“What are you comfortable with?” This is a question I hear more and more now. Hugs, no hugs, masks or not? Would you feel comfortable with an inside table or do you want to sit outside? Are you comfortable taking a plane, or would you rather a staycation?
Comfort has, in my opinion, never been so prescient in our lives as it is today. Where once we believed that ‘the magic happens outside of your comfort zone’- that we could just achieve our dreams if we pushed ourselves outside of what made us comfortable, now we have never sought out comfort more – in every arena of our lives.
Let’s take fashion. Lockdown has ushered in the age of comfortable fashion. There was the rise of the trackie co-ord and pyjama-style dressing. Tie-dye t-shirts and loose dresses. No longer were we adhering to the old adage that beauty is pain, but revelling in our fluffy socks and oversized shirting. We were eschewing heels for slippers and flats-or hell- even shoes all together.
Comfort was for so long a dirty word in fashion. It was synonymous with ugly podiatric shoes, certainly with nothing sexy or stylish. It was its antithesis. But comfort has had a quiet revolution during 2020. Now that we have had months spent languishing in pjs and cotton joggers- why would we squeeze ourselves back into jeans and stilettos? It seems monstrous in a year where we have suffered enough- many of us with grief, many of us mentally, physically or financially. Why should we suffer for fashion?
It seems all of 2020 has been centred around this notion of comfort- of people’s boundaries of how uniquely they have experienced the pandemic. Have they got a preexisting condition which makes them nervous? Are they shielding, or living with people who are? People’s comfort levels have been inspected and tested throughout one of the most bizarre years of our lives.
Our own comfort levels have been made of paramount importance especially because of the confusing and contradictory nature of government guidance during the pandemic. In a crisis where there have been more U Turns than a high-speed Hollywood car chase; we have mostly been left to discern for ourselves what our guiding principles are during Coronavirus. We are guided by what we are most comfortable with. Do we feel safe eating out? Do we feel comfortable back in the office? These are the judgements we are left making, because in this age of confusion, panic and hardship, our comfort is leading the way. It is our decision maker.
Which is why I feel I hear the phrase ‘what are you comfortable with’ endlessly. It’s why other people’s comfort -which may well differ wildly from your own- is a conversation topic in a whole new way. We have long been adjusting to people’s varying needs in social situations; those who have strict dietary requirements, those whose pronouns may have shifted. We adapt to these things out of respect for our friends, Covid19 has simply added comfort to the consideration in a whole new way. How comfortable is this person with this plan? How comfortable are they at this time?
Comfort, whether it be fluffy slippers or a strict no-hugging policy during a global pandemic; is typically associated with safety. Comfort is warm and safe, it is cosy and relaxing. There are not typically risks associated with comfort. There is no pain, no fear, no discomfort. Millennials are often schooled in the idea of taking risks; of starting our own companies, of spending money on once in a lifetime experiences. We are not, historically speaking, seekers of comfort, but seekers of thrills.
Covid has changed that for many of us. Risk has become the last thing so many of us want to take. Everything about 2020; from queueing in the supermarket to hugging your grandma- has been laced in risk. In reaction to this, swathes of us have run back to our parents, have turned away from careless spending and unstable careers; run headfirst into comfort.
Now, many want stable jobs and stable savings accounts. Some of us want reduced social lives, avoiding raving crowds for Covid friendly home dinners, ditching casual sex and dating for cuffing season. And for others, perhaps much of their life has trickled back to normal, but you just try and get them out of their joggers and fluffy slippers.
In a year of uncertainty and tragedy, we reclaimed comfort.