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After coronavirus shutdown, let’s disregard our vanities

Social isolation has a way of showing us what is truly important in life.

Outsports deputy manager Alex Reimer is learning to appreciate the little pleasures in life.
Alex Reimer

I pride myself on being somebody who values what is important in life. I have never made a professional decision for financial reasons, as evidenced by the fact I am a freelance journalist. Nice houses and cars are not turn-ons for me, and when presented obnoxiously, actually repel me. Few things make me giddier than turning down some banker bro who just spent the last five minutes droning on about his all-inclusive vacation to Puerto Vallarta.

I also usually have to get home early, because I booked myself for a 10 a.m. class at Barry’s Bootcamp the next day. I may not be flying to Puerto Vallarta this summer, but I will be going to Provincetown — and sharing a house with dozens of my closest friends and complete strangers! My self-grooming schedule is already planned out, so I will be sporting the perfect amount of scruff during Fourth of July week.

Though I tell myself otherwise, I am as vain as nearly every other gay man with whom I associate in my elite East Coast city, despite the fact my bank account is short several 0’s. It’s been a jarring experience to spend the last 11 days sequestered indoors, only leaving my home for a jog or grocery store run. There are no gyms; no boutique workout classes; no $12 cocktails; no bourgeois barbershops; no coffee houses; no coffee bars; no espresso bars; no tapas bars; and definitely no gay bars. Every event has been canceled, putting the whole summer social calendar in doubt.

With essential businesses in my home state of Massachusetts closed until at least April 7 due to the coronavirus pandemic, life could be a standstill for a while. We are living through unprecedented times, and the consequences will be everlasting. I am vowing to use this downtime to disregard my vanity. It only creates unnecessary misery, and causes one to lose perspective.

The damage ravaged by this virus has already been immense, costing more than 630 lives in the U.S. and more than 18,200 around the world. Even if the U.S. cuts its transmission rate in half, roughly 650,000 people might still become infected, which is why physical distancing measures are so crucial.

While it is now free to get tested for the novel coronavirus in the U.S., it can still cost up to $20,000 for medical treatment, according to a recent analysis by the Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation Health System Tracker. Even those with health insurance through their employer could still pay more than $1,300 in out-of-pocket costs, the research says.

Large swaths of Americans never live comfortable existences, with the Federal Reserve finding 40 percent of Americans wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency. And that number is likely to skyrocket in the coming weeks. The President of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is predicting unemployment could reach 30 percent. Those are higher figures than the Great Depression, and three times worse than the 2007-09 recession, according to Reuters.

Many people who work in the sports world are already feeling the pain, with all leagues suspending play indefinitely. That means game-day workers face the prospect of losing checks, though fortunately every NBA team, and all but two NHL clubs, have announced plans to compensate their hourly employees during this crisis.

But the generosity isn’t uniform. NHL teams are cutting the salaries of all league office employees by 25 percent and the Philadelphia 76ers were planning to ask team employees to take 20 percent pay cuts, before reversing their decision due to public pressure.

Those who are fortunate enough to not be personally impacted by the virus undoubtedly know people who are. These are sobering times, where even a simple phone call can feel uplifting and euphoric. In the words of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, it’s time to practice humanity, and extend a “nod” or “hello.”

It can sound trite, but each day we wake up with our health is a gift. It allows us to #KeepPlaying, which some of our favorite LGBTQ athletes, such as Billie Jean King, have been encouraging us to do. As I have discovered, one does not need to pay $25 for a kick-ass workout. Your own body weight will do — or your own couch, if you are gay former NFL veteran Esero Tuaolo.

Allow these times to show us it is possible to be alone for an entire day and night, and even put down Instagram and crack open a book. Everybody on my feed is just sharing their own home workout videos, anyway. There is now far less to brag about.

When life does return to normal, some of us will not be in tip-top physical condition, and most of us will be sporting horrific hair. And that is OK. Our friends will still embrace us; our families will still love us. Intimacy is important, and everything else is ancillary.

Well, maybe mostly everything else is ancillary. I really need to get my hair cut.