Çeşme, Izmir - Carrie Bradshaw, with her insatiable hunger for shoes, books and booze, may be the only person who understands my current state of mind. “I’m dying to be pushed and shoved in a crowd and eat bad catered food,” she shouted at Mr. Big in “Sex and the City II,” exasperated at her suave husband who turned into a couch potato in the terrible twos of the marriage.
Her outcry pretty much sums up my feelings after 18 months of the pandemic. As the summer heats up and my friends complete their third dose of the jab, thanks to the amazing Özlem Türeci and her husband Uğur Sahin (please read the blunder made by Emine Erdoğan’s husband on these scientific cats), I am more than ready to go back to normal.
Not to the new normal of social distancing, that horrible oxymoron explained by my neighbor Kenan Sharpe in his must-read column of last week.
What I yearn for is the “shallow old normal” of salty, over-priced food at cramped Alaçatı bars where the music is too loud to get in a word. The old normal where your slumber is interrupted at three in the morning by idiotic pop songs (What you try to hide is what I know by heart/ Your pits is my peak /rampapapam/ rampapapam) from the nearby beach club’s after-party. The lying-shin-to-shin beach at Dalyan where screaming kids throw sand at your face as they run rings around you and their entitled mothers scowl at you for making a face. The normal of putting on heels, wearing a form-fitting little black dress and getting into the traffic to go to an airless office where you’d binge-work for the next 10 hours.
You see, I am the most common of the post-pandemic types: the reborn hedonist, whose pleasure is walking the tightrope between demanding, obsessive work and earthly delights.
Fortunately for the future of mankind, more spiritual and idealistic personas have also come out of the post-pandemic woods. There are Covid19-charged missionaries who seek to right the wrongs and injustices that have become only too plain in the last two years. This might be just as well, given the authoritarianism on steroids, with iron-fisted leaders and repressive governments use and abuse the pandemic to ban democratic expression and the right to peaceful assembly, from Gay Pride parades to four people getting together at a cafe.
In the meantime, the new “woke” had their Damascene journey between their living room and the bedroom during the lockdown; the health nuts will religiously pursue with their five-times-a-day push-ups in permanent cultivation of their body temple and the online activists, who discovered a knack for finding great hashtags, will continue their rebel with much cause in Turkey.
So here is looking at some of the post-pandemic personas:
My body is my temple: While mere mortals cooked bread, read self-improvement books and came out of the lockdown with a surplus of seven kilos, the health-nut exercised religiously. He or she first discovered his/her biceps, then the delights of posting videos of his/her perfectly toned body online. Having spent the last months putting the videos of herself in leotards and tights, upside-down, knee touching forehead; in the one-headed tree pose, the budding bodybuilder will march into the post-pandemic world ready to convert everyone to his religious regimen of sports and healthy eating.
Now that ties nicely to the next character...
15-months-of-fame: Worried that his/her larger-than-life persona will be forgotten in the rush of the pandemic, the attention-seeking semi-celebrity has gone online during the pandemic; trying his hand in zoom meetings, podcasts, Clubhouse, Insta-chat, TikTok and any other platform you can think of. Desperate to keep onto the pandemic fame, the online semi-celebrity is currently posting photos of restaurants and bars he and she is visiting, lamenting the high prices. Remains to be seen whether people are just as inclined to watch now that they have better things to do with their time than sit at home in front of a screen.
The love-thy-neighbor types, who had not exchanged more than four words, let alone a single Turkish coffee/espresso/Coke with their neighbors before the pandemic, have found that in the house-bound times, a sense of community was - sometimes literally- a lifesaver. Aware of the “marketability” of this community sentiment, politicians and the corporate world moved in, as the Wallmart market chain launched its Neighbors Helping Neighbors program in the pandemic and municipalities and governments, inter-blocking entities of Turkey, have launched their community aid. Remains to be seen whether the newly found neighborliness and, as Turks love to call it, “hospitality” would last or whether we would simply go back to our salute-less days as we can travel to see our dear-and-not-so-near.
The comfort-first homebodies, overexposed and overpraised by the Financial Times and various business journals here in Turkey, are the former board room folk who have discovered that they may impress without the stiff dress. “No, I will no longer wear that stiff collar, ribcage pants or the skirt with the deep slit. Comfort first so it is cashmere smooth and natural, silky fabrics for me,” says one highly-paid board babe. Here’s hoping you are not pushed to the corner of unemployment and may continue to finance these homely comforts. But if you are, see the next persona
Corporate bitches/bastards turned to coaching: Laid off in the early days of the pandemic, the corporate bitch/bastard has reinvented her/himself as a too-cool-for-corporate coach. In the 18 months of the lockdown, s/he attempted to transition from marketing residence to marketing resilience. “I love what I do,” s/he says with a spiritual smile, throwing words such as global family, transference, seeking meaning in life and the universe. Two remnants of his/her past life give her away: the high rates s/he charges for the training and his/her snappings at the service sector if she does not get immediate attention.
Turbo-charged authoritarians: There is nothing they cannot suppress in the name of public health and no minority that they would not blame for the pandemic. It must have been the refugees, the gay community or perhaps women who had multi-partners who spread the virus around. At any rate, the best way to prevent the new wave is to say home with your family of three kids, refrain from street protests and not gather in huge groups, particularly around the Boğazici University and Nişantaşı. The ultra-controllers - whether democracy-stiffening leaders or dictatorial heads of family - have gone berserk and emerged as the short-term victors of the pandemic, as the virus gave them the license to do anything, from banning music after midnight to alcohol sales on weekends.
If these are the personalities ı’ll encounter, is there any point in my desire to go out in the new normal? Perhaps those who will remain with the cave syndrome - the inability to shake off the isolation - are right after all.