Sunday, November 28, 2021

Bathtubs, Boosters, and Bears, Omicron!! [A Holiday Update]

On November 24, 2021 I decided to get my fourth shot of the COVID19 vaccine.  The first two doses (Astra-Zeneca) were administered in a vaccine trial in November and December of 2020.  The next single shot (Johnson & Johnson) was given in May, 2021.  Did I medically need a fourth shot in order to have the maximal protection from COVID and its variants?  The answer involved a lot of math, a lot of probabilities, and a lot of maybes.  Ultimately I opted to receive the next dose (Pfizer) because it removed uncertainty, cleared up my ambivalence, and helped me to feel in control over what happens to my body. 

When I made this pre-Thanksgiving announcement on Facebook I received much support from family and friends.  One person, however, whom I would describe as vaccine ambivalent, privately reached out and asked, “So what does this mean?  That you’re going to keep getting booster shots over and over?” My answer:  YEAH!!  I will happily get COVID booster shots as long as it takes.  You’re talking to the same guy who regularly uses PrEP to prevent HIV and doxycycline to prevent STIs.  The idea of utilizing biomedical interventions to enhance my quality of life and reduce harm is hardly an unusual concept for me.

About 24 hours later media headlines started swarming around the World Health Organizations’s announcement of Omicron as a “COVID variant of concern.”   At the time of this writing, there is no clear evidence that Omicron is more likely to lead to illness than the other variants, nor how well the current vaccines protect from this new strain.  But I do know that having an additional booster shot offers me a way to feel proactive, responsible, and empowered about my pleasure and protection, in the midst of more panic and uncertainty. 

Damon in Mike Enders' Tub
This theme of seeking medical and mental safety in times of turbulence and trauma has come up frequently in my new “Tub Talks” series.  The idea of doing naked interviews in a bathtub came to me years ago, when I saw my buddy Mike Enders, aka as “The Accidental Bear” holding court in his tub in San Francisco.  I begged him to let me be part of his show, and we filmed a very fun episode in early 2018.  Mike was already moving beyond his bathtub to focus on animal activism by that point, and I thought eventually I wanted to host a similar type of forum for discussions, dialogues, and deeper lessons about resilience and hope. 

After finishing my 50 Lessons of 50 Series last Spring, I began planning  “Tub Talks With Damon" -
Kareem McJagger In The Tub
...featuring naked conversations with thought leaders, artists, healers, creators, bears, and people who just fascinate me.  All have generously shared experiences of vulnerability, as well as lessons learned from surviving pain.  Everyone who has visited my Tub has deepened my appreciation for overcoming obstacles, fighting to gain a sense of safety and control after dealing with traumatic setbacks, and using their experiences of adversity to help improve the lives of others. 

Daniel Nardicio In The Tub
A common thread that stands out after filming 26 episodes is how we are not going back to ‘normal’ in a post-COVID world.  That for many of us the goal is not returning to BC [Before COVID] status-quo, but going forward in a way that prioritizes gratitude, compassion, social justice, pleasure, connection, and science.  That in the next chapter we get to “be the change” we want to see, reject limited and ageist notions of desirability, resist "shoulds" that negatively impact how we perceive our bodies, challenge medical systems that focus on morality over medicine, fight against legal systems that diminish members of specific racial groups, live in the beauty of the now -- while simultaneously utilizing biomedical interventions to anticipate a healthier future. 

So when I walked out of the pharmacy with that fourth COVID vaccine dose in my arm,  with my upside-down Walgreens band-aid, I felt damned good.  I was participating in a movement of using harm-reduction, medicine, and compassion to protect myself and the people around me.  I made a rational decision with the best information available.  I will not be a victim of Delta, Omicron, nor the future Upsilon or Omega or whatever they sensationalize next.  I have no idea how much time I’ll get to live in this body, but I do know the experience of living here can be one of abundance, meaning, and fun...especially when one gets to talk to their friends and heroes naked in a bathtub. 

How are you taking care of your medical and mental health in a world of unknowns?  How do you reclaim safety in times of uncertainty?  What steps can you take to make this next year more meaningful and enjoyable than ever before?  I welcome your comments and considerations below.   

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist helping individuals and couples enjoy life with peace, purpose, and pleasure. His new series "Tub Talks With Damon" facilitates naked conversations about surviving trauma and gay men thriving while aging. His books "Absolutely Should-less" and "Rational Relating" help people experience connection with joy, serenity, and meaning. His work has been featured on CNN Health, The New York Times, MSNBC, USA Today and more. He can be reached at or 347-227-7707


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