As if autistic adults don’t have enough to worry about during a pandemic, they will soon have to consider whether, or how, to extend their social circle in a new stage of physical distancing. I call this the Bubble Dilemma.
Social restrictions are already eased in New Zealand (NZ), where residents have levelled the curve after only 20 deaths. By late April 2020 officials had lowered their emergency from alert level 4 to 3 through rigid adherence to “staying in your bubble.”
Toby Manhire in The Spinoff reported (27.04.20) that “the…principle of isolating with your household broadly remains: ’you will be able to extend your bubble slightly to bring in close family, isolated people, or caregivers.’”
Not that I planned suddenly to become more social, but I am that isolated person at the best of times. I’ve lived in a bubble, or with a glass wall between me and most others. The New Zealand reporter writes to ‘use your bubble wisely’. But who really wants to be in my bubble? https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/27-04-2020/the-bumper-guide-to-what-you-can-do-in-covid-19-alert-level-three-60-questions-answered/
Right now, I have a tenant (I acknowledge the privilege of having a home during this crisis) and go out rarely, just to walk, cycle or get food. If, with her pre-existing medical conditions, she gets sick, will I be able to help her, a disabled person with no family? Will her situation preclude my acceptance into certain bubbles or safe spaces? My friends all seem to have bubbles of their own. Just as on the playground, I’ll be the last one chosen.
“Stay in your bubble—keep others safe,” shout the NZ guidelines late in March, complete with cute infographics on the danger of “breaking your bubble.” https://thespinoff.co.nz/covid-19/26-03-2020/what-is-a-bubble-and-how-does-it-work-the-rules-of-having-lockdown-buddies/
Apartment blocks were described as collections of little bubbles, not one big one. https://covid19govt.nz/individuals-and-households/home/renters-and-homeowners/#information-for-apartment-dwellers
More recently in Canada, the province of New Brunswick, which has flattened the COVID-19 curve, has released its two-household bubble system effective April 24: on page 7 of a detailed 13-page bulletin, the government states “Your household can join with one other household if both households mutually agree”, or what journalist Joseph Brean termed “an extended period of pairing to socialize exclusively, almost like a pandemic marriage, or marriage of families, as the case may be.” https://nationalpost.com/news/0428-na-bubbles
Of course, this assumes one resides in a household, in order to “enjoy the company of another household bubble.” And once you decide, you can’t change bubbles….
Again, the elderly and disabled are liked to be excluded. Reporter Joseph Brean noted little attention has been given “to the potential fallout in anxiety and hurt feelings among those who are nobody’s first choice, for example, or those who decline [my] bubble request.”
What if picking me means they must exclude others? Will the traumas of old abandonments be triggered by the realization that I would be a fool to ask, “Won’t you be in my bubble?”
I’m rarely anyone’s first choice as a friend, and am usually the ‘fallback girl’ in love, so this impending situation causes more anxiety than just the lockdown, which at this writing I’ve endured for seven weeks and counting. It’s a big deal to even trust someone to let them inside my bubble.
Since I started this story my fears have come true. Other provinces are starting their own bubble policies. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-families-find-their-bubbles-as-lockdown-measures-ease/ Someone on Twitter even suggested there will be mediation services needed for those who are excluded. Remember the “who was mom’s favorite child” game? You could say the family squabbles are bubbling under the surface.
Maybe I’ll create my own quarantune version of Richard Rodgers’ “In my Own Little Corner”. Just leave me safe “In my Own Little Bubble”….
Julie Andrews as Cinderella