As far as I can see, there’s only one upside to the fact I’ve been sitting at home alone while self-isolating for the past ten weeks — not even permitted to buy paint on purpose to watch it dry.
And that’s the comforting knowledge that at least I definitely can’t catch anything living like this. But then, a few days ago, the symptoms started.
I was watching hours of bad news on TV as usual when a Conservative MP called Dr Luke Evans popped up via video link to ask a question of the House of Commons Health Select Committee. Suddenly, I was stricken with all the tell-tale signs: soaring temperature, fevered pulse, feelings of faintness…
‘Oh no, oh no, oh no,’ I clutched my skull, googling furiously for more information on Dr. Dreamy McDreamface. ‘I think I’m coming down with it…’
The coronavirus crush is a distressing physiological phenomenon that has spread though all my single female friends and several of the married ones too. Symptoms do vary but the most alarming is a total lack of taste.
‘Don’t you find,’ my best mate asked (she was the first to succumb.) ‘That you just cannot get enough of Matt Hancock’s face?’Constant exposure seems to cause the most acute cases.
How else to account for a 32-year-old woman (who shall remain nameless) demanding her birthday cake be decorated with an edible photograph of Keir Starmer’s head?
Some remain stoical. (‘I don’t care what anyone thinks, Dominic Raab is yummy.’) Others are mortified. Insist they can’t possibly tell you what they’re going through. Only to phone you, scared, several hours later, because they realise they really do find Rishi Sunak in a sharp suit sexier than Paul Mescal in nothing but a neck chain.
So I took to social media – thinking it might be possible to track and trace – and found corona-crushes raging uncontrollably.
‘Oliver Dowden,’ one confession reads. ‘At first I was put off by the posh accent but then I got hopelessly lost in his cultural policy…’
‘Robert Jenrick,’ adds another. ‘He’s just slightly more competent than everyone else.’
In America, I’m told, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Gavin Newsom of California are super spreaders of romantic fever, as is New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.
In the current climate, no one is safe – least of all your ageing parents. Mine seem to be get more het up about the daily press briefings than any steamy old repeat of Poldark. ‘I have to go,’ my mother hissed, the last time I called her at 5pm. I turned on the TV. Saw the trouble. Gove was on again.
Obviously, it’s very worrying to think your mother has such a severe case, she’s now mad keen on the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, or ‘Michael’ as she calls him. So I try to keep a close check on the progress of the disease over FaceTime.
I’d warned her to take proper precautions, so how could she account for herself? ‘I don’t know,’ she says, all flustered. ‘I think maybe it’s something to do with the fact he answers all the bloody stupid questions he keeps getting asked so politely.’
Thankfully for the state of my parents’ marriage, my father is being comforted by Priti Patel. ‘She doesn’t take any nonsense,’ he says, dismissing the rival for his wife’s affections as silky and effete by comparison.
Once upon a time, politics was considered ‘showbiz for ugly people’. But now Boris Johnson is bigger box office than James Bond. Cinemas remain closed but the Prime Minister’s lockdown announcement had an audience of 27.5 million making it one of the most-watched television broadcasts in British history.
Thanks to coronavirus, politicians you couldn’t have picked out of a police line up six months ago are now the most famous people in the land. In the absence of access to hunks and heartthrobs, middle-aged men who once would have been considered perfectly ordinary-looking (if not downright unappealing) suddenly seem about as appetising as Daniel Craig.
So what the hell is going on?
‘We humans have an almost unconscious bias towards finding people with power a little more attractive than mere mortals without it,’ explains psychologist Emma Kenny. ‘Whilst from the outside looking in, this can appear to speak to a shallow side of human nature, it is actually a pretty sensible survival instinct. ’All of us are alive today because our female ancestors selected a mate who kept her and her babies safe in primeval environments and so, now, we must not blame ourselves if we feel helplessly – and impossibly – drawn to the men seeking to protect us from coronavirus. A caveman repeatedly bellowing ‘stay alert’ at a time when there were sabre tooth tigers roaming around could well be the reason we exist.
Yes it feels pervy and wrong to be thinking ‘oh dear God, I actually might…’ But let’s forgive ourselves OK? No one blames anyone for fancying a film star. If we had no tender feelings at all we’d cease to produce humans.
Plus, power is a powerful aphrodisiac that we may never have been exposed to before. Surely it must account for the sexual success of the Prime Minister – how else could a man so flabby and dishevelled have attracted a string of mistresses and produced (at least) six children? Also, at a time of crisis, the most boring qualities – such as basic competence – become sexy as hell.
‘Look, there are people out there making papier-mâché idols of Professor Chris Whitty,’ a Facebook friend concludes.
All this may have been going on for longer than we think. Up close and personal, Francois Mitterand allegedly declared that Mrs. Thatcher had ‘the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe.’
‘I feel deeply disturbed by all this actually,’ the friend who first alerted me to the corona-crush complains. ‘I’ve never voted Tory. I never will vote Tory and yet I’m hooked on Hancock – who I object to very much politically. Will there ever be a cure?’
Yes, is the reassuring answer.
After researching the matter closely, I am convinced that the corona-crush is a kind of collective Stockholm syndrome. Right now, we feel forced to accept extraordinary restrictions on our freedom. Trapped in our homes, we have no one to gaze at but those who hold us captive. If you live alone, you haven’t had so much as a hug in two months, sex is a distant memory, and you feel a savage thrill just seizing a packet of pasta at the supermarket.
Hopefully, however, this will fade away with Covid-19. We’ll forget all these MP’s names, and form attachments to real men who are actually attractive.
‘Just like you may have fancied that odd looking teacher in your year 12 drama class, you are realising that looks, have little to do with lust,’ Kenny concludes. ‘Fortunately, these types of feelings tend to be fleeting, because they are based on reinforcement… At some point, just as you woke up to the fact that your beloved boy band member was six inches shorter than you, and had really bad fashion sense, so too is it likely that you will wake up one day wondering how the hell you ever felt jealous of Carrie Symonds.’
Although I still make an exception for Dr Luke Evans.