Intimacy in the time of Coronavirus

We asked people from different places around the world how they are relating to their personal space nowadays, while Coronavirus. Here are the first stories:



The last ten days were something new. Two pandemics. One is something dangerous spreading rapidly around the world, the other one is something unknown sprawling slowly in every corner of myself. The former looks like the horrific mirror background of the later. I let myself blinded by the internal outbreak and it took me some time to notice the reality of the external one, and I feel bad about my behaviour of the last days. Misinformed, nonchalant, going out and not taking enough care of myself and others. Alone in my studio thousands of miles away from my friends and family in a country which was not home a few months ago, I am now afraid for my mother who is just out of chemo, I am afraid for my father who is 70 years old, I am afraid for all the people I care about, and for all the people. I am afraid for myself.

So what? First I turned 30, and then I cried. My life is a lie for I am not a man. Well, who is? I think I am starting to learn self-love, and this is a frightening and contagious virus.

Are we all confined going through an inner plague at the moment? Courage. I believe courage is the key opening both the inside and the outside door.

Sam, 30, Barcelona



I’ve been planning this trip for half a year.

I wanted to celebrate my 30th birthday hiking the south-west coast of Portugal and no virus could stop me. We went ahead with it against all warnings and I found myself and my friend, mostly just the two of us and mostly in the middle of nowhere.

We’re self-isolating but in a different context. Reading the news every morning and every night, what’s happening in the world seems unreal compared to how life runs its course here. Everything seems to be fair away while on trail and the villages are unbothered. I’m experiencing everything as fully as I can because I know reality will hit me soon and it might be a hard blow.

Thankfully I can harness power from the ocean to help me face what’s to come.

Medeea, 29, London



Este ora 23.30, 14.13.2020 anno domini, București. De joi seara nu am mai ieșit din casă. Nu pentru că țin la mine. Mi-am făcut mie rău de multe ori în viață. Și o să îmi mai fac probabil. Pentru unele căcaturi m-am iertat, pentru altele nu. Nu pot să mă iert pentru răul făcut altuia, pentru că it never gets out of my head, pentru că persoana care sunt astăzi are ca fundație o tonă de greșeli pe care sper să nu le mai fac ever. Covid nu e despre individ, nu e despre „dacă iau, aia e”, ci despre a nu fi un vehicul de răspândire a unei boli.

Am reușit să lucrez ce aveam pentru muncă, în rest stau între senzația de foame și de somnolență, TV-ul e deschis pe știri, dau mecanic scroll pe telefon cititind articole random. Am încercat să mă uit la filme, să citesc – nu mă pot concentra.

Pe chaturile de whatssap/facebook discuțiile abordează toate registrele posibile, de la emoțional, anxietate, discuții despre moarte și sensul vieții, până la glume și meme-uri.
La fel sunt și mood-urile mele. Aș vrea să merg la sală, de obicei asta era rutina care mă stabiliza și îmi golea mintea.

Aseară am avut o victorie, am convins-o pe maică-mea să nu se ducă câteva duminici la biserică să se împărtășească.

Când se termină povestea cu covidul voi fi mai sociabil. Voi fi mai straightforward și mai miserupist față de lucrurile care nu contează. Voi încerca să fiu mai aware cu privire la propria persoană, cine sunt și ce vreau. Life is short.

Mihai, 28, Bucharest


These days last year we were roaming around Florence's sculptures while eating gelato and pasta. Now we have already been isolated for five days. Reading, watching movies, studying, visiting online museums, learning how to dance, discussing and constantly checking the numbers - that's how our days go by. I am experiencing quite a constant feeling of anxiety, which I cannot seem to let go no matter how much I try, but not being alone helps.

Panic comes along whenever I think about work - freelancing is tough when our entire cultural domain is technically shut down.

But life goes on.

Luana H, 23, Bucharest



Nowadays it is getting even harder to get intimate with someone. As you age and experience different levels of disappointment in building relationships with other people you start being more careful with who you become vulnerable to. I can tell that somehow my defense mechanism is to repress the building of intimacy and that I know is not healthy at all. I focus more on friends and sharing close intimate moments with them than with "strangers" or potential lovers.

So did the current outbreak across Europe affected me in this regard? I would say not as much as you would think. It slowed down my day to day human interactions that's for sure but nothing too catastrophic yet. During these times we are experiencing the most frightening thing for most of us, to be dealing and managing with ourselves without the normal distractions and escapism. I think with or without social distancing we should be compassionate and more careful with each other.

T, 30, Berlin, Germany



Here are my two cents on how the coronavirus – or more specifically, the measure deployed to contain it, that is, a strict forced quarantine – has influenced my personal space.

I am probably starting off topic here – but never mind, this is going to make my point later on.

My very first thought about this is the introversion/extraversion division.

I once read an article explaining that the main difference between these types of characters is whether you get your energy recharged or drained when you have people around.

I suspect this definition to be against the common belief. I read it at a time when I thought I was an introvert, because that’s a way people would describe me, probably I was very shy.

Ever since I read it, I’ve been paying attention about my energy level depending on my social activity at a given time. This demarcation is, IMO, very accurate. All right, I do get exhausted if I’m surrounded by people 24/7, but my personal experience confirmed that being isolated didn’t make me feel good. So, yeah, as Aristotle put it, Man is by nature a social animal, and I am too.

You see now where this is going.

Very recently, before that coronathing happened –it feels ages ago, but it was just last month - I badly sprained my ankle and had to stay home all alone for three weeks. I started to crave human interactions and this coronavirus quarantine is just making this isolation period last longer.

Again, I usually like to spend some days all alone to make silence and space around me. I’d say, once a week, or at least every other week. But I wouldn’t say that being put in a forced quarantine is an experience that allows me to reconnect with myself or something. If I was allowed to go scamper around the countryside, that would surely be a different story. But all public parks have been closed to the public as of today. And disobeying this rule is subject to sanctions, as is going out of your place for any other reason than buying food or medicine.

This may sound as though I was complaining, but this is not. I am taking on this challenge to be happy solely with my inner thoughts, my books, ukulele and Netflix.

From Rome, with love

Max, 30, Rome, Italy



“These are great times to think about the depths of silence. Often seen as connected to loneliness or isolation, I see it as something to explore and even experience collectively. In the process of quieting down the inner turmoil, I often find beauty and creativity. By cultivating beauty and joy within silence, it becomes a safe space where one can dive into whenever the world seems overwhelming.“

Andra, Belgium



I'm currently at home in Barbados with my sister and her boyfriend, none of us go outside very often or interact with anyone outside really, so the change in the dynamic of intimacy hasn't really hit us yet. In Barbados, people have only just started thinking about the possibility of the virus coming here, and many people live their lives as they normally would. Unless I go online it's easy to forget there is a global pandemic. We're so far away from the epicenters and allegedly the warm weather keeps the virus away, so the reaction of many people so far has been indifference.
Most of my intimacy in the recent past has been experienced through the filter of the internet anyway, with most of my friends and loved ones living far away, in places that are already affected by the virus.
So I carry my worry for them with me all of the time as we've been keeping in touch, my family in America who are many people living in a small apartment, friends and family in Europe who have to get used to a sudden unexpected change in their lives or friends back in China who have had their cities locked down for 2 months now and have been unable to do anything but stay home and wait for it all to blow over.
I see a global emergency as bringing all of us closer in a way, it's unique that we all face the same immediate fear no matter of geographical location, and how we support each other is a sign of the intimacy we all share.

Maz, 30, Barbados


What about you, how do you feel these days?

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