26th February, 2021

by Pia Parisi-Marcoux, art by Anna White

A summarily pragmatic friend recently remarked to me that “the only way through the pandemic is to try to fall in love”. 


He’s not wrong. After a bleak and capricious COVID spring, I was — as so many were — ready for something different. I prioritized dating for the first time, eager to be desired, busy and comforted readily. And though I stretched some of these early connections well past their prime, I also had a lot of fun. 


It’s always hard, I think, to determine whether romance is genuine or a distraction. It’s harder now. Still, I’m nostalgic for that first COVID summer, the pieces of it that felt sweet, novel, funny and propitious. Like driving to a different state to see someone I only sort of knew, or asking my parents for permission to go have sex. Or sitting on the same couch, rattled by the luxury of it. 


I will remember the sex I had as exceptional, because pre-planned intimacy at someone else’s apartment is better than the infantilizing reality of un-planned living at home. I will remember phone dates with random people as absorbing, because I am normally phone averse. I will remember the men I met as interesting, even though realistically most were dull and immature. 


And yet: there was one connection that felt special. It lingered even after our circumstances changed and rendered it untenable. That one was poisoned slowly by sadness, inertia and the pain of falling short of its emancipatory potential. By COVID, yes, but more by failing to fulfill its foundational promise of respite from COVID. That one inspired this playlist. 


As my own have dissolved pretty much completely, I sometimes wonder how many summer relationships borne of pandemic-related restlessness and loneliness still exist. As I confront, more each day, the recalcitrance of this ridiculous disease, the dull roar of death and loss, and yearn endlessly for things that are all but gone, I know that no relationship based on mutual claustrophobia is equipped to handle these things. In other words, many relationships formed by this moment are not strong enough to withstand it. At least not forever, and certainly not mine. 


This playlist is meant to acknowledge the singular sadness of romances that fall short of lofty beginnings. As life is so ugly, it’s painful to relinquish even a substandard relationship. It may be worse still to relinquish a good one because it is not the right time and you are not the right you — because you feel life has made you ugly. 


On a happier note, it is also meant to acknowledge that trimming dead ends makes space for new growth. We can -- and must -- find genuine love, and without resenting life for quashing our earnest attempts. 

Pia Parisi-Marcoux is a musician, organizer and researcher from Brooklyn, New York. Until recently, she was traveling the world exploring musical subcultures with a yearlong grant from the Watson Foundation, playing under her experimental pop project Apolojeesus.

Anna White is a writer and illustrator currently based in Bellingham, WA and a Nearness co-founder. You can find her on Instagram @annaclairewhite