Did everyone feel this lonely before the “new normal” settled in?
Back when Dunkin Donuts, Target, and State Farm were selling their wares, instead of peace, empathy, and positivity for these uncertain times?
And if we are supposed to be sheltering in place, staying at home, shutting down all non-essential businesses (as we should be), how did all these brands and their subsequent ad agencies rally the big empathy push to let us know that we are “in this together?”
Are we? Really? I’m thinking maybe Lysol and Charmin might have had a head start in this race to togetherness.
How quickly they rallied, the fast food restaurants and oh-so-very-sensitive financial institutions and pharmaceutical companies (who knew!), flooding the airwaves and inboxes with a big pandemic push: not to worry, we are here for you, we will emerge stronger. Be positive. They were at the ready: advertisers shelling out big bucks – almost overnight – with incessant promos telling us how to be alone, together. Social distance, check on your friends, reach out to loved ones, connect – virtually– we are all so lonely but no need to be alone, despite such unprecedented times.
We got you. No need to be alone in your loneliness. They reassure and console us — again and again and again.
Thanks. I for one didn’t need the loneliness reminder, but yeah, thanks, I’ll take the free donut since you’re offering. Drive through though, I won’t go inside. I’m not going anywhere.
I hope these times are indeed unprecedented for you, but sadly, socially distancing has been forced upon me long before covid19, so I’ve had practice. And it sucks. It is indeed lonely, no matter what Geico and Mattress Firm promises.
Yet it’s all so generous, this abundance of kind commercials checking in. On me. As if they care. Which I begin to think they do because they don’t stop with the reminders that we are not alone. Except that we are. Or at least I am. And don’t want to be.
Check your elderly neighbors. We are here for you.
Here is your moment of calm. We will be okay.
Crush the curve. Be together, apart. Socially distant needn’t be lonely.
I do not want to write about being lonely. I do not need the reminders. It is not soothing to listen to Hefty Garbage bags to promise we are stronger and better together, albeit apart. Car dealerships and rug cleaners and that basement guy flood my inbox and eardrums with messages of empathy: kind condolences over the loss of what was, and the united uncertainty of what is yet to be. Do they know? Does anybody?
Comfort and compassion in discounts and two-for-ones, sincere generosity to ease the era of loneliness. All Things Basement-y wants to make sure I am alone, but not lonely, and Dominoes is offering free pizza and curbside pick-up is now a thing. Lady Gaga and Oprah and Dr. Oz offer moments of music and calm to help ease the assumed loneliness of sheltering in place. Concerts to console. For our listening pleasure.
We are all in this together, so says Tampax, and the weather channel, and Chic-Fil-A, and the chicks on the View remind us again and again and again. Socially distancing, flattening the curve, we can do this! and the constant creative support beckoned for the front line of medical workers, city employees, and grocery store check-out clerks. Still, got a job? Lucky you — order from your local restaurants, facebook pleads — eat out every night! And tip the delivery people — those not privileged enough to shelter in place.
You are not alone, Buick says, looking directly at me, deep into the eyes of the camera, staring at me like we’re old friends, like they really know me and are actually worried, so checking in, as deodorant and toothpaste companies are prone to do.
But they do not know. They are unaware that socially distancing has been a prerequisite for me, and now we’re mainstream, pandemic style.
Zappos and Planet Fitness and Amazon, always amazon, offering uncompromising support during these trying times but nothing – nothing but silence from the person who matters most – that inbox is empty, voice mail vacant.
“What do you want me to say?” he says and the options so infinite I am angered by his inability to choose.
No texts, no tweets, no nothing.
I am weathering this storm of unprecedented times the best I can, both alone and lonely, so no, your email does not find me well. Not at all. I am not okay. Not now, not ever. I am alone, alone in what was our house, alone on what was our couch, alone in what was our bed, watching tv shows and Twitter news reports reminding me of just how alone I am.
The white noise of how we are in this together reminds me constantly of just how not together we are. The reminders to check on loved ones have me checking my phone incessantly, only to be reminded there is no one really there, only Flo from Progressive reminding me I will be okay and I hope she is right.
I am rambling, this I know. Desperate for the words so easy for pandemic advertisers not known for authentic messaging, and so silent from whose voice I crave yet whose silence speaks volumes. I don’t know what to say, he repeats. If not now, then when the desperation in my heart and head explode — I do not want him to answer this. I do not want anyone to answer this.
Compassion is so sweet, like a frozen Frappuccino tempting from the television, its image so real on the drive-through menu, I tell the invisible person behind the microphone what I want. Ask and you shall receive. If only.
It’s frosty decadence handed over with an order to enjoy, but it’s impossible. What seems so good virtually – refreshing, cool, and filling – in reality, is processed joy squeezed into an oversized plastic cup not big, strong, or firm enough to constrain the thick chocolately ooze, now dripping down the sides, freezing my fingers, making a mess.
The straw is not wide enough to suck up the syrupy sweetness, I must work so hard to get just a simple taste, using my tongue, lips, and lungs, cheeks pulling in so tight, like a dying fish, my mouth struggles to hold the straw with not enough air to leverage the drink. It’s impossible yet inevitable, like a volcano smoldering for years, threatening an entire island. Will I ever taste the flavor for real – or will it explode and freeze my brain and hurt my heart if and when I ever manage to even choke some down?
written April 21, 2020
writing prompt from Jen Sage Robison
• change of circumstances; empty of meaning
• what does it feel like to be lonely
• being hungry when everyone readying for a feast