As if being a young person wasn't hard enough, those of us living through the prime of our youth in the year 2020 are facing an additional challenge: how to navigate sex and relationships during a pandemic that has afflicted millions and killed hundred of thousands across the globe.
Being horny in quarantine is, of course, a very small problem to have compared to illness, death, job loss and all the other challenges people are facing due to the COVID-19 crisis. Still, the fact of the matter is that — in the good old U.S. of A, at least — personal sacrifice will continue to be necessary, thanks to the unconscionable inaction of shockingly incompetent leaders. But many young people will start to have intimate relations again (if they ever stopped), so it is fair to realistically address how we might go about it.
The New York City Department of Health caused a stir when they suggested being creative with “physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact,” known more simply to many as glory holes. The University of Georgia removed COVID-19 sexual health guidance after it was “mocked, ridiculed and criticized on social media,” UGA spokesman Greg Trevor told the Athens Banner-Herald. The advice included refraining from kissing during sex and using positions that reduce face-to-face contact, so we can assume the reverse cowgirl jokes got to be too much for the university administration.
Among this advice, Emmy contender Nicholas Braun (nominated for HBO’s Succession, but known forever in my heart for his magnificent work in Sky High) offered a different approach: antibodies. More specifically, only hooking up with people who definitely have them. And Braun turned this idea into what some have called — to my complete and total agreement — the song of our pandemic summer.
It started in May as an Instagram Live video in which Braun shared some lyrics he’d come up with: “Do you have the antibodies? / Do you want to be with me? / Do you have the antibodies? / ‘Cuz if you don’t / You better stay away!” He asked if there was anyone out there who wanted to come up with the backing music, and later gave an update with more lyrics: “If you come within six feet it’s mask on, mask on, mask on, mask on / But if you got antibodies it’s pants off, pants off, pants off, pants off.”
Soon Braun was reposting various renditions of “Antibodies (Do You Have The)” that his followers had shared with him, from slow indie ballads to folksy guitar duets. Participants included little kids who were clearly put up to it by their millennial parents, along with stars Kiernan Shipka and Sasha Spielberg. Many of these covers truly rock, sounding like they could be actual professional songs, and have taken turns being the version stuck in my head on a loop. But the best overall has to go to the official video Braun released at the end of July.
It’s a pop punk masterpiece, with Braun (sans his previous quarantine mustache, sadly) angstily kicking around a desolate landscape, in some shots wearing a bohemian scarf and fingerless gloves. Cut in between Braun’s solo performance are clips of the Instagram remixes, and even short videos of Braun getting a nasal swab and blood drawn. As hilarious of a passion project as it is, the music is actually very good, or at least super fun to jam out to.
And the message really does hit home — (hopefully) you’ve been isolated for what feels like forever (this reporter has not touched another human being in any context for five months, but who’s counting!), you’ve followed all the social distancing rules. Folks back in your hometown have been acting like the pandemic ended in April, so why shouldn’t you find a lover with antibodies?
As Braun notes in the song, we don’t fully know what antibodies mean in terms of long-lasting immunity to the virus, so it may be best to not take this bop as an official public health recommendation. But it sure is nice that Braun articulated the way many of us are feeling, involved people from around the world and put it to music. And, even better, all the proceeds from the song and its merch go to Partners In Health and The COPE Program.
Here’s to hoping “Antibodies (Do you Have The)” is not the song of next summer, as well.