Do you feel like the last one on Earth social distancing?
Coronavirus fatigue is real, but we have to keep fighting.
A portrait of you declining party invitations.
A portrait of you declining party invitations. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Feb. 3

There’s a thing I noticed around pandemic day, er, six million. The pity invite.

Because each day is torment anew, people have maxed out on misery. They are having parties and group dinners and flying to Tulum for Instagram shots, as if nothing is wrong. Did we mention the Super Bowl is Sunday? I’m sure it’ll be fine!

But, okay. Say you are still, I don’t know, social distancing, because there is, I don’t know, a pandemic. To review, social distancing is an ancient practice that involves chanting, a mirror and the stems of dinosaur kale.

Maybe you are lucky enough to still have friends, but are nonetheless trying to flatten the curve (lol, remember that?). If so, you may have experienced the following type of polite invitation:

“We know you’re, like, social distancing, but we wanted you to know you’re welcome at the neighborhood salt block taste test. We want everyone to do what’s best for their family! But it will be hard to lick the salt block with the mask on, so we’re not wearing masks. No worries if you can’t come, due to your, um, social distance thing. We’ll miss you!”

It’s delivered with the inflection one uses when spotting an injured animal in the road. As if a freak tragedy has befallen only you, while everyone else has narrowly escaped. “The Jones family, well, they’re social distancing. Please see our GoFundMe to help them stop.”

If you have kids, you must then tell them: “I don’t know why all your friends are at the salt block lick, but we’re not, and that’s final.” It’s the tone my mom took when I asked to watch Beverly Hills 90210 in the third grade.

Here’s the disclaimer. No one is doing this perfectly. Who could possibly do a pandemic perfectly? Each day is a web of choices. We just got through the holiday COVID-19 spike, and now we are staring down the Big Game. Experts are worried about unchecked parties in homes and bars more than the event itself.

It’s impossible to act with consistency when the state’s enforcement amounts to letting people decide for themselves to lick a community salt block. In August (haha, we’re in hell!), I devoted this column space to acting with compassion, to understanding the risk mitigation around mental health, too.

But, dang! Seeing the swarms at parties lately and watching the virus mutate, it feels like we’re going to do this forever. Like trying to do the right thing is pointless, hopeless, and other adjectives that end in “less.” Funless? Colorless and odorless?

Maybe you have that feeling. Like you’re the last one turning down events while you wait for the vaccine. The last Miss Hannigan keeping kids out of slumber parties. The last one not wearing a mask as a chin warmer. The last one to sit outside at the coffee shop even though it’s “cold” (we’re in Florida, y’all!). Like you have given up so much to do your part, while others cannot be bothered to care.

You’re not alone. Hang in there, and keep fighting. Tell your kids they are leaders, not followers. Tell yourself the same. The end is in sight. It’s that tiny light in the distance, and you’re in it, boldly saying yes to a party again, one with unlimited chicken wings. But don’t lick the salt block. That was never a good idea.

Related: Read more columns from Stephanie Hayes

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