Nice to Meet You, I’m a Slut! On Pause

Illustration: Olivia Duval

The past 12 weeks has felt like the longest ad-break ever as we sit staring blankly at screens, passively waiting for our favourite drama (life) to resume. The government’s fingers have evidently been itching to press play; with their decisions to reopen schools, allow ‘social bubbles’ between certain households, and tentative moves towards reopening the economy, we inch closer and closer to normality. Despite these measures, life still very much feels, to me, in a freeze-frame. My life continues to be contained within the confines of my bedroom, in a small pocket of the Peak District. Where I’d normally be catching trains between Matlock and London in a back-and-forth between parental homes, the only trains I’ve been getting have been to receive my bimonthly medical treatment in Oxford. I’ve had to make this journey twice so far under lockdown and it was unsettling to see how little had changed the second time around. The trains remained eerily empty, staff vastly outnumbered passengers, and I sat ready to explain the ‘medical reasons’ behind my journey to whomever it may concern. Nobody asked, mind. 

Aside from these excursions, life under lockdown has been uneventful. Days pass by and the only thing that seems to change is my mood which swings wildly between ‘this is fine’ and ‘FUCK’. Friends have reassured me that I’m not alone in this volatile emotional cycle. We feel ourselves practically breezing through lockdown before a bout of hyper-awareness hits and we remember why we currently do nothing but bake banana bread, masturbate, and zoom-call our mates. Normally, this damning reality-check is followed by a few days of profound unproductivity before we settle back into a kind of blissful apathy. 

Oxford’s 8 week terms ordinarily make us feel like we’re on fast-forward as we frantically flit from essay to essay, trying to cram a social life somewhere in between, and fill the remaining cracks with your extracurricular of choice. Without the formals, bops, and often-disastrous Bridge Thursdays, Trinity 2020 has felt pretty empty. Where the average Oxford week would normally be packed with a month’s worth of action, I feel like I’ve only lived a few week’s worth of ‘life’ since term began. Admittedly, it might have been good for me, and my liver, to slow down – it’s an enforced time out, a chance to sit down and catch my breath after what can only be described as a hectic year.

Many of us have had to put our romantic endeavours aside for the time being. I will confess that this has proved an obstacle to writing what I’d hoped would be more explicitly a sex and dating column, but somehow I’ve made it this far? These woeful cock-blocking circumstances were heavily lamented on Oxlove at the beginning of lockdown but have since gone quiet. Did people give up on their pre-lockdown lovers? Have people miraculously formed romantic relationships? I need to know? So, I would like to return to this issue, 83 days down the line, in the interest of acknowledging the difficulties posed by situationships in these already ‘uncertain times’. As much as this isn’t easy for those in ‘official’ relationships who have found themselves thrust into long distance when they’d normally be together, this has to be pretty excruciating for all those who left Oxford in the throws of infatuation that may or may not be something – but there’s no way of knowing, or figuring it out, when we are confined to our 2 x 2 metre bubbles in our respective hometowns.

Of course, the case is not that nothing has been happening; governmental ineptitude has been doing its usual rounds in haphazard policies and political scandal and pleas for racial justice across Britain and the U.S. have been amplified since the murder of George Floyd. Whilst lockdown may continue to keep our day-to-day lives on pause, large scale movements are emerging that demand our nations’ institutions rid themselves of the entrenched racism that has harmed ethnic minority groups for far too long. I know I don’t normally use this space to directly address politics, but at the moment it feels impossible to separate the personal from the political – and criminal not to, at the very least, address what-in-the-world is happening right now. It can be far too easy to switch off and forget about current affairs under lockdown, especially if, like me, you live in a small town far from all the action. There is so much going on right now and I know I myself slipped into a kind of paralysis, not knowing what I, as a white person, could do to help. It’s important that we don’t allow ourselves to remain still, paralysed, or ‘on pause’ during this period. Whilst we’re waiting for our own lives to resume, we can sign, donate, educate, and protest for a return to a better normality for all BAME people. 

Below is a link to BLM resources for you to make use of :

https://sites.google.com/view/black-lives-matter-masterlist/

Olivia Duval’s artwork can be found on Instagram @livduvaldrawings