The consequences of our careless respiratory relations | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

The consequences of our careless respiratory relations
illustration by albert rodriguez
The consequences of our careless respiratory relations
illustration by albert rodriguez

Having been a casualty of the recent COVID surge, I had time to think of how we got here. My husband had dined at a restaurant indoors with his work wife, who was infected.

While his stance had been lackadaisical—“If you get it, you get it”—I think differently. Of course, there’s no guarantee to stay infection-free even with all the protocols in place, but I believe we should still make an effort and care. “Go down fighting!” is more my attitude.

I have been itching to return to practicing jiu-jitsu, a close contact sport, but I have refrained because I wanted to protect two immunocompromised people in our household.

When our family returned to dining out, we opt for al fresco dining as much as possible. Against my better judgment, I have dined indoors with people not from my household, so I am not innocent of the same risky behavior as my husband.

I realize how it’s like playing Russian roulette, and we’re gambling with other people’s lives. We try not to be the maarte (nitpicky) one. In our desire for a taste of normalcy, we try to force it and hope to God we’ll be okay—classic cognitive dissonance.

People who get mild COVID symptoms or recover quickly tend to belittle the ever-mutating virus. “Parang trangkaso lang” (It’s just like getting the flu), they say. But we should respect this tiny virus that has brought the world to its knees, and how it can affect others not as blessed with good physical and mental health.


I am fairly strong and healthy for my age, with no comorbidities or maintenance medication. During Omicron’s first onslaught on our home early this year, I was spared and luckily well enough to take care of everyone who got infected in our household.

Not as lucky this time, I had to endure symptoms while still having to take care of everyone else. I found the Sunday Gospel of Jesus rebuking Martha ironic: there I was stressing over how to “save” those of us who still weren’t infected, taking vitals, making sure we had meals, cleaning up, getting both the sick and the well-fed and hydrated, and sending updates to family and friends concerned.

Having to get by on very little sleep for days because I couldn’t breathe, cramped beside a feverish and uncomfortable 7-year-old, all while into the first week of starting a new job, made me sass back at Jesus: “If you hooked us Marthas up with superpowers to heal the sick as you did for the other dudes, we wouldn’t have to activate our Marthaness and just be chill like Mary!” I’m sure many mothers can relate!

Antiviral drugs like molnupiravir, when taken five days into infection, can greatly alleviate symptoms and the risk of hospitalization. But such medicine is costly and not easily available. What if we infect someone who does not have access?

Masks are like condoms

Condoms can protect you from secret physical affairs bearing fruit. Likewise, masks can protect you from exposing the people with whom you’ve had respiratory relations.

It sounds sleazy, but during these times, breathing the same air in close proximity to someone not from your household should be considered cheating because it leaves your home’s defenses vulnerable. It’s tantamount to leaving the door to your household’s health unlocked. Having one careless respiratory rendezvous is all it takes to get your entire family sick (and who knows who else?).

This barrier method of masking up isn’t perfect, but it works most of the time. Of course, abstinence is the closest way to guarantee not getting sick. But it seems easier for people to gird their loins and stop having sex than it is to stop social creatures from meeting up.

We trust and rely on each other to stay safe and secure. It’s hypocritical to impose strict masking and alcohol-spraying on our children and other household members if we are not faithful in protecting ourselves too. No matter how well you and your housemates mask up, boost your immunity, and stay clean, you are only as strong as your weakest link.

The Normal Now hasn’t changed; we still need to take responsibility for each other. It’s disconcerting that almost three years into the pandemic, we are still having the same discussion; it seems nothing has changed. —CONTRIBUTED

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