I’m not a parent, I meal-prep, and I’ve been working from home for the past month, so these measures won’t affect me much.
Except for the giant pink elephant in the room: “Limit social contact to immediate family members”.
So … I’m
only allowed encouraged to stay at home, microwave my food, and talk to my mum for the next month.
Like that ah. How to meet my partner and paktor?
Today’s Sunday. (Yes I am working on a Sunday. Am sad.) Originally, we planned to have a picnic at the Botanic Gardens—we figured that a picnic would put us comfortably far away from other people, and our food would pass through fewer pairs of hands if we had prepared it ourselves.
After we watched patriarch Lee’s speech on Friday, however, we decided to listen to daddy and stay home. Separately. Each cloistered in our own room, working, masturbating, or doing something equally sad on this glorious Sunday.
Provided that we are all obedient boys and girls, the circuit-breaker has essentially started the largest social experiment in long-distance relationships. How on earth are happily (and unhappily) couples or throuples or whatever going to maintain their romance when they’re not allowed to meet each other? As our prime minister himself acknowledges:
Safe distancing is also hard for a psychological and emotional reason: it goes very much against our human instincts. It is in our nature to want to … take comfort in the warmth and company of friends and family.
But these are largely stop-gap measures. It’s one thing to talk to or watch our partner(s), another to do things together.
Mind you, I’m not just talking about sex, but also the everyday activities that are the building blocks of any relationship. The quiet moments when both of you are slumped on the bed, not talking to each other, just scrolling through Twitter and sharing the crazy shit people tweet. Walking the dog together and fighting over who should pick up his shit. (Always me.) Wandering around Nex for an hour because we cannot decide what to eat and ending up dabao-ing yong tau foo from the food court.
It all sounds like drifting about aimlessly, but in my opinion, when you can do nothing with your partner, that’s when you know you can be old and decrepit together.
I can only offer what has been working for me: Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Recently released two weeks ago for the Nintendo Switch, AC:NH is a game that lets players make friends, own and decorate their house, and develop their deserted island into a bustling mini-town. It’s also endlessly customisable, so if you want to put a squat toilet in the middle of your town square, yes, you can do that.
It is possible that my feelings for AC:NH run deeper than those I have for my partner, so indulge me as I gush about the game and why it will save your relationship during this time.
As an example of how gentle the game is: your housing loans can be repaid whenever you want, at interest-free rates. What???
In short, it’s everything a millennial wants—friends, owning a house, freedom—but cannot have, which might explain its popularity, especially now. Publications, even mainstream, non-gaming ones, from Teen Vogue to The Guardian to Men’s Health have been extolling its calming qualities in a time of viral fuckery.
Other games or online experiences revolve around doing something: killing monsters, killing each other, scavenging for resources, racing around a track … AC:NH upends these typical experiences by encouraging you to do nothing together. Instead, the focus is on being together.
You’re obviously not going to get any tactile sensations, but the game captures the feeling of companionship and human presence better than any virtual experience I have encountered, even VR simulations complete with tingly and pleasurable vibrations. It’s essentially real life transported to a kinder, mellower, coronavirus-free world.
Me? I haven’t quite progressed to weddings yet (though if I got married in-game it would probably have more legal standing than one held in Singapore). All I’ve been doing with my partner in AC:NH are mundane things like admiring the cherry blossoms that are in full bloom now (the in-game clock follows, and runs, real time), or fighting over who gets to sleep on which side of the bed.
I wish we could still have our picnic in Botanic Gardens, but this is the next best alternative. I mean, a virtual chilling session is much more preferable to one in which I have to commune with a spirit medium in order to hang out with my partner because one of us has died from the coronavirus after we stupidly insisted on hanging out in public.
I suppose one very small silver lining of the pandemic is that we’re finding new ways to connect with our friends and partners with whom we are separated: to replicate the movie-going experience, people are watching Netflix while putting their partners on a video call; there are sex toys that work over WiFi (Google this yourself, you’re welcome), etc.
If anything, this creativity in expanding our notions of what “dating” means in the digital-cum-coronavirus age could foreshadow the evolution of romance in the future.
When things go back to normal (if they ever will), couples will make a crazed rush to copulate, certainly, relishing all the bodily fluids and aerosols that are so anathema today. But perhaps the joy of digital dating, currently ingrained in us out of necessity, will, by then, have sunk in so deeply that a typical date night out will be seen as a cultural relic of the 1990s.
It sounds dramatic, but breaking up because of the lockdown is a very real worry, though unvoiced (for obvious reasons), among the attached but unmarried friends I know. I’ve suggested playing AC:NH to them—I’m not being farcical here—but even I am not sure how long the game alone can sustain, or resuscitate, a relationship that is physically estranged.
Right now, at least, there is an urgent desperation to bridge the gap, to mitigate the pain of absence that will come in the rest of April (the cruellest month). It sounds paradoxical, but I’m hoping that this pain will last for a while. Because it’s a reminder of how important the people around me are.
But if my partner tramples on my painstakingly planted flowerbeds in AC:NH again, it’s lockdown time.