It’s what we’ve all been waiting for: life is getting back on track… so why does the 'New Normal' suck?

It’s what we’ve all been waiting for. The pubs, bars and restaurants are open. Travel has been released from the shackles of insecurity (hi there, air bridges). Summer isn’t cancelled after all! So….why aren’t we as ecstatic as we should be? Maybe it’s because freedom is here…and it’s never tasted so strange.

Here’s why the New Normal sucks….

Going out…but not ‘out out’

Super Saturday was, quite possibly, the least Super Saturday in modern times. In fact, quite what was super about it was baffling. Unless your definition of ‘super’ is queuing at a two metre distance outside your local, all to get your hands on a pint that requires more handing over of personal information and- in some cases- gauging of your literal temperature, than getting into a government building.

Then, you’re sitting in either a pub garden or hollowed-out local drinking hole, that has all the atmosphere of a wake accidentally crashed by strangers to the deceased. The deceased, of course, being your social life.

Once you’ve acclimatised to the fact that the pub/bar/restaurant you’ve been lucky enough to grab a anti-bacterial-wiped seat at, has all the excitement of a trip to the dental hygienist, you’ll then face the crashing realisation that you can’t exactly ‘see where the night takes you’ and go ‘out, out.’

Because the answer to that is either an ill judged, drunken journey home on the night bus that will fill you with Covid-drenched remorse in approximately 12 hours time, or a cautious, tentative foray into another bar you have to queue outside like a ride at Disneyland only to feel scared if anyone dares brush past your elbow. Anyone else want to stay “in, in”?

You can work from home

Back in March, the WFH call felt like an exciting new social experiment. Work from bed, spend all day in your PJs, not have to spend 8am on the central line sequestered in a sweaty commuter’s armpit? All plus points.

Yet now we’re nearly five months in, we’ve started to feel the burn. Sure, there’s no commute, but does that make it OK for your boss to schedule a 7am Zoom meeting? Your back hurts from your less-than-supportive kitchen chair, you can’t remember the last time you wore real shoes, you’re sick of your work wardrobe consisting of fancy tops with leggings for the millions of hours of zooms you’re stuck in. The worst part is that your home life and work life have blurred into such an uncomfortable smudge that you feel like you’re having a permanent slumber party with your line manager. Someone call HR!

Love in the time of Covid

The penalties enforced on single people during lockdown have finally been lifted. No longer is it illegal to grab a cheeky snog with a stranger in the park, or swipe right for a mental health boosting – but highly contraband – hook up.

No. It’s no longer illegal, but it’s definitely frowned upon. Watch the judgemental eyes of your smug married friends or colleagues on your next group zoom as you say you went on a date, or when you swerve the computer camera so as to avoid everyone seeing the fact that your date is 100% still in your house.

But besides the puritanical judgement that has descended on single people living their best romantic lives in this New Normal; dating itself has morphed into something curious and fraught.

‘Your place or mine?’ is no longer a flirtatious enquiry but a logistical maelstrom that may well include a list of the medical conditions and lockdown whereabouts of each other’s flatmates, the geographical location of your flat and a detailed itinerary of where you’ve been over the last 14 days. And, if you’re lucky enough to lock down a lockdown lover, the ‘are we exclusive’ chat takes on a whole new medical imperative, becoming not just romantically awkward but potentially raising health red flags.

They say all is fair in love and war, but I guess ‘they’ never tried to orchestrate a cheeky rendezvous in Battersea Park with a Tinder date during a global pandemic, did they?

The Salon

Whilst we are all still reeling from beers-over-beauty gate, many of us are either furious at the previously-enforced stagnation of the beauty industry and have made a mad dash to our local hairdressersor are too scared to get a cut and colour from your new hazmat-suited-up stylist.

Even if you do brave it, there is then the judgemental chorus of those who deign your root touch up and trim a less than essential service. Besides that, we can all agree that its just not the same. No longer a treat which leaves you feeling rejuvenated, like many things that have slowly returned in the New Normal, the hairdresser’s has become a source of great joy and great uncertainty.

Partying like it’s…2020

The drinks are in, the face masks are off, your friend has a garden and it’s time to paaaaaarrrrtay.

Only an hour in, you realise that limiting the group size for safety reasons has made the party feel small scale. Gone are the heaving house parties of 2019; sweaty and clogged with strangers and new friends to be made. There’s no frisson of excitement at the party of 2020; no mystery of who might hook up with whom, no ‘meet cutes’ or drunken dirty dancing, no staying up until dawn, smoking, hugging and aggravating your neighbours.

Instead, it’s a cluster of sensibilities with often widely disparate views on Covid. The fearless tactile partygoers trying to dry hump the fearful no-huggers armed with anti-bac spray when Low by Flo Rida comes on. It’s laced with uncertainty, lending it a spirit of tension. Parties are about letting go, of cutting loose. The party of 2020 is not that.

Modern Families

Family dynamics are hard enough at the best of times, but our familial relations have become seriously strained in 2020. Perhaps you descended on your family home like a cuckoo child during lockdown, and morphed into an adult baby with accompanying teenage-scale tantrums and are trying to find a way out.

Or, maybe you lived apart, and spent early lockdown screaming at your grandmother to use “GALLERY MODE” on Zoom and are now stuck in the uncomfortable space of the literal family guilt trip. When are you making the trip to see them, how many weeks are you isolating beforehand and how guilty will you feel afterwards? Do you hug them, do you stay the night, will you – actually – infect them? Maybe you should have stuck to the family quiz night on Houseparty.

Your summer holiday

We had written off summer 2020. We had resigned ourselves to sitting on our balconies or gardens or parks, sweating with resentment and fury at the holiday that could have been. We spent most of spring having flights and trips cancelled, arguing with EasyJet over refunds or stacking up BA vouchers you are worried you may never use.

Then air bridges were announced, and it produced that classic 2020 reaction: a rush of excitement and nerves. Dare you grab that cheap flight to Cyprus? Will you actually be able to find a holiday rental cottage in Provence? How do you get there if you’re worried about the plane? How safe is it really? Your 2020 Summer holiday starts to seem like it may take another holiday to recover from.


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