Imagine this. You and your spouse, fully vaccinated, invite another fully-vaccinated couple for dinner. You’re excited. You haven’t had an evening like this in over a year. You plan your menu, you shop for groceries, you pick out your wine. All is set. “We’re back in business,” your spouse says — meaning you are on the road to normal.
Company arrives. There is glee all around. Your guest, says, “I never thought I’d be so happy to have dinner with friends.” You say, with utmost sincerity, “I know. Who would have thunk?” Now you are all sitting at the table. You have no need for masks. You aren’t worrying whether the air conditioning or heating systems have been cleaned. All is good. Dinner is great. At least the cooking skills haven’t atrophied.
About one hour into the evening, you look at your spouse because fatigue has started to set in. You have that knowing look that he gets right away. You say to your friends, “Let’s sojourn to the living room. We can have dessert on the sofa.” “Great idea,” your friend says because if truth be told, she is tired too.
Now you are all sitting in the living room. Everyone is a bit spent. You’ve been together for a whopping 1.5 hours. You’re all caught up. Your world wasn’t that eventful anyway, so it wasn’t that difficult.
Too soon to end the evening, someone suggests that you watch something. “Well, that’s an idea,” you say. After all, it won’t require more conversation. You can be together but not interact because you’ve already done a lot of — well over one hour’s worth anyway.
You pick one of the many 28-minute episodes of a comedy series. This requires conversation and comparisons, sharing your thoughts, and finalizing some choices. Now you’re down to either Schitt’s Creek, Kim’s Convenience, or Cuckoo, and the selection is made.
After the episode, everyone starts yawning, and the boldest of the group says, “Let’s call it a night. This was great.” Everyone is relieved because the night happened, friends partook in conversation and food, inside and unmasked. But in all of two hours, you felt you had run a marathon.
It’s curious that during the pandemic, we were focused on our decreased physical fitness. For many of us, the house is not the gym, no matter what equipment we have. But we never considered another lack of fitness: Social fitness.
We will need to build up our stamina in order to have sustained in-person conversations, over meals, without the need to retreat to stream a show. The show gets us over the hump so that the evening can span a respectable length. Sounds silly, right? But not really.
While I resist offering suggestions because I know no more than the socially fatigued person next to me, I will hesitantly suggest the following:
Be kind to yourself: By that, I mean, maybe do tapas meals or dessert instead of dinner.
Set small social goals: Imagine small moments of laughter or a walk with dogs because everyone has dogs these days. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can follow with dessert. It’s just the right social size.
Be realistic: I spent years being fit, and now I’ve had a setback that I am ready to reverse over time. The same will be true for entertainment with friends.
Accept change: Hugs might not be back for a really long time. As someone who loves to hug, this is a loss. I can accept it, though, if most of the rest of my world is back.
Last week I took a lovely walk with two different friends, on back-to-back days. They both described their first dinner where they entertained friends (and not each other). They both noted the same thing — ”So much fun until we felt exhausted. How do we end this?” The guests stayed too long. They probably wanted to leave, too but didn’t know how to extricate.
I wonder if Jane Fonda ever did any exercise videos on social fitness. Or maybe there’s an opportunity for creators of the “Dummies” series to remind us of some basics. Anyone out there? Help!