Alone, but not lonely: five socially-distant love languages

By EDITORIAL BOARD

SARAH FAGAN

Here we are — miles and miles away from each other, wondering how to stay connected and hopeful amid these unbelievably uncertain times. Easier said than done, right? We get it; we also miss the soft buzz of students in Davis and the laughs over lunch in Atwater. Still, while we wish this editorial was printed on a paper copy that you picked up in Proctor’s foyer, we hope our Love Issue offers a break from the bombardment of Covid-19-related coverage. 

Don’t get us wrong: Those stories are incredibly important, and worth reading. We’ve covered the chaotic process surrounding grading, changes around housing and conditions for staff, the effect of the pandemic on the local Middlebury community. We are also publishing the poignant experiences of the members of our college — and broader Middlebury — community in the Off-Campus Project (to which we hope you’ll submit!). 

But this week’s stories, which focus on love, are important in a different way.  Okay, maybe you’re thinking: “We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and you’re editorializing on love?” Simply — yes. Chances are, we’re all in need of a little love right now. Many of its various forms are no longer available to us: smiles exchanged on an icy sidewalk, say, or rambunctious meals with far too many people crammed around one table. Although the lack of physical proximity might introduce complications, gestures of appreciation and affection are still possible. So, without further ado, here are the Campus’s fun, flirty and (hopefully) fulfilling approaches to love while in lockdown. 

The Classics
Oldie-but-a-goodie ways to remind someone you care.

  • Write a letter. You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. Rummage through your house for that stamp you swear you saw the other day. Sit down, take a breath and frame those feelings in pen and ink. It’ll be worth it, we promise; nothing trumps good old-fashioned snail mail. (Bonus idea: a letter chain within your friend group.) 
  • Dole out recipes. We bet you’ve been dying to brag about that sourdough starter, right? It’s not quite the same as splitting the last slice of cake in Proc, but you can still share something yummy from afar.
  • Start a book club. These days, you might be just bored enough to sift through the old stacks of books that are collecting dust in your childhood bedroom. Maybe you’ll start that one you’ve been claiming to have read for months, or maybe you’ll reread the Harry Potter series for nostalgia’s sake. Either way, sharing your thoughts with fellow bookworms can only make things more meaningful. (Check out some of our book recommendations here and here.)
  • Make a playlist. A tradition tracing back to sending mixtapes to love interests, this is undeniably one of the sweetest acts of love out there. It works for friends, family and significant others; really, just about anyone you want to make smile.

Digital Devotions
How to make good use of that unprecedentedly high screen-time report.

  • Revisit bygone ways of digital communication. Remember when we used to poke each other on Facebook? When we hopped on Houseparty only to find the most random people on the app? Just admit it: iMessage is overused, and sliding into people’s DMs (Slack is our preferred medium, hbu?) doesn’t get enough love.
  • Procrastinate together. Don’t want to write that paper just yet? Use the Netflix Party extension to binge-watch with your friends, or complete the New Yorker crossword in partner mode. Put your relationships to the test by playing  Codenames or Settlers of Catan online. Hopefully, that one friend (we all have one), will be less competitive if you’re not in person … but you never know.
  • Zoom party. Self-explanatory.

Self-Love
Do what you can for yourself, too.

  • Take a social media break. We’ve all been there, endlessly scrolling until we’ve lost track of time. Now, more than ever, it’s too easy to get sucked into the flurry of likes and tweets. Try setting aside a screen-less chunk of your day — your brain and body will thank you.
  • Go outdoors. If you can, spend some socially-distanced time outside. Maybe you’ve been craving some fresh air, or simply need an escape from your siblings’ incessant bickering. Read a book, walk and listen to a podcast, or try to get some schoolwork done in the sun (or, for those of us who aren’t sheltering in California, at least under the clouds).
  • Have a dance party. Or at least make a TikTok. And don’t say you haven’t downloaded the app. If @middleburycollege has an account, you should, too.
  • Sleep, please. Let us guess: your careful term-time sleep schedule has collapsed over the last few weeks. You’re not alone. But just because you no longer have to drag yourself across campus to your 8 a.m. doesn’t mean self-care should get thrown out the window.

At-Home Affections
How to show those with whom you’re stuck at home that you’re not that tired of them…yet.

  • Make a meal. Cook with or for someone. Or, if your sibling has been talking up their banana bread a little too much, have a bake-off.
  • Hold a game night. You might not be spending your Saturday nights in an Atwater suite, but that doesn’t mean there needs to be any less yelling!
  • Show small acts of kindness. Help tidy up, make a cup of tea, listen intently. And reminding a family member that today is indeed Thursday — not Monday — goes a long way too.

Giving Back
How to support those who need it the most.

  • Reach out to your grandparents. Give them a ring and tell them what you’ve been up to. No matter how mundane your day might sound to you, we bet it will mean the world to them. You can also flex your tech skills and teach them how to do what all the cool kids are doing online these days.
  • Lend a (physical) hand. Buy groceries for your elderly neighbors, write a letter to an inmate, help your parents clean the house, or make sure your younger siblings are doing their homework. It’ll make you feel better, too.

Whether you’ve already checked off each of these ideas, or if you have yet to even begin, we hope that these suggestions for love and affection remind you to take a moment to practice mindfulness and to prioritize your mental health during these bizarre and trying times. There are endless ways to make these long, isolated days feel a little bit better. So, if you can, take some time away from your never-ending to-do lists, familial and academic obligations, and any feelings of guilt about what you should be doing. We will try our best to do the same.

This editorial represents the opinions of the Middlebury Campus’s editorial board.

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