Guatemala has just emerged from a five month lockdown. We had to bear the excruciating limitations of the curfew. When rushing back home before 6PM, I often felt like Cinderella, wondering if I might turn into a pumpkin. It has been quite a while since the pandemic unfolded, bringing the onslaught of lockdowns, sanitisers, handwashing, temperature checks, masks and the most necessary, though psychologically insidious, social distancing. And let me be clear: social distancing does not have to mean intimate distancing!
Nonetheless, some of us might feel anxious, frustrated, impatient or bored as a result of the insipid flavour of life thrust upon us. Again, those of us who can read this post on their luxurious smartphones, the production of which probably must have involved some human exploitation, are in the luckiest fraction of humanity. There are also those who lost their jobs, their loved ones or struggle with humiliating poverty. Let’s pause to honour their plight… perhaps making a little commitment to reducing someone’s suffering today through mindful compassionate words or actions?
Alright, we did not sign up for what is happening in the world. However, I struggle with some question marks.
How does one bring spice to their life in the middle of a pandemic?
Is it even O.K. to consider it, when the world appears to be falling apart at the seams?
I don’t know about you… but for me answers often appear in relationships. At the beginning of the lockdown, my friend Rob and I established a very entertaining routine of Zoom parties. Thus, every Thursday evening of the pandemic became a reason for a night out… what is otherwise known as Little Friday (basically, just an excuse to start your party weekend one day early lol). I would usually decorate my room, covering the lamp with a cheap, red polyester sheet (the one that makes you sweat with no mercy, hence only to be used for purposes other than nesting your bed).
All of a sudden, my humble quarters transform into an exquisite New York night club. Well, in reality, it looks rather like a cheap late XIXth century Parisian brothel set up in the middle the Guatemalan jungle, but let me keep dreaming. So let’s pretend that my bedroom turns into a trendy bar where I go out to dance my ass off with my friends.
When the sirens announce the start of the curfew in our tittle Mayan Pueblo, I am reminded of a deeply existential lyric from Scissor Sisters, a notoriously entertaining band from New York.
“A Kiki is a party for calming all your nerves”
Let’s be frank. All of us need an occasional Kiki, whatever that means! It is not just a frivolous act of mindlessness. We are born with an essential requisite for play which nourishes us through the thick and thin of life.
Honestly, this is not in any way my original idea. Esther Perel, a pretty sharp New York therapist, underscores the importance of pleasure in the midst of crisis. She knows that very well because her parents were Holocaust survivors who moved to a Jewish community in Belgium following World War II. As a child, Esther observed two types of people: those who were not dead and those that came back to life. What distinguished them was their connection with the erotic, meaning their capacity to cultivate and sustain curiosity, vitality and desire. Eroticism isn’t really so much about sex… It is rather about imagination, passion, awareness, pleasure, beauty and an underlying sense that life is worth living. Thus, those who are willing to continue with the flirtation of life are more resilient and keep their joie de vivre. Do you see the connection with my cheap, polyester brothel light? This is erotic intelligence applied: using imagination to act “as if”, to find the magic in the ordinary, to transcend the obvious with meaning making that is hilarious and against the odds.
Am I crazy or deluded? No way! I refuse to lose the fun of life. I am determined to be as well as I can be under the circumstances given. My hope is that you can also have a Kiki and engage with the erotic to celebrate your life, even when the world seems dull and hopeless at times.
If you would like to hear more about pleasure in the midst of crisis, perhaps better to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Here are two talks by Esther Perel.