Welcome to a series where a millennial, a xennial and a baby boomer debate (and sometimes agree on) the issues that matter to you.
I’m still uncomfortable
It was my mom who suggested the restaurant, a casual but sit-down spot with indoor and outdoor seating.
I felt an immediate tension when she asked. I wanted to say yes; it was the easy choice, but it also made me uncomfortable. The thought of the restaurant’s crowded tables, with diners packed next to each other, made me queasy. Who could eat with all the potential virus-containing droplets in the air?
Still, I said yes. We sat at the restaurant, spaced out enough that my anxiety dissipated. This isn’t so bad, I thought.
But there are some lines I don’t think I can cross. I can’t imagine walking into a crowded bar right now. Whenever my boyfriend and I pass one along Fourth Street in St. Petersburg with patrons flowing out the door, we both wince.
It’s not judgment I feel. I completely sympathize with the desire to be in a crowded place with strangers you don’t know and music blasting, a beer in your hand. Each time I see a scene like that in a TV show, I feel nostalgic and bitter at the same time. But I haven’t considered going to a bar since Florida tentatively reopened. It’s not out of some sense of superiority. It’s just that they feel completely off limits to me. They might as well be closed.
I know there are plenty of millennials who feel the same as me. I see it, because I’m not bombarded with invitations to go hang out at bars or breweries. Most of my friends are still scared. It’s fine to scold, but it’s also important to realize that implicating an entire generation is painting a broad brush. Millennials are not the heroes or failures of coronavirus.
-Elizabeth Djinis, Times editorial writer
Disappointment is universal
I’ve decided the generations have more in common on this than we think. Disappointment is universal, and how we react to it makes all the difference.
Have you ever promised something to, say, a 6-year-old, only to have that promise fall apart? Rain falls on their pool day, a friend cancels, a goldfish dies. Did you then sit down and explain to the small child that disappointment and sadness are a part of life, that it’s OK to feel upset, and that things will get better?
It’s time we all had that talk with ourselves, instead of pushing through to make things happen when they’re not really safe yet — proms, graduations, trips, family parties, festivals, conventions.
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It stinks! In my late 30s, I’m at an age where fun, experiences and family bonding abound. Indeed, I have been disappointed to miss out on things during the coronavirus. I had to cancel a trip to Europe and lost money. My stepkid could not see friends on her birthday. Our family misses restaurants, parties, friends, festivals — even school and workplaces. My parents miss seeing their grandkids regularly.
The blow of defeat knows no age. But taking the same advice we give our kids might be the only way to get out of this sad cycle and back into the party.
-Stephanie Hayes, Times columnist
The merits of a fairly staid social life
Even in my youth, I was rarely the life of the party, but I learned through the years that a fairly staid social life has its merits. I’m less likely to show up on the police blotter, and there’s not much dirt for Times haters to dig up on me.
But another advantage has recently revealed itself. Staying away from crowded places makes you less likely to pick up a social disease — a category that now includes the Covid bug.
When our world shut down three months ago, it was primarily the elders who had the most to fear, and the virus remains much tougher on the old than the young. But as locks have come off the doors of restaurants, bars and clubs, the average age of new Covid patients keeps dropping. And in a few weeks, college students return to campus.
Living like an old person for a few weeks now might help you actually become one someday. The experience is not quite the same, but instead of a rowdy trivia night at the local bar, you could try Jeopardy with a six-pack and a socially restricted friend or two.
I’ll take “Infectious Diseases” for $1,000, Alex.
-Paul Tash, Times chairman and CEO