Sounding Board

One thing I didn’t notice I’ve been missing until recently is the public sounding board. By that I mean the ways we keep ourselves in check. How we develop our own internal scale to figure out if something is acceptable or just plain off. For example, is it okay if I “go” to work in my house only dressed from the waist up? It’s not as though we would see this particular example demonstrated in public, but there are other scenarios.

I started thinking about this more now that things are opening up and people are unmasking. All of a sudden I’m questioning things that I normally wouldn’t. My scale of what’s acceptable in public is skewed after spending so long in lockdowns and relative social isolation. Throughout the pandemic, my main form of communication was digital. It’s very easy to hide things on a tiny phone screen. Or point the angle of the camera just so…

When I meet new people, I’m not sure of the customary greeting, though I’m glad handshaking is out. It eliminates awkwardness. I always hated shaking a clammy hand, a really limp one, or one where the other person wouldn’t let go. I’ve been doing the elbow bump, but it feels strange. Is this normal? I used to take it for granted I would hug my friends hello. Now we have conversations before meeting up about covid status, rapid test results, and who wants to mask. It’s just bizarre. Hugging as a greeting is not a given.

I’ve also developed a lot of strange habits and routines during the pandemic. I wouldn’t necessarily share them publicly, but I do wonder sometimes, is this what other people do? Is it normal? Does it have to be?

Growing up, my father used to always dress nicely before taking a flight. It was a social custom. Now it’s common to see people in pajamas, or comfy sweats and flipflops, getting ready to board. My first year in college, it would’ve been unthinkable to me to attend class in my pajamas, yet I routinely saw other students casually strolling to class in their flannel pjs. This was especially bizarre to me when I worked in NYC at Columbia University. I used to see students sauntering down Broadway wearing pajamas!

Are we entering a new phase of social customs where “anything goes” now?

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