new understanding of how short and unpredictable life can be, we’ll all be hosting black tie braais, five course dinner parties and big band dances – just because we can.

TRACY BURROWS is a freelance IT and corporate writer and a long-time contributor to all of ITWeb's platforms.
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