First, Corona Virus gave us the fear that we, or a vulnerable loved one, might contract a horrifically contagious disease and die a painful death in an overcrowded, underequipped hospital.
Then there was the stress of quarantine. Marriages have been strained, the bonds of familial love stretched to the breaking point. Even people who love each other were not meant to spend every hour of every day together, which is why God invented schools, workplaces, gyms, bookstores, coffee shops, poker games and those wine-and-paint places where you come home tipsy, toting a picture of a daisy in a vase.
There’s been the economic devastation: businesses shuttered, employees fired and laid off and furloughed, and social media, which has force-fed us images of crowded beaches over and over, sparking new outrage with each viewing.
And now, on top of all this, here comes the social anxiety. Here come the quarantine bubbles.
A quarantine bubble is a group of individuals or families whose members have been safely quarantining and who can now start hanging out with other observant groups, so long as the families observe safety guidelines and agree to be exclusive.
While I agree it’s a great idea for people who live alone, or are just really needy and can’t stand to be alone any longer: Quarantine bubbles open up the biggest social minefield of the coronavirus lockdown. Because what if no one picks you for their bubble?
And how do you decide who belongs in yours? How do you issue an invitation, or reject one? What if your parents swear they’ve been following the rules and are dying to see their grandchildren, but you’re not ready to risk it because who the hell knows what they think “observant” even means?
What if you’re desperate to hang out with your bestie, but she’s already committed to a guy she met three weeks ago on a dating app and wants to get to know in person? And again: What if no one picks you?
It’s true that bubbling could provide an exit strategy for those friendships that have been running on fumes but the idea of bubbling could also ignite every simmering insecurity in your possession.
If the very thought of being picked last or going completely, utterly unchosen is giving you flashbacks to junior high, I am right there with you. And would like to remind you that you are a successful, accomplished, beloved adult.
But then, once you’ve cleared that first hurdle and gotten yourself bubbled, what are the rules? Are you obligated to hang out every time your chosen bubblers want to? How do you agree on what’s reasonable versus risky? And if your puzzle just isn’t clicking — if it turns out that you’re just not that into them or they’re just not that into you — how do you break up the bubble and start seeing other people?
To quote Clubber Lang in “Rocky 3,” “I predict pain.”
If nothing else, the bubble experiment could be useful in reshuffling your anxieties as the weeks melt into months. If you’ve run out of things to read, and watch, and bake, the prospect of a bubble can give you something new to look forward to — or obsessively worry about.