So I was reflecting this week that I have no idea what life is like for people who are going out of quarantine and back to work outside their homes. Or eating out. Or going into stores. While I don’t write much fiction set in the present, if I did that would be something I’d have to keep in mind. Maybe for certain types of nonfiction too.
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of lifestyle/dating articles that start from the assumption the writer is the template for all members of their gender. Thus they assure the reader that all men cheat. Or all men see women primarily as disposable, interchangeable bodies. All men tell their friends details about sex. No, they never talk. Wait, they talk but only about hookups, never a serious relationship. As you can see, there’s some disagreement on what all men are like, even among men. Or consider one article I remember by a woman who emphasizes that no, all men are not alike and do not want or do exactly the same things — but then she asserts that all women look to their boyfriends to be a father figure.
I suspect part of this is the assumption (which some of the male-written articles are specific about) that “I’m totally a regular guy!” from which it’s easy to generalize that other men are just like you, raining down from the sky in an endless stream (thereby justifying my inclusion of that great Neal Adams cover). Claiming a universal gender difference also helps separate the men from the women; the “all men cheat” article added that women can’t understand this because “it’s a guy thing.” Yes, that’s right, no women cheat. Oh, wait, they do. And part of it, with topics like that is, I’m sure, an excuse: if everybody does it, if it’s just our Y chromosome asserting itself, you can’t blame me!
But getting back to quarantining … Since TYG started working from home four months ago, things have been pretty much consistent for us. We go out if we need to get meds from the vet or something like that; order lots of stuff on Amazon; rely on chats with our neighbors and Zoom meet-ups to provide social stimulation from people other than ourselves. When I read about stay-in-place orders ending, my main thoughts are about the risk to the people forced back to work. From a personal viewpoint, it has no more significance than a new bypass being built in Atlanta.
The only reason I have a clue what it’s like for people who have to go back to work is FB posts and blog posts by my friends. Without that it would be easy to think everyone’s still staying home (and Durham is, in fact, still under a Stay order). Or forget that some people who are staying home can’t work, and therefore don’t have money coming in.
So if I were writing something in the present that deals with the pandemic I’d have to make an effort to start thinking about what it’s like for the rest of American society rather than just following my own impressions.
Because it’s not all about me.
#SFWApro. All rights to cover remain with current holder.