Sexual Politics

A heated Facebook exchange this weekend prompted me to revisit an older post about #MeToo and my own workplace experiences.

I think there’s a big difference between true harassment and unwanted or inappropriate behavior. Viewed through today’s lens, every decades-old compliment, hug or shoulder rub can seem nasty and predatory.  But it may have been no more serious than an ill-advised attempt to flirt, show warmth, or express appreciation.

It’s equally possible that a woman who had a crush on an attractive, charismatic man fantasized or misinterpreted a benign gesture.

So yes, let’s investigate the Bidens, Kavanaughs, and Trumps to see if they actually crossed the line. But let’s not automatically assume that every allegation has merit either.

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Wistful Thinking

There are so many things I miss these days, from the prosaic to the profound.  Among them:

  • Free samples at Costco and Trader Joe’s
  • Visiting with my kids
  • Dinner out with friends
  • Responsible government leadership
  • A proper haircut
  • A decent pedicure
  • My group exercise class
  • Anxiety-free sleep
  • News that’s actually news
  • Space to roam
  • My waistline

But perhaps the one thing I miss most of all is the anticipation of upcoming travel.  For those of us who love a change of scenery — whether exotic or familiar — there is something deeply satisfying about planning a trip down to the last detail, while leaving lots of room for unexpected developments. (The good kind, not the “oh s*** I’m suddenly quarantined in a foreign country” kind.)

I’m enjoying vicarious adventures through other bloggers’ posts, but we all know it’s hardly the same.  Having cancelled our London trip planned for March, and now deciding not to play “beat the odds” with the trip to France we’d scheduled for this summer, I feel a bit adrift.

And wondering… what do YOU miss most these days?

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Photo by Chait Goli on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Full Speed Ahead

No time for an original post today, but want to share this encouraging article from my daily New York Times email briefing:

A running start for a vaccine at Oxford

Here’s promising news in the worldwide race to develop a vaccine to ward off the coronavirus. The Jenner Institute at Oxford University has one that seems to work in lab animals and is ready to test its effectiveness in humans, if regulators approve.

The institute had a big head start, our correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick reports. Its scientists had an approach that they already knew was safe: They had proved it in trials last year for a vaccine to fight MERS, a respiratory disease caused by a closely related virus.

That has enabled the institute to skip ahead and schedule tests of its new Covid-19 vaccine on more than 6,000 people by the end of May, hoping to show not only that it is safe, but also that it works.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana got very good results when they tried out the Oxford vaccine last month on six rhesus macaque monkeys. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the coronavirus. After more than four weeks, all six were still healthy.

“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” said Vincent Munster, the researcher who conducted the test.

Immunity in monkeys doesn’t guarantee that a vaccine will protect people, but it’s an encouraging sign. If the May trials go well and regulators grant emergency approval, the Oxford scientists say they could have a few million doses of their vaccine available by September — months ahead of other vaccine projects.

“It is a very, very fast clinical program,” said Emilio Emini of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is helping to finance a number of competing efforts.

All in the genes: The Jenner Institute isn’t following the classic approach of using a weakened version of the disease pathogen. Instead, its approach starts with another familiar virus, neutralizes it and then genetically modifies it so that it will prompt the body to produce the right antibodies for Covid-19.

Researchers originally cooked up the technology in a quest to develop a vaccine for malaria, which is caused by a parasite. No luck there yet. But when the idea was borrowed to go after MERS, it worked well.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Good News Monday/COVID-19: What NOT to Worry About

I found this reassuring.

[Reprinted from today’s New York Times] 

By 

When we asked readers to send their questions about coronavirus, a common theme emerged: Many people are fearful about tracking the virus into their homes on their clothes, their shoes, the mail and even the newspaper.

We reached out to infectious disease experts, aerosol scientists and microbiologists to answer reader questions about the risks of coming into contact with the virus during essential trips outside and from deliveries. While we still need to take precautions, their answers were reassuring.

For most of us who are practicing social distancing and making only occasional trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, experts agree that it’s not necessary to change clothes or take a shower when you return home. You should, however, always wash your hands. While it’s true that a sneeze or cough from an infected person can propel viral droplets and smaller particles through the air, most of them will drop to the ground.

