Stephanie Hayes

You’ve been fully vaccinated, made a brilliant caption for your Band-Aid photo, endured any ickies and come out the other side. You’re ready to parrrrrrrty! Locate the lampshades, for they are headbound!

Except, what if you aren’t? What if the thought of returning to social obligations creates a pit, like a hamster burrowing into your small intestine? What if you have secretly enjoyed a respite from gripping the same beer for three hours inside someone’s house?

Information abounds about pandemic psychology. A recent New York Times story was a real humdinger, explaining that the malaise many are feeling is called “languishing.” You don’t have to scream at me, OK?

Last June, Time published a piece on “re-entry anxiety.” That story had more to do with the mortal fear of venturing out in wide-open states. But it touched on the awkwardness of socializing after being cooped up. Plenty of other stories have explored our biological imperative to fight loneliness.

All true! But there is another category: just don’t wanna.

First, let’s examine what we can do, per government guidelines. If you are fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you can partake in life using caution, with the exception of medium-large gatherings and being unmasked inside with high-risk people.

That won’t last forever. But why not continue blaming the CDC for cancellations? Surely, it won’t mind, the way a parent benevolently offers to be the bad guy when high schoolers head off to a party.

Shall we practice?

“The housewarming sounds fun, but the Centers for Disease Control recommends I stay home and watch season 2 of Narcos.”

“The Centers for Disease Control is being a real pill right now. I can’t wait to move out of the CDC’s house. Sorry to miss.”

“Ugh, the Centers for Disease Control is picking me up. Something about guidelines that are evidence-based and free of politics, and how this party does not qualify because Rob is over there talking about trickle-down.”

Or! Instead of using a government agency as a scapegoat, consider up-front schedule management. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we can get by with less. Only agree to things you will reasonably stick to.


“I would love to come to the pig roast, but my interaction skills are rusty. I fear I would say something I can’t take back, keeping me up all night replaying haunting conversations.”

“A wedding? Aw! Do you really want me there, or would you rather save $30 on chicken marsala? I would be happy to send a gift.”

“Wow, a plus one for the Academy Awards? Yes, I will schedule this.”

Finally, give yourself grace and transparency. Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

I leave you with wisdom from modern-day sages, the Olsen sisters. Marvel star Elizabeth Olsen recalled the best advice she got from her sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, by the way, can only be reached with a mighty medallion and luckdragon named Falkor.

In an interview with Sam Jones, the younger Olsen stated:

“Something my sisters always say … it’s that, ‘No’ is a full sentence.”

It’s so beautiful. Go forth and decline.

— Stephanie Hayes is a columnist at the Tampa Bay Times in Florida. Follow her on Twitter: @StephHayes and Instagram: @StephHayes. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.