I have a confession to make: It’s been less than a month since I cleared the two-week mark after the second Pfizer jab that rendered me CDC approved to hang out with other vaccinated people, and I’m already so socially exhausted that I canceled plans to spend tonight lying motionless under my duvet watching The Comeback. Am I…broken?
In the first stretch of COVID-19 quarantine, when I was alone 24/7 and resorting to Zoom hangs to glimpse my friends and family, I told myself that if and when the world opened back up, I would never let myself be lonely again. In that imagined future, I vowed to fill my days with boisterous park hangs and my nights with outdoor bar crawls, fully forgetting to take into account the fact that I would be firmly in my late 20s and all too well acquainted with the comfort of a plan-free night. Reemergence anxiety is real, but I can’t even say that I’m anxious or stressed about the prospect of social interaction; I’m just tired.
Rather than accepting that there’s something wrong with my newfound inability to hang, I would like to posit the following: What if our pre-COVID expectations for how long a social event should run were just miscalibrated? Back in the day, I regularly met up with friends for pre-drinks, then actual drinks, then dinner, then dancing, then drunk 4 a.m. cheese fries, all of which culminated in me spending the entire next day feeling like I’d just run a 10K across hot coals. Even lower-key hangouts tended to last the entire afternoon and well into the evening, leaving me precious little time to tend to my hobbies of lighting overpriced incense in my bedroom and staring at Twitter.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m thrilled beyond belief to have some semblance of my social life back, and if there’s one thing the last year has taught me, it’s that a computer screen is no replacement for the feeling of actually spending time with my friends IRL. Still, I think there should be an informal time limit on hangouts as we all adjust to living in the world again, and my proposal involves a two-hour cap. That number might sound arbitrary, but think about it: Two hours is enough time to get coffee and stroll in the park, try on clothes together at a vintage store, catch up over several rounds of drinks, or grab dinner (assuming you pick a restaurant without too much of a wait).