Not all isolations are created equal, nor are we all on level pegging when it comes to this new phase of living with Covid; a one foot in and one foot out of lockdown environment that may well prove even more divisive.
The current pandemic has shone an unforgiving light on a lot of things; people’s roots, how awkward it is to pee in a park bush, why family zoom quizzes have a two week expiration date and, of course, huge societal inequalities.
I know I’m certainly feeling it.
How people scrambled to make do before Covid was usually under the radar. You could easily be the poorest gal in your friendship group – I know I am (hello, journalist!) -and largely never really have it become an issue that defined your life. Now, I feel it is raw and exposed – it dictates how we will cope with the New Normal in a way that is hard to ignore. Likewise, it has elevated the privileges of many to a whole new level; proving the unlikely arena for a whole new breed of flexing.
Initially it was the stark divide in isolation spots: the second homes in the Cotswolds vs the tower block one bed flats, the smugsolators vs. the strugglers. Then it was those who had to go out to work, had no work, or could work from home. There were those who were furloughed, who had lost their jobs, who were surviving on universal creditfor the first time. Lines in the sand were suddenly drawn between the lucky few and the not-so-lucky many.
But as life adjusts to the reality of Covid19 so the status symbols of our pre-Covid life – quotidian or otherwise – have thus adjusted; becoming something else entirely: The Corona Flex.
Masks and hand sanitisers have gone haute. How is this now our reality, that we may well be judged on how swanky our PPI or anti-bac is? Is it bespoke? Is it ethical? Is it designer? Does it support a cause? Suddenly, how we protect ourselves in a global pandemic is also subject to the hierarchical scrutiny normally reserved for fashion.
Gardens- however small- have become an unprecedented luxury. Those blessed with outdoor space, like myself, suddenly become the most popular people in town. Where once, the fact that my boyfriend and I moved in with my parents a few years ago felt embarrassing or somehow like a regression, their vast garden is suddenly the biggest social currency I’ve ever had. My temporary home is my Corona Flex.
I have a side entrance *and* a toilet with outside access. I’m basically a Real Housewife of North London. Put your name on the waiting list, darling. I probably have an opening in August.
But there are myriad Corona Flexes out there. There’s the pandemic puppy corona flex, those who decided time at home would be great for buying a dog – and have clearly bent lockdown rules to acquire them, lending these dogs an illicit, contraband air that makes them oddly more exciting.
There’s the car – a status symbol in a whole new way- releasing you from the infectious anxiety of public transport, and thus even bikes have become a corona flex. Never before did I, as an avid Londoner, envy those with cars. Now I am salivating at the prospect of getting my hands on some wheels and the freedom they represent.
Then there is the biggest corona flex of all – the £95 corona antibody test.
Alongside a global pandemic, our renewed fervour in addressing long-overlooked issues of racial injustice has also sharpened our awareness of privilege; white or otherwise. The haves and have nots of the New Normal are therefore under a keener focus. Your Corona Flex may not be as flashy as a car or a second home, it may simply be that you are not as high-risk as certain ethnicities, ages or those living with illnesses that make them vulnerable.
When I scroll through my feed, or talk with friends, I see a sharp division between many of our experiences that are not just economic. People of colour have had to deal with a pandemic as well as the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and many more, the focus of which has proven extremely triggering and detrimental to their mental health. Those I know with MS, diabetes and other high-risk afflictions were not exactly having a “Super Saturday” last weekend when the pubs opened; neither was anyone with high anxiety.
I see people piling into country houses for group holidays already and booking flights abroad. Sure, it’s the freedom that a disposable income brings, but a fearlessness around the pandemic is a Corona Flex in its own right. Those who aren’t scared, aren’t as vulnerable or aren’t- like me- living with elderly relatives who are. Their flex is their comparative freedom to exist more easily in this New Normal than many others, including myself, can.
Adjusting to this New Normal is therefore about recognising – and maybe checking – a privilege you maybe never realised you had until now. Nothing in life is quite the same anymore, but this new and bizarre evolution of social posturing, shows that inequality will always find a way.