Advice From the Trenches

Pandemic Pod Person: His vibrant wife was replaced with a couch potato. What gives?

Dear C and Dr. B;

Before COVID, my wife almost never watched TV. She’d tune in for news, but that was about it. Now all she seems to do anymore is surf Netflix and binge on series she had absolutely no interest in before the pandemic. These new sports are doing nothing for her cardiovascular system, and it’s changing the things she talks about. 

I asked her what the deal was, and she bitched for half an hour about how much she hates Zoom and how all of the virtual programming that is supposed to connect everybody just makes her feel more separate – the sound and picture quality is so bad it’s like communicating with an orbiting space station. She likes the familiarity of the polished film production on Netflix; she likes being in control of what she watches.

I feel like my wife has been replaced with a pod person. But it’s not just her, it seems like everyone is either living a virtual life or living on entertainment apps. It’s scaring me. Is real life becoming a thing of the past? And what is going to happen when the pandemic is over?    – Shudder To Think

Dr. B says: We all have to survive in our own way. With frigid temps, snow and most things closed, what life is there but the virtual one? Since watching Netflix is what most people are doing, the shows are what they are talking about. Watching the same programs gives your wife a way of connecting  with her friends on Zoom. I suggest not fighting it. Why not find some mutual shows you both enjoy? The weather will break soon and then you can turn off the TV and get outside. Take day trips to  nature preserves and maybe start a garden. 

Since she wasn’t a TV fan before, when other options become available again, there’s no reason she would choose to be a couch potato. Is skiing an option for the two of you now? Don’t worry. Summer is coming. 

C says: I am not so certain that the new habits your wife has developed will go away like seasonal allergies. No one knows what is going to happen when the pandemic is over and for now the point is moot – despite popular demand, COVID ain’t over yet. 

I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, Shudder, but I don’t think we are ever going to return to the way of life we had before. Just as 911 forever changed our collective perception of national security, the COVID pandemic will forever change our awareness of contagions and personal space. We have all become more wary of each other, and with good cause. Every day, new viruses and mutations pop up, ready to take over where COVID leaves off. 

So it looks like Zoom and binge watching will be with us for a while. If your wife’s friends are still watching and talking, she’ll likely continue watching and talking too. I’m sure you can get your her out  when the weather warms up, but do not be surprised if as soon as you get back home, she’s turning on the tube again. For now, those shows are a reliable comfort food for our befuddled souls.

It could be worse – as far as addictions go, the monthly cost of Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Prime is far less than the cost of heroin or crack. And if your wife overdoses on seven seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy,” she isn’t risking a trip to the ER unless it’s from hypochondria. I’m sure that the woman you love is still in there – put some effort into wooing her back. If you give her a good reason to turn off the tube, she will.

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