Close Encounters

August Men's Room

Let’s face it. Social distancing isn’t fun, and it ain’t easy. You try your best to stay home and away from other people, but once you step out that front door, you just can’t guarantee that other people will stay away from you.

So, for those times when you absolutely must go out, here are a few strategies to encourage the clueless to keep their distance:

Beach: Requiring the guy in your life to wear a Speedo will keep most fellow beachgoers at bay, especially when combined with faded tribal tattoos, excessive body hair, and/or gratuitous PDA.

Loud music can also drive other sun worshippers away, but be sure to cater to the particular taste of your specific beach locale. While at one area beach, cranking “Free Bird” will act as human repellent, at another beach nearby, you may find that Lynyrd Skynyrd actually serves as social catalyst. When in doubt, blast opera, Creed, or songs featuring bagpipes or accordion.

Walking the Dog: A heavy chain leash and black leather muzzle on even the most diminutive and passive pup will send most folks running. Particularly effective when paired with a disturbing pet name like “Scab,” “Damian,” or “Mange.”

Dinner Parties: If you’re not ready for dinner parties, when invites arrive, politely decline saying, “We’re busy that night, but, you know what? Since the pandemic started, we’ve gotten really into these 10,000-piece monochromatic jigsaw puzzles. We’d love to have you guys over soon!”

You will never hear from these people ever again.

However, if you must attend a party, try this: As someone approaches, especially close talkers, announce that you’d love to tell them all about the line of amazing organic cleaning products you recently started repping. For a stubborn case, stage a fake fight or uncomfortable moment with your significant other. Suggested opening lines: “Well, if she’s just a work friend, why’s she texting you at 3 a.m.?!” Or, “I hear it happens to lots of men your age, honey. Try not to worry about it.” Or, “Well? What the hell did the dermatologists say?”

Work: Smelly food for lunch is guaranteed to keep colleagues out of your office. Of course, you can always go with the old standby stinkers like tuna salad, hard-boiled eggs, or foods heavy in garlic. But, why not branch out to other pungent edibles such as blue cheese, Brussels sprouts, or kimchi? Mix it up. Once your co-workers become inured to your lunch funk, you’ll know it’s time to switch up the menu.

The Mall: Strolling the stores with a large snake draped casually over your shoulders will part fellow shoppers like the Red Sea. (If mall security gives you any trouble, just claim it’s an emotional support pet). In a pinch, a lifelike rubber snake can suffice. Most effective when combined with a random accessory for maximum craziness like purple rollerblades or a Ross Perot for President T-shirt.

Armed with these techniques, and others of your own devising, I hope, dear reader, that you will manage to stay socially distant and healthy in these challenging times.

Dylan Patterson is a writer and filmmaker who teaches English at Cape Fear Community College.

To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, go to

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Categories: Culture