Being single in a pandemic – on a thread that touched a lot of us

It was this thread by @ClinicOncDoc that was pointed out to be by @LucyGoesDating (who is also brilliant and worth following) that seemed to touch so many of us going by the responses.

I’ve lost count of the number of media articles and posts that have been written about this subject – dating in a pandemic. This is one of the first threads I’ve read that takes a look back at the experience of the past year, where lockdowns are anything but new experiences, and the likes of Zoom dating are anything but novelties. (See The Guardian’s Blind Dates to see how others got on).

Lockdowns are not sound policy – they are crisis measures to buy time

This response was a sharp reminder of the party political failure of the current lockdown. I’m actually surprised by the scale and intensity of the backlash against the Prime Minister – I thought we’d shrug our collective shoulders like last time. I’m glad so many people outside the Westminster bubble are calling him & his ministers out.

I’ve also lost count of the number of people who have got together/settled down with someone they’ve met through political campaigning!

A few months ago Lucy recorded this piece for Radio 4.

Should you stay on dating apps? BBC Radio 4/BBC Sounds.

In terms of the alternative activities and the hormone hits, I quite liked this response from Wendy Roberts. Hey, I’m in a city full of scientists where I’m a local historian! (And there are more men than women because Cambridge!)

Living alone in an expensive city

Whether Brighton, Cambridge, or London, costs of living were huge considerations. Personally I don’t buy the “Well you should have chosen somewhere else!” as if money/affordability is the only consideration. Sometimes we get lucky, sometimes we don’t. Can’t fault people for giving it a try though.

There are a number of people in the health services who have spoken about living alone. My parents met at Addenbrooke’s and worked at both the site on the edge of town as well as the “Old Addenbrooke’s” opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum. This explains why Cambridge is my home town. I didn’t choose Cambridge, Cambridge chose me. In those days, there was the option of communal living in Granchester House – something I would make Lego models of in the early 1980s. But in more recent times, our accommodation has become even more isolationist – all too often described as rabbit hutches. I took this photo below in 2013.

Above – from 2013, ‘rabbit hutch’ architecture on the Addenbrooke’s site.

It reminds me of my university accommodation. It was only after I graduated that I realised how poor design and poor architecture contributed towards a rubbish experience at university: The architects did not design for any shared communal spaces. Yet in a city where (at the time) the university wasn’t interested in helping its students find anywhere to live in a place where there was a decent housing shortage anyway (creating its own utterly avoidable town-gown divide), it’s no surprise people are feeling lonely when loneliness is designed in by developers chasing maximum returns ahead of healthy lifestyles. Don’t assume that ministers are on the side of the latter.

What are the rules?

I’d never even considered this point:

For this one the fault lies with ministers. “Advisers advise, ministers decide”. (I used to be one of the former. In my civil service days one senior minister told me that one of the things that came with the six-figure ministerial salary was taking the responsibility for the decisions that came with it – and the fire from the press!) In this case however, the issue is ministerial competence – or incompetence. We’re in our third Lockdown (which should have been avoidable – look at New Zealand commentators say), and yet days before bringing it in, the Prime Minister ridiculed the Leader of the Opposition for ‘wanting to cancel Christmas’.

I’d like to think most want to abide by the rules not just because they – we – have to trust the expert advice that ministers have access to in order to overcome the pandemic, but because having commonly agreed rules and standards help the world go around which is better for all of us. Remember the horsemeat scandal of several years ago? Food standards – something that today we take for granted. (There’s also not wanting to get arrested too!)

This will come to an end – the vaccines will work and we’ll all be back to normal…won’t we?

No.

And this post shines a light onto why:

One of the core things that makes us who we are is our interdependence on each other as social beings. To be told under force of law that we have to cease being social is not something that comes naturally to us. The threat of a very real and painful death – remember the video footage from March 2020? – was enough to move most of us. (Disinformation is a separate issue – Marianna Spring of the BBC is the go-to person for that, she has been incredible in recent months).

We’ve all been (& still are) in the same storm, just in different boats. I’ve seen younger relatives & family friends miss out on important rights of passage, lose jobs, do the equivalent of multiple jobs at once, go down with Long Covid, and more. My own living arrangements and health has meant I’ve not been able to step forward to help out in a crisis that during my civil service days I was trained to respond to: A civil contingency pandemic. (I was a civil contingencies volunteer back in the mid-late 2000s).

We were told back in March 2020 that if the UK suffered 20,000 deaths it would be lucky. Nine months later and just before 25th December 2020 we find that over 75,000 deaths have Covid19 on the death certificate as one of the causes of death. That is a huge number of people – friends, families, colleagues, acquaintances affected by the untimely deaths of so many people. And that’s before we even look at those who have been permanently negatively affected by Long Covid.

If we’re not going to go back to normal, what happens when the restrictions are lifted?

Will hordes of singletons head towards the dating apps or speed dating sessions nationwide? Will it be something like VE Day 1945 or when Paris was liberated in 1944? What will happen will happen. (Are the Department for Health planning any public health campaigns on this? They really should be!)

In the more longer term I hope it leads to a renaissance of the arts, community action and local democracy, where we overhaul the places we live to make them more sociable and people-friendly. Because one of the themes that was around long before CV19 was how so many people were feeling disconnected from each other and society, and where across generations loneliness was being identified as a public health issue.

I wrote a blogpost about getting involved in their town/city’s post-CV19 recovery plans. The number of household names on the high street that have imploded means that we will be returning to a world where the shop units are empty and unemployment rates are high. What’s the plan for all of those whose jobs and careers have evaporated? Who are the people who are going to be ‘the do-ers’ in each town? In Cambridge we have *four* sets of elections coming up where we get *six* votes all on the same day. (Be A Councillor – if anyone wants to stand for election – because volunteers at https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/ are keeping count!)

A renaissance in sports, art, music, drama, and public performance?

Many music groups and collectives have had to take time out because the law prohibits rehearsals in large groups. Not good when your collective has over 100 people in it. It also meant missing out on singing in pieces like this:

Above – We Are Sound Music (formerly the Dowsing Sound Collective) at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, December 2014. Chances are when we reassemble sometime in 2021 we’ll have spaces for new people).

And finally…

…Taking the social stigma away from being single and looking for a partner.

The number of people who (IMO rightly) commended @ClinOncDoc for his thread of posts about being single in a pandemic is moving. And it also got [the local historian in] me thinking [again] about where the social stigma of being single comes from. My generation (children in 1980s, teenagers in 1990s) are familiar with rhetoric like this from Conservative Social Security Secretary Peter Lilley in the early 1990s – one where single parents were targeted with a particular intensity by the print press. Growing up in South Cambridge having to go to church meant that this stigma & mindset was reinforced by the background of the institution’s social teaching on sex & marriage. It was only after I left the city to go to university did I learn how damaging it was to too many people, a shame that sounded familiar to those who spoke of how they ‘failed the 11+ exams’ when we had the grammar school system. I’d like to think, over a generation later we’ve moved on from thinking that the middle class stereotype of 2.4 children is the standard to aim for (remember the 1990s sitcom?) and that we become more accepting of what I learnt in Germany, the concept of Mosaic Families, one that can encompass those who are closest to us.

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