Studies show that some small viral particles could float in the air for about half an hour, but they don’t swarm like gnats and are unlikely to collide with your clothes. “A droplet that is small enough to float in air for a while also is unlikely to deposit on clothing because of aerodynamics,” said Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech. “The droplets are small enough that they’ll move in the air around your body and clothing.”

I asked Dr. Marr to explain further, since we’re all getting a mini lesson in aerodynamics.

“The best way to describe it is that they follow the streamlines, or air flow, around a person, because we move relatively slowly. It’s kind of like small insects and dust particles flowing in the streamlines around a car at slow speed but potentially slamming into the windshield if the car is going fast enough,” said Dr. Marr.

“Humans don’t usually move fast enough for this to happen,” Dr. Marr continued. “As we move, we push air out of the way, and most of the droplets and particles get pushed out of the way, too. Someone would have to spray large droplets through talking — a spit talker — coughing or sneezing for them to land on our clothes. The droplets have to be large enough that they don’t follow the streamlines.”

So, if you’re out shopping and somebody sneezes on you, you probably do want to go home, change and shower. But the rest of the time, take comfort that your slow-moving body is pushing air and viral particles away from your clothes, a result of simple physics.

For all the reasons outlined above, you should not be worried about viral contamination of your hair or beard if you are practicing social distancing. Even if someone sneezed on the back of your head, any droplets that landed on your hair would be an unlikely source of infection.

“You have to think through the process of what would have to happen for someone to become infected,” said Dr. Andrew Janowski, instructor of pediatric infectious diseases at Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “You have someone who sneezes, and they have to have X amount of virus in the sneeze. Then there has to be so many drops that land on you.”

The answer depends on whether you’re doing routine laundry or cleaning up after a sick person.

Routine laundry should not cause worry. Wash it as you normally would. While some types of viruses, like the norovirus, can be tough to clean, the new coronavirus, like the flu virus, is surrounded by a fatty membrane that is vulnerable to soap. Washing your clothes in regular laundry detergent, following the fabric instructions, followed by a stint in the dryer is more than enough to remove the virus — if it was even there in the first place.

“We do know that viruses can deposit on clothing (from droplets) and then be shaken loose into the air with movement, but you would need a lot of viruses for this to be a concern, far more than a typical person would encounter while going for a walk outdoors or going to a grocery store,” Dr. Marr said.

The exception is if you are in close contact with a sick person. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you wear gloves when cleaning up after someone who is sick, and take care not to shake laundry and bedding. Use the warmest water setting possible and dry completely. You can mix laundry from an ill person with the rest of the household load. But just leaving laundry to sit for a while also reduces risk, because the virus will dry out and decay. “We know these types of viruses tend to decay faster on fabric than on hard, solid surfaces like steel or plastic,” said Dr. Marr.

Most of what we know about how long this novel coronavirus lives on surfaces comes from an important study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in March. The study found that the virus can survive, under ideal conditions, up to three days on hard metal surfaces and plastic and up to 24 hours on cardboard.

But the study did not look at fabric. Still, most virus experts believe that the cardboard research offers clues about how the virus probably behaves on fabric. The absorbent, natural fibers in the cardboard appeared to cause the virus to dry up more quickly than it does on hard surfaces. The fibers in fabric would be likely to produce a similar effect.

A 2005 study of the virus that causes SARS, another form of coronavirus, provides further reassurance. In that study, researchers tested increasingly large amounts of viral samples on paper and on a cotton gown. Depending on the concentration of the virus, it took five minutes, three hours or 24 hours for it to become inactive. “Even with a relatively high virus load in the droplet, rapid loss of infectivity was observed for paper and cotton material,” the researchers concluded.

The risk of getting sick from handling mail or packages is extremely low and, at this point, only theoretical. There are no documented cases of someone getting sick from opening a package or reading a newspaper.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions. After handling mail or packages or reading the newspaper, dispose of the packaging and wash your hands. If you still feel especially anxious about it, take guidance from the New England Journal study and just let mail and packages sit for 24 hours before handling them.

Your chances of catching the virus when you go outdoors is extremely low, provided you’re keeping a safe distance from others.

