Comfort Is Not the Point
Comfort Is Not the Point
Now that things are starting to open up a little, there are increasingly tough decisions to be made. There are negotiations to be had. There are choices to consider. “Let me know what you’re comfortable with,” someone said as we negotiated how we’d be together in this moment. But comfort is not the point.
Masks aren’t comfortable. Keeping at least six feet away from people we care about is not comfortable. Staying in, in our uncomfortable apartment, is not comfortable. But comfort isn’t the point. I am very comfortable without a mask. I am comfortable in close proximity to people. I’m comfortable hugging almost anyone. I’m a theatre person; I’m comfortable with a massage circle. Heck, in the right crowd and context, I’d even be comfortable in a dog pile with face to face singing. I’d be so comfortable in a big theatre chock full of people. That’s my happy place and so comfortable. What I’m comfortable with doesn’t matter.
What matters is what’s smart. What matters is what we can do to help end this thing.
I’d like nothing more than to go to a party with all my friends and dance and hug and talk and sing and eat and drink and share a bunch of food and forget about this thing for awhile, forget about the masks and the distance. That sounds fun and nice and comfortable. But it won’t help end this thing. Even if I’m comfortable with it.
I want this over. If my discomfort in my mask can help get it over, I’m going to do that. People aren’t wearing masks because we like them and they feel great. They don’t. We wear them because there’s evidence that the more people who wear them, the sooner this nightmare is over.
I think this is one of the fundamental disconnects in our country. There are, of course, many political reasons wearing a mask has become such a volatile conflict — but in some ways I also think we’re looking at a comfort issue. Americans are used to being comfortable. We have heating in the winter and AC in the summer. We can hop from air-conditioned cars into air-conditioned homes and find everywhere we go is somewhat comfortable. A lot of Americans will make decisions based on what feels comfortable for them. They check in with themselves, see if something makes them comfortable or uncomfortable and they go with the thing that’s comfortable.
There’s something about comfort and trusting one’s gut, too. Many an American makes decisions based on feelings. Like, if something feels bad, they don’t do it — if it feels good they do. They don’t need science — because they’ve gotten this far by just following their instincts. The man who currently holds the office of the presidency is known to make his decisions this way, too. He goes with what “feels” right.
The problem with going what feels right, though, is that what feels right and comfortable is what is familiar. It is all of us gathered together at the church, or the theatre or for a meal but all of those things have become risky. They don’t FEEL risky, though. They FEEL nice! They FEEL comfortable and comforting! But they could also be deadly. And what’s so tricky is that you won’t feel it right away. It could be two weeks before you know that that party that felt so comfortable and right was a superspreading event and your feelings will change about it only then, long after you leave it.
Our feelings just aren’t that reliable right now. The perils that lurk won’t send up your danger signals. You won’t get that “This doesn’t feel safe” vibe that you might feel on a dark street that will have you hightailing it out of there. You can’t scent the air and feel that hurricane coming. Check in with your feelings, you’re likely to get comforting vibes. And they could be very wrong.
I can’t stop thinking of that 30 year old man who went to a “covid party” in Texas. This was a party where everyone got together with someone who’d tested positive and then they all had a swell time together. I’m sure they laughed and joked about “the hoax” and, significantly, I bet they were all very comfortable there. Then this man had to go to the hospital and before he died there, he told his nurse, “I think I made a mistake, I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.”
He was very comfortable going to that party — but his comfort didn’t save him. It’s not about comfort. If I’m a stickler for wearing my mask and washing my hands and social distancing right now, it’s not because I’m uncomfortable doing the things everyone else is doing. I would love nothing more in this world than to go sit with a big crowd of smiling people all pressed up together, maybe singing along to our favorite band. But right now it would not be wise. It would be a risk. It might be comfortable but it would be a mistake. We need to listen to science, not our guts. We need to check in with experts, not our own or anyone else’s comfort.
I’m generally a gut follower and I am a big fan of being comfortable but now is not the moment for my comfort. It is the moment to follow guidance and wisdom.
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Originally published at http://artiststruggle.wordpress.com on September 7, 2020.