I’m vaccinated and so are nearly all my friends. Why is it still so hard to get everyone together?

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

I was first in line for a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as I qualified. My biggest reason for getting it was I missed my friends. I live alone, I’m single, and am so ready to hang out with them again in person after a lonely and boring year.

Nearly all my friends have gotten their vaccines. But no one wants to do anything! It’s like everyone is stuck in a rut and also still totally freaked about COVID. I’ve tried suggesting brunch, coffee, beers, one-on-one meet-ups — everyone always has an excuse. And before you go there, this isn’t an issue of them not wanting to, I truly believe that, because they keep planning Zoom cocktail hours and virtual game nights. They just don’t seem to be able to leave their houses!

I get it. I’ve heard horror stories about COVID side effects and lingering after-effects. But I followed the rules, I got my vaccine, and now I’m so ready to reconnect with my friends. These people have had the vaccine; they should feel safer getting back out into the world than they obviously do. How can I move things along?

Wanda says:

Returning to once-normal activities like in-person dining and group-get togethers can feel a bit dangerous, like after driving with seatbelts on for so long, we’re being told to unbuckle and floor it, even if we have had a vaccine. Fact is, we’ve adopted new norms these past many months, with social distancing and mask wearing. These were hard habits to form, and for many, they will be hard habits to break.

There are many reasons your vaccinated friends may be slow on the invitation uptake. For starters, many have reinvented or rediscovered the joy of spending quality time at home. Others have realized the amount of money they can save by limiting recreation and outings. And yes, there’s the COVID-19 factor, that your friends may remain nervous, anxious or skeptical when it comes to vaccine efficacy, evidence of virus variants, or other factors that have eroded their will to go out and about.

I could give you advice on how to get your social posse back together again; instead, I challenge you to show patience and compassion. When COVID-19 slammed into us more than a year ago, things didn’t change overnight. Businesses were affected in waves. Public health guidance matured along with our understanding of the virus. Emerging from this pandemic will play out similarly; it won’t end all at once, and we won’t all be ready to go out and do all the things at the same time. Your friends have their own forward paths and right now your best bet is to meet them somewhere along their way, instead of trying to drag them forward.

Wayne says:

If your friends won’t leave their respective homes, don’t settle for meeting them somewhere along the way — meet them all the way and start pitching hangout sessions at their places. They can be simple and small, and you can even bring takeout from the place you probably would have eaten out at had they left their homes.

Sure, it’s not the buzz of the bar and restaurant scene that you clearly miss so much. Yeah, there may be significant others and kids and pets distracting the vibe at the house. And it’s certainly not like getting the whole crew back together for a big night out on the town — whoop whoop! But it’s a heck of a lot better than a Zoom happy hour. Can’t get a hello hug at one of those. And it’s better than not seeing them at all because you’re being pushy and stubborn.

And if you’re still craving that sense of fun that comes with going out to have a drink and dinner at an old favorite spot, why not go solo? Seems lonely? Then sit at the bar and talk the bartender’s ear off. I bet they’ve missed talking to random strangers, too. That may scratch your social itch, to some extent, and certainly supply you with some real world intel to share with your friends on the levels of normalcy and safety you experienced, which hopefully will be positive and be the news they need to hear to move forward and join you some night.

[I had a great friend group before the pandemic. After a year in isolation, I wonder if any of it will be left.]

[My friends and I decided to split a vacation rental, but everyone bailed. Now I’m stuck with the bill.]