“Outdoors is safe, and there is certainly no cloud of virus-laden droplets hanging around,” said Lidia Morawska, professor and director of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

“Firstly, any infectious droplets exhaled outside would be quickly diluted in outdoor air, so their concentrations would quickly become insignificant,” Dr. Morawska said. “In addition, the stability of the virus outside is significantly shorter than inside. So outside is not really a problem, unless if we are in a very crowded place — which is not allowed now anyway. It is safe to go for a walk and jog and not to worry about the virus in the air, and there is no need for an immediate washing of the clothes.”

Shoes can harbor bacteria and viruses, but that doesn’t mean they are a common source of infection. A 2008 study commissioned by Rockport Shoes found a lot of gross stuff, including fecal bacteria, on the soles of our shoes. A recent study from China found that among health care workers, half had coronavirus detected on their shoes, which is not unexpected since they worked in hospitals with infected patients.

So what should we do about our shoes? If your shoes are washable, you can launder them. Some readers asked about cleaning the soles of their shoes with a wipe. That is not recommended. Not only does it waste a good wipe (they are still in short supply), but it brings germs that would stay on the sole of your shoe or on the ground directly to your hands.

You can try not to think about what’s lurking on your shoes — or you can have a conversation with your family about becoming a shoe-free household. We covered the pros and cons of shoeless living in our article, “Should You Take Your Shoes Off at Home?” If you have a child who crawls or plays on the floor, a family member with allergies, or someone with a compromised immune system, a shoe-free home might be a good idea for general hygiene.

Dr. Janowski said shoes are not a big worry for contracting coronavirus, but it might make you squeamish if you think about where your shoes have been. “If you want to talk about bacteria, we know bacteria love to live on shoes,” Dr. Janowski said. “You never know what you stepped in.”

Beauty Adventure: DIY Upkeep

(Suggested by my friend T, fellow struggler in the Quarantine Beauty Wars)

Who decided that hair salons and eyebrow professionals were “non-essential” services?!(Obviously, a man.) Ah well, one must soldier on during quarantine and strive to look semi-presentable for Zoom meetings as well as one’s own self-respect.

My current arsenal includes the following. What’s in yours, ladies?

L’Oreal Root Rescue.  Some wag recently wrote, “In 8 weeks, 88% of blondes will cease to exist.”  I do not aspire to the Pandemic Punk look (dark roots and lighter hair) so upkeep is mandatory! My highlights are still intact but my base layer needs ongoing assistance.  A zigzag part is helpful camouflage, too.

Texturizing scissors – If you snip a few layers around your face it will help freshen your style until you can finally get to your stylist.  Give him/her a larger-than-usual tip when you go!

Tweezers.  Does it get any better than Tweezerman?

Brow/Lash serum.  To boost skimpy eyelashes and/or brows, I like Godefroy double lash & brow, which you can find on Amazon. It’s an organic caster oil formula, and I’ve found it doesn’t redden my eyelids the way RevitaLash does. It’s also a lot less expensive but, then again, it’s also less effective.  (Why is this not surprising?)

Brow tint. Also by Godefroy, their TintKit comes in a lot of colors and is easy to use.  Start conservatively, e.g. 2 minutes, if you want a subtle change.

1000 Hour Lash & Brow Dye doesn’t last nearly that long, but is good in a pinch if you have pale lashes like mine and want some definition without putting on mascara. (And seriously, who’s putting on a full face of makeup for days spent indoors?) It takes practice and you need to go slowly, one eye at a time.

Moisturizers and face mask (the indoor kind). I’m currently on a retinol regimen so I’ve pared down a lot of my skin care, but am still using a few Murad products.

Nail care – I’m cursed with thin nails and a short nail bed so they never look great au natural, and all this handwashing makes them even worse.  Hoping Healthy Hoof will help strengthen them. To compensate, my red OPI Big Apple toes add some much-needed glamour.

DIY lip scrub –  Mix a tiny amount of butter with cinnamon and sugar.  The grains rub off dry skin, while the butter smoothes it.  And it tastes great if you happen to swallow any.

DIY body scrub – Mix sugar with any household oil, e.g. canola, olive or grapeseed, until you have a smooth paste that’s not too runny.  Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.

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