Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu & Davide Sanclimenti of Love Island (Photo: ITV)

Covid Island

Love — or what passes for it on TV — really is the best medicine

Welp, it finally got me. After two and a half years of avoiding it, my husband and I finally succumbed to COVID. We’re very late to the hell party; it feels almost silly to write about it, but here we are.

We figure we were exposed before we left Brooklyn to head to a wedding in Atlanta; it needed time to incubate and we got it five days after arriving. Maybe we got it on the plane. Maybe the wedding. Who knows. One thing’s for sure: The maskless are plentiful these days. 

Fortunately, before we fell ill, we had a fantastic weekend celebrating family and true love and indulging in breakfasts at the Flying Biscuit (as delicious as it sounds). The day before diagnosis my husband was woozy and then passed out asleep in a chair, as a few nieces and cousins huddled on the bed, pre-departure, watching Pitch Perfect. The very next morning, I was standing in the hotel’s empty bar, hunting down cups of coffee and a take-out bagel, prepping to head to the airport, when my husband called me on the phone from the room: “I’m positive.” A day later, so was I. We felt absolutely horrible — yes, there was the cough, sore throat, the absolutely skull-pounding headache, but the overall feeling of *ill* was what got me the most. 

I got my hands on some Paxlovid, and we signed up for another week at our hotel to quarantine. Ugh. Quarantine stays should be subsidized by the government somehow, reimbursed. I don’t know how traveling folks who don’t have a little room on their credit card — or a credit card at all — could possibly manage. I suppose they don’t.

The Paxlovid made me feel like I was propped up on stilts — the disease was somewhere, still hanging around waiting to topple me — but it knocked out the overwhelming body aches and 102-degree fever. Still, I needed a good distraction to get through the week. And I found one.

Hacking and bleary-eyed, I found solace in the summertime guilty pleasure that is Love Island. To be clear, my binge of choice is the UK version, not the slightly more puritanical and dopey US version (although this year they’ve allowed salty language. Whatevs.). It’s like a National Geographic expedition into multiple British accents and towns (Swansea! Liverpool! Thirsk?) And who could resist the twentysomething British love lingo (“She has good chat,” “Crack on,” “I need to get grafting”) peppered with terms that should have been retired a century ago (“Nice bird you’ve got there.”) On the show, couples compete to find love and win £50,000 while tempted by incoming “bombshells” and other tantalizing newcomers.

So as our dreary, freezingly air-conditioned hotel room quickly filled up with styrofoam containers and bags of trash  — we weren’t allowed to put anything outside the hotel door for fear of contamination — I slipped into a blur of Barbie-pink, yellow and aquamarine sets, neon signs that read “Thirsty,” and “Eat, Sleep, Crack on, Repeat” while ripped, tan bodies spilled over each other on an outdoor couch in Mallorca. My husband, who found solace in The Colosseum, a History Channel documentary about the rise and fall of the Roman empire, was only allowed one eyeroll in my direction, daily. Because really, weren’t we were more or less watching the same content, albeit 2,000 years apart?

Now, I’m no Love Island newbie: I’ve been watching since Hulu added the show to its library, and a few summers ago I went back and gobbled up every season since the 2015 debut. For the record, I have also been reading Octavia Butler’s Kindred this summer, so don’t think I’m completely devoid of taste, but I’ll do my best to defend this silly show. The main appeal: People actually fall in love and it’s wild to watch in real time. Like an arranged marriage with ridiculously attractive people. More than a handful have continued to ongoing partnerships, marriages, families and so forth. Whether you watch the show or not, you may hear the names Ekin Su and Davide (aka the self-named “Turkish Delight” and the “Italian Stallion”), the stand-out couple this season. A stupidly gorgeous duo whose relationship toggles from immediate spark to fiery argument and back and forth. The show’s finale was last night in the UK, but you can catch up on Hulu (and avoid the spoilers on Twitter).

Sure, many have deemed LI a “moral disgrace,” or “brain rot,” with writer after writer pretending they don’t love it anyway, but this 55-year-old has given in to the ridiculous fantasy/excellent distraction… and, yes, I am positive my love for the show has nothing to do with the fact that I was dosing Dayquil.

A Palate-Cleansing Playlist:

  1. The Brandi Carlile Tour: If you can catch it you must. She played with Joni Mitchell (😮) earlier in the tour; I’m seeing her with Allison Russell and Yola.
  2. Into the Woods has been extended on Broadway! Theater Geeks Unite.
  3. The Bear: Everyone talks about how good this family restaurant drama is. After one episode, I’m hooked. 
  4. Easy Beauty by Chloe Cooper Jones. TueNighter Kate Hanley recommended this book on GoodReads, “I love how this memoir focuses in on one particular year (or thereabouts) of the author’s life and weaves in earlier stories as needed to provide context — it’s not your typical time-ordered memoir. It’s more about one particular year of awakening.”
  5. Beyoncé’s Renaissance. Because Beyoncé. Maura Johnston calls it “a master class in the evolution of dance music.”

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