In this third and final instalment, we find single and married men and women without children, between 24 and 50 years old. They live alone, as a couple, with roomies, with one of their parents or with their pet. Inhabitants of Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Spain.
“My body and mind appreciate this mandatory period of confinement, although I don’t stop worrying about the future that we will have to live and reinvent.” (Anonymous, 34 years old, Mexico)
Although they have professional responsibilities, the absence of children of those in this group of people gives them significantly more time for themselves, which may be considered “a privilege”. It also gives them another perspective of the pandemic.
These people are full of questions and solitary confinement has become a space for creation, reflection and questioning, particularly in relation to the institutionally and structurally established order within the couple or family, as well as with regard to sexuality, work, and government.
“Have you ever wondered if the students were prepared for remote academic life? Teachers are under-prepared and, needless to say, so are parents. I am sure that this feeling of uncertainty regarding this new model is not exclusive to me, but a long learning curve awaits us.” (Andrés, 38 years old, Chile)
“Will we be able to go back to the streets as normal when all this is over? I think we’ll soon forget this B-movie we’re living through and will return to our usual routines. For better or for worse, but ours”. (Elena, 48 years old, Spain)
The incipient remote working scheme generates atypical situations. The labour maelstrom does not stop for paid activity from home.
“Working hours no longer have a defined start and end, nor are they associated with entering and leaving an office, but rather they’re all mixed up with daily activities. They stars at any time in the morning and often end many late at night in that eagerness to fulfil all proposed ‘objectives’ ”. (Andrés, 38 years old, Chile)
From the female anecdotes, tactics to cope with confinement are appreciated, a desire to take advantage of a period of pause that, although forced, provides an opportunity for learning, introspection and trying to create new versions of oneself.
The confinement gives a respite that allows one to continue; moments of calm and silence to put thoughts in order.
“I feel like I’m giving myself the opportunity to think more about my wellbeing by trying to eat healthily, investing time in activities that nourish me and give me personal and professional satisfaction.” (Catalina, 40 years old, Argentina)
For some, the act of cooking has been a refuge in the midst of vicissitude.
“Lentils, red ball beans, dried green peas, chickpeas, flavoured with parsley and coriander, marinated with onion, garlic, tomato, pepper, paprika, cumin and oregano accompany my days in quarantine, they give my soul comfort and calm my appetite. (María Natalia, 40 years old, Colombia)
Routines have changed in times of pandemic, there is a need for control and order inside the home that counters the chaos that prevails outside and incorporates new cleaning and precautionary measures. Reducing the risk of contagion by trying to consume less and make the most of it in order to avoid going to the supermarket.
“We hardly move and sometimes we hardly even breathe, at times I feel that we are trying not to exist so as not to mess up the house” (María Natalia, 40 years old, Colombia)
“I try to make everything last a long time so we don’t have to expose ourselves going for more, suddenly taking care of toothpaste became a way of taking care of our parents.” (Mon, 33 years old, Mexico)
Those who live as a couple are learning to create new dynamics and forms of coexistence, in addition to giving in and negotiating under an unusual scenario. New forms of spontaneity emerge to transform the moment of confinement from boredom to something entertaining, fun and joyful, even if only for a moment.
“In a matter of minutes he and I had the party that we were waiting so long for. Our bodies were begging to dance, to have fun, to change and we just let ourselves go and had our own party.” (Juanita, 31 years old, Bogotá)
Sexually, confinement grants new forms of exploration through virtual means.
“I feel that I have experienced virtual sexual relations on different levels; from the discourse on the memories lived with another person, to the narration of fantasies to be carried out, physically or virtually.” (Guillermina, 32 years old, Brazil)
On an emotional level, tensions arise due to changes, concern for the future and its lack of certainty, the presence of fear and anger at the situation, as well as injustice; confrontation arises with the solitude.
