hitting home

Three things about this pandemic

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 4/29/20

When this whole thing started, I hypothesized that three things were going to come out of an extended period of quarantine: 1. Many new babies 2. Many new divorces 3. Unfortunately, an uptick in the …

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hitting home

Three things about this pandemic

Posted

When this whole thing started, I hypothesized that three things were going to come out of an extended period of quarantine:

1. Many new babies

2. Many new divorces

3. Unfortunately, an uptick in the rate of suicide

It’s too early for data regarding #1. And, actually, given the timeframe of six weeks and the fact that nobody is really allowed to go do maintenance appointments with their doctors yet, I suppose we won’t know the accuracy of this guess until December or January. Or February. Possibly March. But certainly no later than next June. Unless it’s sometime in 2024.

As to the second guess, again, it’s too early. But if the Hubei province of China, where Wuhan is located, is any indication, divorce lawyers are going to be very busy next year. Some cities report a 25% increase in divorce filings by late March; one city clerk processed a record number of divorce filings a few days after the lockdown was lifted. It doesn’t take a lot of extrapolation to imagine that the same could easily be true in America when we’re all let out of our caves.

As to the last thing, I really, sincerely hope that I’m wrong. But I won’t be. Experts cite among the leading causes of suicide isolation, loneliness, and the lack of a support system. Can’t meet in groups, can’t gather for a meal with a friend, can’t go to soccer practice or church. Check, check and check. Los Angeles County has already reported an increase in traffic on their suicide hotlines, and professionals in other large cities are preparing for it. Yes, bullying at school contributes to suicide; but so does (and even moreso) abuse at home. Add to that 22 million people who have lost their jobs in the last month, and, well, it’s not a pretty picture.

There are many lessons to be drawn from all of this, and none of them are political. But first, a warning: I am now about to give relationship advice. My buddy Jay and I, when we were writing a book together, promised that we would never give relationship advice. Between us, we are still less qualified to give relationship advice than any one fourth grader you might run into on the street. So, that said, here is lesson number one:

Kids — and especially girls raised on Disney movies — stop looking for Prince Charming. The primary characteristics of the “Prince or Princess Charming” type are: good-looking, fascinating conversationalists, and, apparently, able to break into song with woodland creatures (you may substitute in your own characteristic as you want). But, as the wickedly funny Stephen Sondheim wrote in “Into the Woods,” Prince Charming was raised to be charming, not sincere. Prince/ess Charming does not survive quarantine with you. God forbid we have to ever do this again, or, do this forever, you’re going to want to be locked up with your best friend. Somebody you can laugh with, kid around with, have common interests and — oh, and by the way, even that person is going to get on your nerves. Charm and song are going to make you want to throw heavy cookwear at somebody’s head.

You want to be part of hypothesis #1? Look for your best friend. Hypothesis #2? Charming.

The other lesson is this: just because we have a name for this thing that we’re all afraid of right now, doesn’t mean that it is the only thing that defines “at-risk.” In reality, the overall death rate in America is slightly down so far this year from last year, but unless we can get our support systems and job markets and tribes fired up again, that’s not going to remain true for long. I’m not saying throw the whole thing open and go get ‘em; I’m saying it’s time for a few smart people to be looking ahead to what’s next.

Before there’s less and less to look ahead to.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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