June 30th, 2020
This is probably something that happens to you too. When I walk down the sidewalk and see someone down the block walking toward me, these days something strange happens. As we get closer, with a tacit mutual understanding, we both bow out into the boulevard and front yards to give each other a wide berth. That doesn’t even surprise me anymore—we are now accustomed to carrying around a six-foot imaginary pole. What I find interesting is the verbal interaction that reveals just how uncomfortable it is to be antisocial.
When we pass someone like this and someone acknowledges the space between us—“I’ll go on this side if you go to that side,” or, “Is that six feet?”—the humor washes away the strangeness, and it feels okay. When no one acknowledges the enlarged personal bubble, however, I feel an acute awkwardness. Our behavior, instead of feeling silly and laughable, suddenly feels antisocial, forced and intensely unhuman. It didn’t take long to recognize physical longing for hugging our loved ones who we don’t see anymore. But it took a little longer for me to feel the real need to just be close to people in general. When we have to scuttle away from each other like mice, that antisocial feeling goes so strongly against the grain of our hearts that it reveals just how much we rely on the social fibers that weave us through our neighborhood, community and workplaces to live full lives.