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The Mast Head: Solitude, Chosen or Sought

Wed, 07/08/2020 - 18:51

There has been just one gathering since the pandemic began that I felt obligated to attend. It was a birthday party in Sag Harbor for an old friend, and I sat in a lawn chair toward the back of the property just long enough to drink a small bottle of San Pellegrino, then left. You have to wonder how friendships will survive all this.

For many people, Covid-19 has prompted a re-evaluation of priorities, among them how and whether to be social and to what degree. At the Sag Harbor party, a friend had set up a secure corner with a six-pack of good beer and explained that if some guests wanted to come over and talk they would be welcome, but he was not going to walk around working the crowd. Other friends were just leaving when we arrived — one, a doctor, was concerned that she might have been exposed to the virus at work and could be a spreader if she remained. Some people had on masks, some did not.

I am by no means ready to go back to a restaurant for a seated meal, either. Takeout suits me fine, and I especially like that this can tamp down the debate in our household of five about where to go for dinner. Ellis, the youngest, only eats sushi rolls from Zakura in Amagansett, while the other young mouths prefer Zokkon in East Hampton. Why not hit both? I had a late lunch, so don’t order anything for me!

Getting dressed up to attend a benefit under a giant tent seems like a gauzy dream: Have I ever really done this? Trying to be heard at an art opening, with voices echoing around the gallery now feels not worth it. Sitting with strangers in a movie theater — unthinkable.

But the respite from an East Hampton summer may come at high price. It may be too hard to maintain social relationships in absentia. On the other hand, when the crisis lifts, which it will, normal life could come roaring back as never before. I am not sure I will be ready.

I have been spending a great deal of time lately thinking about getting a sailboat big enough for a weekend overnight far away. I don’t believe the timing is coincidental. As life and businesses reopen, there will be some among us who prefer the newfound solitude.

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