Mating in Captivity?

Why the Wave of ‘Quarantine Babies’ Must Be a Myth

As a rule, viruses make lousy aphrodisiacs. | Credit: Paul Wellman

I’ve heard the prophecy. You’ve heard the prophecy. By now we’ve all heard it: Nine months from now, we’ll see a wave of “quarantine babies,” conceived while humans across the globe stayed indoors and *wink, wink* found ways of entertaining themselves.

But I don’t believe it for a minute.

Have you ever seen a porno featuring a couple in sweatpants and rubber gloves wiping down boxes of frozen waffles and Minute Rice with spray bleach after returning, face-masked and reeking of Purell, from a terrified jaunt to the market? The answer is no, my friends. No, you have not.

Because this moment we’re suffering through is not a sexy moment. In fact, this bizarre blip in history couldn’t be less of a turn-on if it were a glob of ketchup-flavored spittle dangling from Donald Trump’s twaddle-spewing flaptrap.

As a rule, viruses make lousy aphrodisiacs. Add a dizzying daily death toll, millions out of work, ill-equipped hospitals, staggering political ineptitude, and the reckless endangerment of lives by flag-wearing, sign-waving imbeciles ​— ​and you’ve got widespread existential angst that’s better suited to baking things and binge-eating said baked things than to getting one’s freak on.


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To be fair, social distancing has made all human interactions suddenly awkward and conspicuous. At once a cramming together of families and a tearing apart of friends and colleagues, the #saferathome mandate demands forced, uncomfortable togetherness even as it prescribes painful, unnatural isolation.

I take walks in my ’hood just to see human faces beyond Zoom’s rectangle frame, and I wave at strangers across the street with a grin that says unmistakably, “Nice to see you! Are you also pretending for 11 minutes that your home isn’t a prison?” Yet when I accidentally pass too close to another masked stranger in a grocery aisle, I look coldly and reflexively away, as if ignoring their existence could prevent a contamination I still don’t understand.

In a world where proximity threatens our longevity ​— ​where closeness is sickness ​— ​how could intimacy stand a chance? You’re more likely to nab the last package of Charmin Ultra Soft at Vons than you are to get lucky right now.

For one thing, if you’re quarantined with kids, there is no privacy. Ever. From anyone. I feel for folks who are separated from their loved ones right now, and I’m grateful to be with my family ​— ​but most nights, we spring to the four corners of our home like pinballs, desperate to get as far from one another as we can without having to don masks. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then quarantine … just makes you really fond of absence.

Also, very few of us are rocking a hot look just now. Personally, there were a few weeks in there when I honestly forgot I had a face. Or hair. I just stumbled around from room to room, looking confused and white-knuckling a brownie. I might have been wearing a blanket? But it was no come-hither blanket, I can assure you.

The biggest sex-tinguisher of all: emotional exhaustion. The chunk of my brain normally reserved for romance is busy bouncing between reptilian concerns like WHICH NEIGHBOR COULD WE ROB IF THE STORES RUN OUT OF COFFEE? and philosophical considerations like IS THIS NATURE’S NOT-SO-SUBTLE WAY OF MANAGING A POLLUTED AND OVERCROWDED PLANET? My heart swings from abject horror over cadaver-filled refrigeration trucks to utter enchantment at the creativity and focus of sorcerers who re-create 1981 music videos frame-for-frickin’-frame in their front yards.

Last week, though, my husband and I remembered that we like each other and that we were long overdue for a date night. So we dressed up, put on jewelry (me) and cologne (him), and absconded to our backyard hammock to watch an old movie on our laptop under string lights, lanterns, and stars. Hanging there together, suspended in a precarious tangle of gravity and rope, heaved inelegantly toward one another by the netting around us, it felt like a sweet sort of mini-quarantine: Awkward but cozy. Impermanent and safe. And a welcome place to hide out from the world until sexy returns.

Do me a favor, though? If that swarm of quarantine babies ever shows up, don’t tell them where we are.


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