(Me, before my first post-vax night out. I’ve done my hair, but I don’t know what to wear).
Over on Medium the other day, writer, Will Leitch, wrote some helpful tips for reentering the world as we get vaccinated and begin to leave our cocoons again. Maybe you are feeling zero anxiety about said re-entrance (good for you!), or maybe the thought of being in groups of more than your cat and your spouse or partner or housemate gives you hives. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, I thought talking about the ways we’re reentering the world and the different feelings we have around this next phase of life would be helpful. Here’s how it’s going for me:
As a parent of kids who aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine and likely won’t be until the fall, my reentry into the world looks a little bit different than someone who has older kids or no kids at all (or, I guess, someone who isn’t too concerned about their kids getting Covid, which is a surprisingly large percentage of parents). Since getting vaccinated, there have been my solo experiences in the world, my experiences with Drew, and my still-limited-but-becoming-a-little-less-so experiences with the whole family.
Favorite post-vax solo experience: I finally used a gift certificate for a massage that I got for my birthday in SEPTEMBER and it was amazing! I didn’t have much anxiety about this at all, especially knowing my massage therapist was fully vaccinated as well, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and am looking forward to splurging on another massage in the next couple months. My massage therapist and I did chat more than I’ve chatted during massages in the past and I think that was probably because I was so excited to be in a room with another person whom I don’t live with. The massage therapist, to her credit, did not seem to mind (and also seemed pretty thrilled to be moving into post-vax reality). A++ – I would recommend!
Favorite post-vax couple experience: When our longtime babysitter, a 65-year-old grandmother who has watched my kids since Jackson was four months old, became eligible for the vaccine back in February, I called her the morning appointments opened and signed her up for her first shot the same week I got mine. She and Drew and I all became fully vaccinated at the same time, and so I felt comfortable having her babysit the kids so Drew and I could get out for our first night out together in 14 months. The kids were so thrilled to spend indoor time with someone other than us, and we were over-the-moon to be out, without them, among other adults who were also without children.
My biggest anxiety about the evening was what to wear. First, almost nothing I own fits me anymore after a year+ of carb-loading and lounging in sweats. Second, like, what do people even wear out these days? I don’t know! After trying on a bunch of stuff, I opted for all black (slimming!), including a pair of satin-y elastic waist pants that I dressed up with some heeled boots. I guess it worked okay, but I really need to add a few more options to my wardrobe if I’m going to continue doing more of this going out at night. I kept mentally taking notes on how people were dressed, and maybe it’s a symptom of being 44 or maybe I’m just out-of-touch after so much isolation, but I still don’t have a good handle on how to dress myself for anything other than, like, hanging out in a playground or on my couch, which is… sad, and something to work on.
We started the evening at our friends’ bar in Soho – sitting in the built-for-the-pandemic outdoor seating. Our friends, also just vaccinated, joined us for a bit and we caught up on how our year had been. It was really cathartic to talk with friends about how scary last spring was in NYC and how nervous we’ve been about kids going into school buildings (we’ve all kept our kids home) and when to hug again. I’m not even a big hugger and I missed hugging friends. I did notice that I talked a lot and wondered if I was being boring, but I’ll be honest: I had those same social anxieties before the pandemic, so I’m not sure the two are connected. At any rate, the anxiety eased as the evening – and the wine – progressed. All in all, I give this night out in the world a solid A- (the minus is for the sheer expense – babysitter fee, cab fare, dinner and drinks; it’s kind of a shock to the system to spend as much in one night as you’ve spent on take-out for the past month for your family of four).
Favorite post-vax family experience: Last week Drew and the kids and I took advantage of two out of four of us being vaccinated, and we made the cross-country flight to Missouri to see my fully-vaccinated parents for the first time in 15 months. I actually had a lot of anxiety about this experience because it involved risk for the kids that I wasn’t completely comfortable with. But weighing those risks – which are much lower now than they were just a few months ago – against the benefits as well as against the reality that it will likely be many months before the kids are fully vaccinated and I’m not sure waiting until then to see their only living grandparents is best (the grandparents coming to us wasn’t an option), it felt like a risk worth taking. We took lots of precautions both en route and while at my parents’, and I think we made a decision that was good for all of us. I’m not going to recommend everyone hop on a plane or go on a long-distance vacation with their unvaccinated kids – obviously, this is a personal decision and there are data and opinions and plenty of articles that support any choice you might make – but the joy it brought everyone in the family to be reunited again after such a long time was pretty great.
Next up, I’m taking two solo trips to reunite with friends I haven’t seen since before the pandemic. Both trips will be to places I’ve never visited before, and so I’m super excited not only to see long-lost friends (one of whom will be celebrating a 50th birthday), but also to experience new-to-me places as well. I have zero anxiety about these trips except… ugh, what should I wear? What do people wear to the beach these days (I’m kidding… sort of).
What about you? How have your re-entries into the world been going? Have you experienced any social anxiety?