Over the past month or so, my friends have been going back out to the bars a lot. They often invite me, but I always decline. I'm fully vaccinated, but I'm just not ready to mingle with a bunch of strangers yet — especially drunk ones. How do I keep my friends and find the courage to go out again?
Not-So Socialite (female, 24)
Dear Not-So Socialite,
The world has been a pretty scary place for the past 15 months. Now that COVID-19 restrictions are starting to be lifted, some people are ready to whip off the mask and dance in the streets while others are still hesitant to leave the house. Both reactions are perfectly fine. Last time I checked, there was no handbook for how to get back to normal after a pandemic, so you can write your own rules.
Be honest with your friends about why you haven't been feeling so social. Let them know you need their help getting your going-out groove on again and you want them to keep inviting you. It can be a drag to always get turned down, so assure them that you'll say yes sooner or later. Why not make a pact and promise to buy them a round of drinks on your first night out?
In the meantime, think of things you can do with your pals that don't involve going to places with close-proximity people. Have a get-together at your house. Pack up some snacks and drinks and go to the beach. Thankfully, it's summertime, and there are plenty of things to do outside. When you're ready to venture back into the bar scene, head out on a weeknight to a place that might not be super busy. Somewhere with outdoor seating might be best for dipping your toe back in.
Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. If you don't feel comfortable doing something just yet, don't do it. There's no rush. Your friends — and the bars — will be there when you're ready.
Good luck and God bless,