In the olden days, the compatibility of a potential relationship was decided mostly by financial or familial means with little emphasis on any love connection. Sometimes, you just married the girl who lived closest to the house in which you were raised. Your shared mail or milk man was the wedding officiant and you’d have ten kids before you reached twenty years old. It needed to be done that way, the oldest born would be taught to do the laundry and the second born: the dishes. Sex was, at worst, for the sole purpose of reproduction, and at best, for the enjoyment of only the male.
Nowadays, there are many ways to measure compatibility. Someone I meet on a Friday night will ask about my Myers-Briggs before the end of the workday on Monday. I am an ISTP, by the way, which, in short, means that I am a lot like James Dean. The jaw line of James Dean in particular, I think. The Myers-Briggs test, however, is just one of many ways to categorize the complex emotional being of yourself into between five and sixteen archetypes. For example, the theory of the “Five Love Languages”, invented by southern Baptist Republican Gary Chapman, seems to be the current fad. Dr. Chapman says that people want to receive love in one or more of five possible means: words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time and/or acts of service. In my own estimation, your love language is based on whatever your parents did not give you when you were young. My dad never gave me the positive verbal acknowledgement I so desired, so my love language is words of affirmation, which, according to Chapman, is also the most popular love language.
It is a highly unusual year for love. Questions about potential infection with COVID have replaced questions about STDs during romantic encounters—out with the condom, in with the mask. In other words, out with the pubis region scan, in with the CoVerified app scan. For most, new sexual and romantic encounters have been almost entirely curtailed by the pandemic. For the first time in recorded history, the first year students who did break up with their high school significant others are the ones regretting their decision.
So, those who are without someone to hold during this year-long night, are left looking out the window from increasingly cold single occupant beds. Out the window, the world is on fire. About half of the people lack the compassion to wear a mask that will potentially save the lives of others and you can’t do most of the things that used to keep you sane without feeling like an asshole belonging to the previously mentioned group. Nothing makes sense anymore—where is the love? Nobody is speaking your love language.
Amongst all of this hell, I find myself having this delusional ideation, a fever dream lacking courage. It is that upon hearing “RA, say hi” from the adjacent restrooms, I will lurch into the hallway and fall onto my knees with my hands behind my head in an act of unmasked defiance. The hazmats will be called in and I will be dragged off and presumably shot. At times, I wonder why any of us are here—“this isn’t what I signed up for” a struggling friend texted me the other day. My thoughts eat at me as I endlessly toil and stare at my computer screen.
I receive an email from Annie Stevens about an update to the guest policy to be enacted on October the 20th. The email outlines the change in rule: “each room [is allowed] one guest from the same residential floor.” The rules created by the school are stringent for a noble reason. We don’t want to infect our teachers and the community of Burlington at large. So far, the school has done an impeccable job in accomplishing the task of keeping case numbers low. I only wish Annie would speak my language. My love language. I wish the official correspondences from the school would start “I know this sucks but…”. The real truth is that we are all—the administration, the students and the community—in this together. We all have the same goal of being able to hug our grandparents and dance at parties and see live music. But for now, it sucks. We all feel isolated because that is what we are. Lacking is the human connection necessary to prosper in this hell-hole world. So my wish is for Annie, for the time being, to please speak my love language. You are my last hope. Tell me I’m doing a good job.