I’m COVID, how are you? Relearning how to speak to people during a pandemic.

Embracing being a weirdo at my son’s dragon themed birthday party whose only guests are people who live in my house.

There’s a comedian, Brian Regan, who does this funny bit about not being able to properly speak English, his native language.

“I know enough English to get by, like, I could order in a restaurant and stuff. ‘I want Ham! One ham please, to eating the ham! Bring ham to eating the ham, please!’ You know, I can get by. “

This is topical on multiple levels. I have always been socially awkward and I habitually lose 100 IQ points when I attempt to vocalize. I’m just smarter on paper. And because of COVID it’s been 14 months since I’ve eaten in a restaurant, so what would that even be like?

So, forget the anxiety of speaking to masked strangers in a poorly ventilated environment. I have lost the ability to even speak with friends and family.

I’m feeling like I can relate to my autistic kids so much better because of the pandemic. I perseforate on my one topic: COVID news. I literally have one thing on my mind at all times and I only know how to talk about that. And I cannot make small talk. What’s the point of that? It seems disingenuous. Kids, I get it.

When we were all in lockdown together, it sort of worked. It didn’t make for great conversations, though, so I found myself avoiding talking to people outside of my family. Even dear friends.

Now, people are “out there”. The “economy has opened up”. And I guess other people have shorter memories or are just that desperate for a regular, non-deadly world. People tell me that they are doing something that’s not in line with my hard fast pandemic lifestyle, I just freeze and become completely tongue tied.

You signed your kids up for soccer and swimming lessons? You’re out shopping? We should meet up at the park?!

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Total mental implosion.

I don’t even want to continue the conversation because I feel unseen and unheard. I’m going to be hiding in my panic room for the foreseeable future due to my health issues. And I’m vaccinated! If I’m out in society, I’m physically manuvering around people, not trying to chat. This is not the norm anymore. And I come off like a freak.

I was delivering a dozen goodie bags for my son’s virtual birthday party. Yup, that’s something I did. And there was a mother and the class peer playing in the driveway. I approached them like they were potential terrorists.

“I HAVE A GOODIE BAG! I’M PUTTING IT RIGHT HERE ON THE DRIVEWAY! STAY BACK, SMALL PERSON! GOODBYE!”

I started booking it back to my mommy van and the dear mother, probably as desperate for human contact as any distance learning family, called after me, “I like your hair!”

“Thanks! Thank you! For the complimenting my hair! Bye!” And I booked it out of the neighborhood.

Am I totally embarrassed by this and horrified that I don’t know how to have basic human interactions? Yuppers! But that’s where I’m at.

Small talk is a skill that gets rusty. Small talk. I don’t think of anything small. Global crisis is my default setting.

How am I? Do you want the truth, that I’m white-knuckling it through each day? Or are we just warming up for a “normal” conversation.

I don’t know how to do that anymore.

Published by Cynthia Zorabedian

I have always identified as a writer. My skills were honed early, writing poetry and research papers. Lately, my words have been used largely in passionate letters to the school district in which I advocate for the rights of my autistic children. My humor is my release from the stress of being a special needs parent and I'm finding so much joy in my new blog. I'm a Boston girl who now lives in Southern California with my husband and three sons.

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