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Hi, I’m Katie Notopoulos, a tech reporter here at BuzzFeed News, and I have no actual expertise in epidemiology, but I sure do enjoy telling people how to live their lives. Which means I’m the perfect person to tell you How to Plague. This is BuzzFeed News' advice column for these incredibly confusing times.The coronavirus pandemic is changing rapidly, with new information coming out seemingly by the hour. I’ll try to help with your queries about social distancing etiquette and ethical dilemmas large and small, and call up some actual experts to weigh in when needed.
Send me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up for our text messaging service to send me questions that way.
Is it possible to maintain social distancing while playing tennis with my friend? Say we both have our own set of balls and only touch our own, stay away from each other during changeovers, and use hand sanitizer a lot? The public tennis courts near me are open. My head says no, but my heart really wants to do something fun.
—Jim, Chicago suburbs
As the sage founder of Poosh reminded us, Kim, there’s people that are dying. The problem is not so much whether or not your Maria Sharapova–style grunts while hitting backhands could create enough respiratory droplets to spread the infection. It’s that while there are literally people dying, as well as millions of people losing their jobs, struggling with childcare and food insecurity, and essential workers having to risk their lives each day for jobs that never before seemed risky or unsafe, you want to play tennis.
Tennis, the bougiest sport after dressage. It’s not even pure exercise — it’s a game for fun. I’m sorry, but this definitely qualifies you for a primo spot at the center line for the guillotine.
This isn’t about whether you can play tennis safely. If you’re standing on the other side of an outdoor tennis court from someone, the risks of infecting each other are pretty small. This is about whether you have permission to play tennis, or if you’ll be shamed for it.
Yes, you'll be shamed.
The social shaming for people doing questionable activities right now is very real. My colleague Anne Helen Petersen wrote about exactly this: No one knows exactly what’s “OK” or not to do, because the information is changing constantly. And so everyone’s mad. We’re mad at people wearing masks, then the next week mad at people NOT wearing homemade masks. People are mad at the joggers, which is not a bougie sport at all. REALLY mad at the joggers. Joggers have now reached a status in society once reserved for anti-vaxxers or people who recline their airline seats.
You are well aware of the rules: Stay home. You’re trying to figure out some plausible workaround where you don't follow The Rules.
The answer is that the ethical thing to do is not play. Take a Tennis Court Oath to skip it. The whole point of this social distancing nightmare is that each individual must suffer slightly to serve the greater good. There will be plenty of time for tennis in the rest of your life.
What are the ethics of trying to have children during a pandemic? My husband and I have long planned that 2020 will be the year we start trying to have children. We have been building a steady well of savings to afford to have a child, and our jobs seem secure despite COVID-19, with great parental leave policies. This is really the best time for us to start trying based on our careers, health, and financial situation. However, it seems like the pandemic might last for a considerable amount of time, and we don't want to take away critical resources from others. So, should we try to have a "plague baby" as my husband jokingly calls it?
Having a baby doesn’t really take away resources from people sick with COVID-19. Obstetricians aren’t going to start treating pulmonary patients instead of delivering babies; the labor and delivery floors of hospitals aren’t going to become ICU beds with ventilators. With the possible exception of masks and gloves used by staff, the actual medical resources you’d be drawing on to have a baby — ultrasound machines, forceps, glucose tests — are not things that could otherwise be used to fight the pandemic. So you’re not selfishly draining resources, per se.
Of course, there’s the question of whether you really want to bring a baby into this nightmare world.
Although it’s impossible to predict what will happen in nine months or a year, it seems unlikely the world will have fully returned to normal. A vaccine may take 18 months to two years to develop. There may be several waves of stay-at-home orders, you may be stuck inside without relatives or friends being able to visit or help out with a newborn, or unable to get childcare for your baby when your parental leave is up. I say this as someone expecting a baby literally any day now — I was looking forward to a nice summer of maternity leave with trips to the beach or visits with friends in the neighborhood and getting to spend afternoons with my older child. Now I’m like…fffffuuuuuck. Life with a newborn is grueling and isolating. Without any of the things like friends or “going outside” that make it bearable, it’s utterly grim.
On the plus side, this period of self-quarantine is a good introduction to what will be the rest of your life with a child: no going out to see friends, no more restaurants, no bars, no movie theaters, no leisurely shopping the aisles of TJ Maxx or doing anything fun. The loss of your social life and freedom is usually a tough adjustment for new parents, but you’ve already made it through!
Have the damn baby.
I have been talking to this girl on Tinder over the quarantine. We facetime sometimes; it’s nice. She’s chill. USUALLY. But then she saw this tweet which is now setting very unrealistic standards:
How do I get out of having to do this? I don’t have time for this nonsense. This d-bag didn’t have to go out and model perfect boyfriend behavior on Twitter just to make everyone look bad!
A quick summary: The roommate of LA Times journalist Amy Kaufman met a guy over Bumble, and he’s done a series of increasingly romantic gestures. Since they can’t go on a traditional date, he’s dropped off multiple home-cooked meals he made (he’s a chef) and sent delivery food from a restaurant to her apartment so they could eat the same meal together as a “date.” He even brought doggie treats for her dog.
But is he a romantic or a coronavirus chaos agent hellbent on luring this young woman into letting him into her home and pants for some extreme social un-distancing? I’d let you be the judge, but the point of this here is that I’m supposed to be the one doing the judging. He is using these home-cooked meals as a Trojan horse to get to his real mission: the horizontal mambo that this deranged would-be sex-haver craves. And it’s working — the innocent roommate admitted to Kaufman that she is finding it difficult not to be able to hug or touch her suitor, as she catches feelings for him. His seduction is not romantic and sweet, it’s dangerous and deadly. Please tell your Tinder date this.
Don’t worry, you don’t need this guy acting like a perfect boyfriend to show you up and ruin your blossoming relationship. You can fuck this up all on your own. Your unhealed wounds from past relationships, your deep-seated commitment issues, whatever your specific damage is that’s led you to this moment — those flaws can still have their moment in the sun to shine and ruin this. Enjoy!