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Editor’s Note: This is a preview of USA TODAY’s newsletter Staying Apart, Together, a guide to help us all cope with a world changed by coronavirus. If you would like it in your inbox on Tuesdays and Saturdays, subscribe here.
I was texting a good friend about a problem I was having this week when I realized that I have forgotten how to talk to people because of the pandemic.
After apologizing profusely for bothering her and saying she didn’t have to answer and that my problems weren’t that big a deal after all and sorry again and please forget I even texted, I realized that maybe I’m a little rusty when it comes to social interactions.
We have all lost a great deal of in-person social interaction, and while there are virtual substitutes and socially-distanced get-togethers, overall I am socializing much less than before March. And I was never a social butterfly, either. Instead of putting in a lot of effort to set up a Zoom or find a safe outdoor space to hang out in person, it’s much easier just to hole up at home, watch TV (I’m always watching TV), and be comfortable knowing I made a safe choice. But there are things I miss when I choose solitude.
I am going to make more of an effort to bring more of my social life back. It will probably take a lot of effort, mentally and physically, to do it and do it safely, but I think the emotional benefits will be enormous. I already texted a friend I used to see all the time for board game nights to see if we could set up a virtual one for this weekend, aren’t you proud of me?
I may not be perfect at this yet, but there’s no perfect way to experience a pandemic.
Today’s (haunted) TV recommendations
It’s officially spooky season, friends. Get excited.
There’s been a lot of discussion of all the Halloween traditions we can’t do this year, but what about the thrills and chills we enjoy as usual, like the horror TV shows we would probably be watching even if there wasn’t a pandemic.
I’m not a huge horror fan (read: I’m a huge wimp), but I appreciate the boom in horror TV that’s happened over the past few years. There are some seriously scary (or funny/scary) shows out there now, and I picked 10 that make for good binge-watching and Halloween celebrations. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Evil” (Netflix and CBS All Access): This brilliant, gripping drama from the creators of “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight” marries the spiritual and supernatural with a mystery-of-the-week formula, a bit like if “The X-Files” investigated religious phenomena instead of aliens. This was one of my favorite shows of 2019, and I’m glad it’s on Netflix so more people can see it now.
“The Haunting of Bly Manor”/”The Haunting of Hill House” (Netflix): This one is for the serious horror aficionados. “Hill House,” based on the book by Shirley Jackson, was a surprise hit in 2018. In the new “Bly,” much of the same cast takes on different roles for a new literary tale of horror: A take on Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw.”
“Los Espookys” (HBO and HBO Max): And now for something completely different. HBO’s Spanish-language comedy isn’t all that spooky, but it is a riotously funny series, produced by “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels and Fred Armisen, who also occasionally co-stars. The series follows an eclectic group of friends who create a horror-for-hire business.
See my seven other picks here. And let me know if you watch any, especially “Evil”! I love talking about “Evil.”
Today’s great debate: The holidays
You know it, I know it, my parents reading this know it: The holiday season is coming, and it’s going to be really rough.
Everyone knows we can’t have Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s and other wintry celebrations the same way as usual. But there is a lot of debate, discussion and worry over what we actually can do safely. Reporter Jorge L. Ortiz talked to experts about it for a story.
“Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays are especially tough because, on top of the normal need to interact with friends and family, they are lifelong rituals for people of sharing those particular days and those particular meals,” Craig Smith, an associate professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University, said. “So for many people, there’s going to be a palpable sense of loss when they’re unable to get their whole family together, but the risks, of course, are enormous.”
Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, and other experts recommend that families in separate households sit at their Thanksgiving tables at the same time and connect through a video platform such as Zoom, which might give a sense of sharing the meal.
“We’re going to have to make sacrifices,” said Dr. Eric Cioe-Peña, an emergency room physician and director of Global Health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York. “My wife and I decided this year’s going to be nuclear family, and we’re not inviting anybody over.”
You can read Jorge’s story here, which is comprehensive and has a lot of good advice from experts about risks.
Meet Mo, who is apparently my dog Apollo in disguise because they have the same personality.
“Mo is waiting for our neighbor to notice what a good boy he is,” says human Leslie Pike in Telford, Penn. “I can’t watch because I know she won’t see him, and he’ll be disappointed. He thinks everyone lives to pet him.”