Socializing is Awkward Right Now. So am I.

I had a busy social calendar last weekend and it was both wonderful and weird. The weather was absolutely splendid here in Chicago—sunny, 70s, low humidity. A perfect summer weekend for meeting friends and enjoying the city. Yet, a dark shadow loomed over all our fun plans. COVID-19 is on the rise here in Chicago, just like pretty much everywhere else in the country. I’m fully vaccinated, and for a short blissful period before the Delta variant kicked in, I felt bullet proof. Now I’m not as secure. I’m not so worried about catching Covid, but I am worried about spreading it. There are a lot of mixed messages about what’s safe to do right now. Things are fully open while enforcement of masks and vaccines is spotty. It makes it hard to know how to behave in social situations.

Greetings are the first challenge, and I was all over the place this weekend. I hugged a complete stranger hello and waved from a distance to a dear friend I haven’t seen in two years. Eek. Neither felt appropriate.

Conversation is tricky too. The last year and a half haven’t been easy, and people have experienced real hardships. I want to be upbeat and positive, but not acknowledging the difficulties of the pandemic and how it may have impacted our friends is plain insensitive. Striking the right balance between being celebratory (we’re together again! we’re out!) and being supportive of job/health/family problems requires solid listening skills and compassion.

Socializing is tiring. I don’t know about you, but the relative quiet and isolation of the pandemic has left me seriously out of shape for hanging out. Don’t get me wrong, friends, I want to connect! But going out in busy public spaces can be overwhelming. There are so many bodies, so much noise, so many interactions—it’s exhausting. If you see my eyes glaze over or I run out of things to say, you’ll know I’ve hit my limit.

Here are a couple suggestions to make things less awkward:

  • Keep it outside. Summer is perfect for dining al fresco, enjoying parks and outdoor concerts. Even the dreaded Delta variant doesn’t spread well in fresh air.
  • Patronize indoor places that only admit vaccinated people. On Saturday, we went to Winter’s Jazz Club, which required proof of vaccination and therefore could operate at capacity. How fun it was to be part of a fully vaccinated full house listening to incredible music.
  • Make it short and sweet. If your social endurance is weak like mine, consider brunch, coffee, or a trip to the farmers market. These are all fun ways to catch up with friends and only last an hour or so.

The Jeremy Kahn Quartet with Angel Spiccia performing to an all vaccined crowd Saturday night at Winter’s Jazz Club.

I hope things get back to normal soon, but in the meantime I’m masking up indoors, enjoying the outdoors and cutting myself some slack when it comes to being an inept socializer. We’re all going through it, right? My friends mean more to me than ever, but we have to be especially careful right now. And I can always put more solo events in my future!

You can read more about that here:

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