Tuesday 2¢: COVID, etiquette and safe sex

Gah! This Tuesday 2¢ is more COVID, sorry. I am still curious about the lasting impact as we seem to have moved through the immediate lockdown crisis, looking ahead to a “new” normal to a realization that this is it. And today, I’m thinking about manners.


Yep, this seems to be a regular topic for Tuesday 2¢. however, this is not all I am writing about, I have kicked off a new work thing called martech insiders, that is taking shape if you are interested.


As I wrote last week, life with the virus is going to be a life with a new risk to live with. A risk that will get mitigated as the disease subsides and the medicine gets better, but it will become another one of life’s perils.

In 2018 (pre-corona obviously) just over 600,000 people died in England and Wales, 128,000 of those are considered avoidable (according to the ONS). That’s 1,600 deaths a day, 350 being avoidable. (Bloody hell!) It’s clearly never been totally safe to leave the house.

Based on the seemingly declining risk of COVID we are moving from the authorities telling us what to do, to us having to balance this risk, with all the others, and alter how we behave within the society, and what behavior we accept from one another. Manners and social etiquette, things that are not hard and fast based on science.

And, as the rules of social distancing dictated by authority soften, it’s not so clear what we think should be the new rules, this has unnerved some and for the majority of polite people, this is entirely stressful. Interacting with “rude” people that don’t follow the etiquette, or what you or they perceive it to be.

Like the kissing greeting in mainland pre-COVID Europe (is it 1, 2 or 3?) or maintaining eye contact as you say “prost” in Germany or the way you are supposed to hand over a business card in Japan, got wrong it can cause mild offense. But, this is amplified up to 11 with a killer virus, and our own individual interpretations of how much risk we want to take.

As I walk around my neighborhood, it’s clear not everyone is on the same page here. A quick flick through Facebook shows those stresses, as people display behavior others find unacceptable, some people may find this blog post too liberal about the risk, I hear that there are folks shouting at each other in my chum’s neighborhood in Californa about this and there will be tutting if you dither in the supermarket aisle here.

Pre-COVID, we had the custom of shaking hands, supposedly a gesture from an ancient time to show we were not carrying a weapon. I don’t suppose anyone shook someone’s hand in February and breathed a sigh of relief that they were without a weapon or were suspicious of someone who’s hand they didn’t shake thinking they had a gladius (Roman sword) tucked up their sleeve. The reason for this piece of good manners and etiquette is long forgotten.

A few decades ago sex became perceived to be dangerous, because of HIV, it then became socially unacceptable not to practice safe sex. “Safe sex”, a piece of excellent public safety messaging that created a groundswell and made it into those unwritten laws that govern our society. Now, safe sex is less about the immediate health scare of that time, but the more intense pressure of social acceptance.

I was actually inspired to write this as I pondered if the public wearing of face masks would become the new condom. But, as I write this, that groundswell or tipping point on face masks here has not happened.

Anyway, to get to some sort of point on this – I wonder what new customs we will form now, that might seem awkward or odd, that in the future will be just normal after this is forgotten?


Right, let’s hope I’ve exorcized this COVID obsession – if you are looking for something with less corona and more content, please check out my new podcast on Rockstar CMO or my new project – martech insider.