Most social obligations are best left in the Before Times.
In my early twenties, my friends started calling me “The Bailer”. I was infamous for making plans and then canceling the day before. Even then, I knew it was irritating and ungenerous behavior. But I made the plans with the best intentions: I love my friends! I want to see their faces! This event of spoken words in a damp, low-ceiling bar sounded like fun when you told me about it three weeks ago!
About 24 hours before many social outings, I started to feel sweaty and inert. After a long day of working in an office I often felt drained of human touch and all I would like to do is buy a huge burrito in the place near my apartment, come home, take my pants off and eat it in privacy while watching reality TV. After a few years of disappointing my friends at the last minute, I learned that it is much nicer and less stressful for everyone involved to be honest with myself – and my friends – about what I’m doing. would actually introduce myself.
I started to evaluate what I really liked to do and what I liked about interacting with friends. I didn’t like standing for long periods of time, for almost all reasons. I didn’t like standing in line for food. I didn’t like anything that included the word “networking”. I liked having a drink or dinner somewhere we could really talk, or lounging in someone’s living room, or going to a party if there were a lot of people I knew there and a big one. living room.
Having kids at 30 was a great excuse to be the hermit I naturally am, and it also helped clarify my socialization needs even more. I was both more tired but also more hungry for an adult conversation. I opted for even more small group socializing without my daughters, and when I was with them I experienced the joy of loud dinners with a separate table for the kids. I learned the invaluable skill of carrying on conversations through multiple interruptions.
During the pandemic, I added a few other types of socializing to my repertoire, including outdoor walks, like I’m an idiot on an Aaron Sorkin TV show. Although some pandemic behavior comes easily to me, because I hate leaving my home, this year of forced isolation has been depressing, and even a lock-up like me has missed human contact with people I’m not related to. .
That doesn’t mean I’ll be coming to your spoken word performance in the future. I’m still strapped for time on this deadly reel, and imagine I’ll be reverting to my previous socializing preferences.
While there are obviously certain obligations that you come forward to because you love and honor your friends and family even if you don’t want to attend, I invite you to find out what it is that you actually love about seeing. people in “After”. Especially now that people are making plans with frantic abandon, saying yes to all kinds of activities without a second thought because they are so hungry to socialize. Yes to this group sound bath! Yes to wine cellar tasting! Yes to the morning rave! Oh honey, no. No no.
Be honest with yourself. If you like the energy of a large crowd, say no to this intimate café and counter with a trip to a concert. If you hate going out, invite people to come.
Tell people the real reasons you’re saying no for the things you’re saying no to. This has two benefits: It will give you deeper intimacy with friends who will know you for the real crank that you really are. And that will mean that they will stop inviting you to things that you really don’t like to do. My friends don’t call me The Bailer anymore, because now I always introduce myself.
Jessica Grose is NYT Parenting columnist and reporter. She is working on a book called “Almighty and Utterly Useless: Creating the Ideal American Mother”.