Seven Things We Should All Prepare for as We Re-Enter the World

It's almost time, you guys. The time that some of us (myself, really) thought would happen about three weeks after March 9, 2020, is finally here. We're about to go back to "normal." 

There's a lot that I miss about normal. But there are some things I'm a little apprehensive about too. As someone who functions pretty well in society given that I am a baseline 6 out of 10 on the socially awkward scale, there are a lot of situations that I've been able to just straight-up avoid in the last year that I'm not particularly excited to get back to. And given that I am deeply out of practice, I imagine those situations are going to be a lot more awkward.  

So, if you're like me and like to pre-obsess about the social mistakes you're going to make, join me in a little visualization session as we prepare for the cringey moments we're about to experience anew. 

What are we doing here? Handshake? Hug? Raising our hands as though we're going to shake hands, deciding that would be weird, and doing a little wave from one foot away? 

This is the internal monologue that goes through my head literally every time I see another human being. Nothing made me happier this year than walking into public spaces and seeing signs that said, "No shaking hands," because it was like, "Well phew, that's just off the table."

Not only do I imagine shaking hands will come back, but now there are even more options for saying hello and they're weirder. Can we all agree to never do the elbow bump again? I don't think anyone actually did that unless they were a morning TV news anchor doing a performative demonstration of how to greet someone. But all those "Here are ways to safely say hello during a pandemic" are still going to be floating around, so we all need to brace ourselves for the fact that the first 20 seconds of seeing anyone is going to be really awkward while we collectively sort this out. Lucky for me, I've been practicing that awkwardness my whole life so I am very well prepared. 

In the past year, have you had the experience of watching a movie of people in a crowded setting and feeling tremendous anxiety? Like, "Get out of that room, girl! People are breathing everywhere! Behind you! There's someone within six feet!" energy while watching a romantic comedy?

It's going to feel weird to actually be around people again in crowded settings, but I think that anxiety will be temporary. Remember how weird it was to wear a mask for the first time? We're a lot more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for

I'm willing to admit that this one might just be me. But has anyone else really taken advantage of the whole mask situation to just...get weird? Not worry about food in your teeth, eat tons of garlic and then just heading out into the world (although then you kinda have to live with your own breath, so I only did this one time), and recite your grocery list quietly, but definitely out loud, to yourself at the store? I have done all of these things, and I'm a little worried that I'm not going to stop right away. 

I've been guilty of fantasizing about post-pandemic life and running out to do ALL THE THINGS, but even I know that's going to last for about two weeks, max. Pretty quickly, we'll get back to trying to duck out of things and feeling "peopled out," which seems crazy now but we should give ourselves a little grace when it happens. It's OK to identify that the same "mandatory fun" activities are still not fun and maybe now we'll feel a little more empowered to just say no to them. 

I took my dog to the vet the other day and viscerally recoiled at the coffee pot in the waiting room - simply because it was so weird to me to offer something that many people would touch. Remember bowls of nuts at bars? It is wild that those used to just...exist out there.

I'm not a germaphobe, my kids' immune systems are built on touching things that other people touch (OK, if I'm being honest, they're really built on licking things that other people touch but I don't want you to judge me), but it's still going to take me a looooooooong time before I re-acclimate to communal food or drink areas. 

 When you're out in public after this, and you see a kid having a total meltdown, or not listening to their parents at all, or just...being feral, keep in mind that child might not have been in public for a year. And if we think this is all weird and overwhelming, imagine what that kid is going through.

But for my part, I'm probably going to keep this whole "mommy goes to the store alone" thing going for longer, so when you see my adult children doing their own spazzy version of Supermarket Sweep in a Giant Eagle in about 15 years, just keep in mind that they've literally never been to a store before because I used that time for "self-care."

Social media has been a blessing and a curse during this weird period of our lives. It may not be the best or healthiest way to connect with people, but it has also been the only way to connect with people. One effect of that is that I think it's making all of us a lot judgier. It's way easier to judge someone and their actions when you don't talk to them personally, and also when we're on high alert about potential threats to our safety. It's a natural human reaction, but if we don't take it down a notch we're all going to be just the worst.  

Some people are going to be really excited about getting back to pre-pandemic stuff. Some people want to wait it out a bit longer. That's all, according to what I can glean from the CDC, perfectly fine. 

As we all re-emerge, we're going to have to remember how to relate to each other as full people, recognizing that other people have made different choices not because they're reckless, but because it made sense for them. And we're going to have to tone down the judgement when our friend reaches for the open bowl of mixed nuts on the bar like a f***ing psycho who never watched Contagion and has apparently been in a coma for the past year because ARE YOU SERIOUS??? 

See? That is what I mean by overly judgmental. Now if you'll excuse me, I clearly have some things to work on...


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