“I feel lonely and very desperate because of the lack of coexistence with other people. For seeing the streets so empty, not being able to go sit down for coffee anywhere. ” (Brenda, 40 years old, Mexico)
In male anecdotes, an assessment of personal space and time is observed. Like women, confinement is a juncture to be aware of their position and reflect on it.
“This time has made me see my privilege and be thankful for it. Having food, health, water, electricity, work, the internet, my girlfriend, my cat, a balcony to go out on, a mountain view.” (Rafa, 43 years old, Colombia)
There are those who see “excess time” as an opportunity to produce and create more. Others look for options that give them excitement and break up the monotony.
“It should be noted that, since we don’t have appointments, interruptions, outings, or events, my productivity has increased significantly ”. (Anonymous, 38 years old, Colombia)
“I break the slowness of the day on my bike, I cut through the air and shake up my balance. Then I go back to the shared bunker, excited, happy. Speed is a great feeling, when everything tends to stay so still. ” (Anonymous, 38 years old, Mexico)
Those who have the opportunity make the most of the space where they live. They use spaces they hadn’t considered before to flee from coexistence with other people. Paradoxically perhaps since cohabiting has also become a form of survival in the pandemic. Windows and balconies serve as an escape from the endless and cyclical days. It is time to appreciate the outdoors and the possibility of sun in the face of the silence and stillness that prevail and that confirm that something has changed.
“The view is unmatched since the building is located in front of a plaza with trees, flower beds, benches, walkers and bicycles, and even a kiosk… For five weeks the plaza has been empty. Today that window is no longer the favourite part of my house. ” (Carlos, 45 years old, Mexico)
There is a sense of danger outside the home. The present uncertainty indicates a path yet to be travelled. Melancholy arises from the past that now seems so distant, a time when the virus didn’t threaten every action taken.
“Oh yes, those days when the only burning was that of countless joints warming the place and that moment when the battle cry was heard: “Burn and turn, baby” !”. (Anonymous, 50 years old, Mexico)
And yet, for some, the routine seems not to have changed much with confinement, since solitary work at home was already their norm.
“This isolation has made more evident how isolated I have lived in recent years. So isolated that all this seems natural to me ” (Rafa, 43 years old, Colombia)
This group of people have been granted a more critical position as a space has opened up for them to really question themselves about the shock of the pandemic as well as inducing a real and lasting change beyond the discourse. When we regain more freedom and take to the streets again, will anything have really changed? Will we learn to live with otherness? Will we be aware of the impact of the fast pace we’ve been maintaining for so long? Will we slow down to self-observe? Will we change our consuming habits? Will excessive hygiene and cleanliness continue? Will the maternity/paternity balance be considered after the pandemic? Will we value the little things? Will cooking continue to give us comfort? Will the virtual world continue to support us? So many questions to which the answers will slowly reveal themselves in alongside the gradual de-escalation of the emergency.
The Quarantine Anecdotes Collection
During April and May 2020, Alma de Casa put out an open call to the public with a view to creating a small collection of anecdotes about experiences during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Based on the analysis of the narratives received, social psychologist Zulema Moreno identified three trends that stood out in their representation of different feelings, behaviour and reactions to the pandemic. Without a doubt, it’s not the same to go through quarantine alone, as it is with children and/or while continuing to work. No one was prepared for this situation and everyone reacts the best they can within their circumstances. It’s too early to draw definitive conclusions about what we’re all experiencing, however, from the different anecdotes we have an opportunity to reflect, identify and ask ourselves what will follow on from this.
Zulema Moreno is dedicated to developing qualitative analyses of social factors and market research. From her own quarantine in Madrid, where she’s been living for the last 3 years with her husband and two cats, she sent us her observations which consist of a range of different experiences from Almas de Casa between 24 to 73 years old, from Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, UK, Spain and France.
Thank you to Zule for her time and for sharing her concerns, fears and thoughts about how the world will emerge from this situation. We also thank the 38 anecdotes that were sent to us for opening up and making us think once again about everyday domestic life.