I did two things recently that I hadn’t done in weeks. I wore a shirt (clap, clap) and in a spirit of hang-the-consequences, I then put on a pair of trousers (wah, wah!). Normally a sentence like that would have caused people to look at me funnily, and readers to write in wanting to know if there was a history of insanity in the family. But now I suspect, millions (OK, thousands) will merely nod their heads and tell their wives, “Darling, I am not alone – here’s someone else who goes through a whole day wearing just shorts and a T-shirt.”
The pandemic has united us in strange ways. Emotionally, psychologically, and sartorially. And I can confirm the old theory still holds: you wear your trousers one leg at a time.
The question on your mind, dear reader, is, I know: Why? Why did I do it, and also, why am I telling you about it? The second question is easily answered – it is to contribute to the common pool of experiences at a difficult time. As to the first, perhaps I wanted a pretence of normality. Perhaps I wanted to feel relevant. Perhaps it was to tell myself that things we once took for granted need to be worked at. Maybe it wasn’t any of the above, merely a happy line-up of stars and planets. When in doubt, blame nature.
It felt weird, though. Made me self-conscious, as if I had publicly done the opposite of wearing clothes. Also, surprisingly, I didn’t get it right the first time. One button on the shirt went into the wrong buttonhole. That got me thinking. Will we have to re-educate ourselves when the pandemic is over, and life returns to pre-2020 times?
Will I have to learn afresh how to shake hands, or hug a friend, and reassess the concept of personal space? If you get within four feet of me, for instance, will I begin to sweat and worry and look around for an escape route? Will I expect to have books or clothes or spectacles dropped onto a table in front of me when I go shopping, so there is no direct contact? I mean, good habits, once established are as difficult to break as bad habits. It is one thing to give up smoking or biting your fingernails, but quite something else to give up social distancing and hand-washing.
But that’s in the future. It was said of George Orwell that he could not blow his nose without moralising on conditions in the handkerchief industry. Now we cannot put on a shirt without wondering if we are offending someone. Novis temporibus, or if you want it in English, strange times!