Socializing (or Not)

The irony of the current stay-at-home situation is that this year, I was really planning on being more social. During the holidays, I was reading about the Danish concept of “hygge” (or, if you’re Norwegian, kos, though there are slightly different connotations). A lot of it is about coziness, a way of making dark, cold winters feel more pleasant by creating a contrast — candles, blankets, fuzzy socks, etc., while it’s cold and snowy or rainy outside. But there’s also a social element, getting together with a few good friends for dinner, games, puzzles, or just conversation. When it’s not winter, the same concept applies, but for hikes, cookouts, campfires, picnics, etc.

Reading that made me realize that it’s not that I’m anti-social. It’s that most of my social life is built around activities I don’t really enjoy. They involve big groups of 10 to as many as 30 (sometimes more) people getting together. Smaller conversation groups form, but that means there are a lot of simultaneous conversations going on so that the environment is noisy and chaotic. These are generally geeky folk, so they tend to be very passionate, and sometimes loud, about their interests. I literally have nightmares about being in this kind of environment. It’s no wonder that I flee fairly quickly, am utterly drained afterward, and dread the next gathering.

One-on-one get-togethers can be equally draining in a different way, depending on who the other person is and what the relationship is like. You have to be “on” the entire time instead of being able to sit back for a moment and let other people interact. According to the hygge book I read, 3-4 is considered optimum, and that makes sense. With that few people, there’s only one conversation going on at a time, so there’s less chaos, but the social interaction is spread over more people, so it’s not as draining as being with just one person and having to be more “on.”

So, my plan for the year was to cultivate more relationships and smaller groups or to do other social activities that work for me. I had a list of upcoming events I was going to try to get groups together to do. It’s the season for outdoor concerts and festivals. There were classic films at the old movie theater in a nearby town that would have made a good girls’ night out. I was getting my house in order so that I could host a few people at a time. I’d even reached out to a friend to go attend an event together. I was making progress.

And then the world shut down, so I’m back to my normal mode of not going anywhere or doing anything. I suppose when things start to ease up, those quiet evenings at home with a few friends who are also taking a lot of precautions will be about the only things we can do. It will be a long time before we feel safe in restaurants and movie theaters, and big gatherings of more than 10 people will be a bad idea for a while, but we might be able to manage a dinner and movie night at home. I’ve even found myself interested in games, and I’ve never been a gamer of any sort. By the time that sort of socializing becomes an option, I’ll have my house and patio really in order for hanging out with a few people.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the solitude, with the occasional phone call or video chat.

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