Header Ads

Breaking News

Everyone needs a distraction right now, and for me it’s a Jane Fonda tracksuit | Hadley Freeman | Global


Given that my response to the start of the Gulf war was to write that night in my diary, “Renewed my membership to the New Kids On The Block fanclub!!!!”, I am very familiar with being accused of caring too much about frivolity in times of gravity. The day Diana died, I made the schlep to Kensington Palace to see the flowers; but I also stopped in at Tower Records afterwards to buy an album (Backstreet Boys by the Backstreet Boys: Diana would have approved). Even now, when I know I should be spending every spare minute studying a long read about contagion/China/capitalism, I am instead reading Craig Brown’s ridiculously enjoyable new biography of the Beatles, One Two Three Four. Because, sure, we’re living through history. But did you know that Ringo once tried to save money on house repairs by buying his own building company?

At the time of writing, the British lockdown has lasted a month and, initially, it was pretty much all I could talk about: the fear, the weirdness, the uncertainty. “It is what it is,” my friends and I would sigh down the phone to each other, because when you have no idea what to say but think you need to say something, you turn into an Alison Steadman character. But after a certain point, there isn’t – if you’re lucky – much else to say. If you and your family are well and have enough to eat, what’s your conversation going to be? “Yup, still inside. Still washing my hands. Doing the same tomorrow – catch up then?” If the lockdown experience was a movie, even Terrence Malick would be thinking, “You know what? This story really needs some plot.”

Slowly, we have started talking about other things: celebrity gossip, sharing photos of outfits and hair experiments – things that have nothing to do with the virus. “Sorry for mentioning this now…” a friend will begin, a version of a sentiment you see a lot on social media, usually in relation to any article that dares to be about something other than the virus. “Does this writer not know people are dying?” is the traditional format. It’s always tempting to respond, “No, they totally didn’t! Thank God you’ve let them know – they thought the whole world was doing a re-enactment of Shaun Of The Dead!”

I may have mentioned this once or a million times, but I recently published a book about my family’s lives through the 20th century, including during the second world war. I don’t have much time for politicians who make the link between all of us having to stay inside and our grandparents trying not to be bombed, but one of my favourite discoveries while researching the book has been on my mind recently. Throughout the war, despite being in hiding in Poland and France, my relatives somehow managed to write to one another. They were in enormous danger, and yet their letters were only occasionally about the conflict. Instead, they mainly complained: which daughter-in-law wasn’t showing enough respect, which father snored too loudly. I loved all this, not just because it confirmed that I come by my pettiness naturally, but because it proves that human nature will always reassert itself, like weeds re-growing on a charred landscape after a natural disaster.

For this reason, I would argue very strongly in defence of thinking, talking and writing about extremely stupid stuff that has nothing to do with the current hellishness. I don’t mean posting twee photos of just-baked bread, or attempting to read Finnegans Wake. You are only doing those things because of the virus; they are coronactivities, and therefore do not count. I’m talking about spending at least half an hour going through the Instagram of Elizabeth Hurley’s fascinating mini-me son, Damian. I’m talking about very seriously considering buying one of Jane Fonda’s self-branded tracksuits. I’m talking about falling asleep thinking about what colour you’d like to repaint the kitchen. I’m talking about the stuff of real, normal life.

This isn’t just about giving yourself a break from thinking about the coronavirus, although God knows we could all do with one. You cannot read dystopian headlines all day without collapsing in on yourself like a dying star. Instead, it’s about giving yourself permission to still be a human being, because human beings are capable of being very concerned about one thing (a global plague), and also quite interested in something else (Cameron Diaz’s new baby).

When I watch people picking fights with one another online about Rishi Sunak’s latest announcement, or hear them griping about how their neighbours aren’t sufficiently socially distant, what I’m really seeing are people who desperately want to think about something else, but who don’t feel allowed to do so; when you suppress this natural desire, it curdles and twists. Then, before you can say, “Someone, please, get me a copy of Grazia,” you’re falling out with a colleague online over the government’s withdrawal plan.

Free yourselves: talk for hours about how you reckon Harry and Meghan are coping. Do a Zoom with five friends about what they think of your hair. It’s more than fine. It’s for the good of mankind.



Source link

No comments