Dear Kiki: So you’re thinking of popping your lockdown bubble

Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Kiki gets it. Spring has sprung after a long, lonely winter and you, reader, are tired and antsy. You’re vaxxed and ready to show the world your shine. But you’re also confused! You feel like someone with anxiety who just dropped a dose of ecstasy: truly desperate to interact but lacking the necessary skills. Rest easy, baby. Kiki’s got you. Here’s Dear Kiki’s Top Tips for Peopling Again!

Lycanthropy is all the rage. I mean, don’t go on a murderous rampage every full moon. (Please?) But do free yourself of any fucks to give about hair and the way you (or others) wear it. Haven’t shaved your legs or beard? Haven’t had your hair cut by anyone other than your spouse in 18 months? F U C K. I T. Enjoy how it feels in the spring breeze. And keep your judgments about other people’s choices to yourself.

Don’t be over-eager. Yeah, the fragrant flowers are alluring. The sunshine is blasting you with delightful vitamin D. It probably won’t snow again ’til at least September (knock on wood!). But take a breath. Slow down. You don’t want to break yourself! It’s like an epidemic in the ER! (Wait: Too soon?)

Never be the first one to let go of a hug. The world is touch-starved right now. That’s fine in Europe or wherever, but here in the U.S., especially in the Midwest, touch-starved people aren’t sure how to get their fix. Hugging can be hesitant. It doesn’t need to be. Pay attention to the cues you’re given, and ask permission before diving in: But once you are a go, treat it like a hug from your teenage child who you’re never sure when you’ll get a hug from again. Don’t let go. Relax. Rest in each other.

Do a self-assessment of the traits you picked up, and determine which ones to keep: Dance like no one’s watching? Eat like no one’s watching? You’re a new person after a year in near-isolation. Learn yourself before you share yourself. If you like some aspects of the “new you,” don’t just slough them off in deference to familiar normalcy. If you’ve picked up some bad habits? Use this in-between time to unlearn them.

If you want to start dating again, start NOW, while things are still in flux. Once we return to “normal,” it’ll be hard to tell who were the deniers and the anti-maskers and the maskholes. We have easy-peasy, no-fuss ways of getting at someone’s values on a first date: Ask their vax status. Then, if you’re comfortable with their answer, take them to a crowded, outdoor event like a film screening or farmers market. See if they still wear a mask (which, as of this writing, the CDC still recommends in that situation). You’ll know more about their views on the world in one date than you normally would in five.

When gathering with friends, remember: No one else knows how to people anymore, either. Your friends aren’t some social savants who are coming out of this with their eloquence unscathed. There will be awkward silences. There will be runaway ramblings. You’ll try to tell each other the same stories about your lives that you’ve already read about on Facebook. It’s cool! Give yourself the same grace you give them. To make things smoother, don’t get together “for drinks” or “just to hang.” Pick a commonly enjoyed activity, like trivia nights or board games, that can take center stage away from your awkwardness. And pick something with a relatively fixed time span, so there’s less uncertain lingering.

Live your values. Yep. All of them. Life is too short not to be your best self. And the one thing we’ve all learned over the course of the past year is that ultimately, we have to learn to live with ourselves — and the choices we make. Don’t let your friends convince you that something you think is important isn’t. Fight for what you believe in, and find the friends who will fight by your side. I do believe that we can all see more clearly now, and while that may damage some relationships in the short term, at the end of the day the ones that count will be stronger.

The sticky, hidden truth is, it’s not that we don’t know how to people now. It’s that we never truly knew how to people before. By and large, we acted like we had forever. We prioritized “getting along” over deep understanding. Take this chance to pop that paradigm. Enter back into your relationships bold and guileless, and you’ll find that they’re better for it.

xoxo, Kiki

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 294.

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