“So! Any big plans this summer?”
In a normal year, this is a pretty straight-forward question. Are you taking a vacation, or selling a limb to pay for summer camp for your kids, or just hanging out in the backyard of the home you’re already paying for and inviting friends over for semi-expertly grilled foodstuffs? But since March 2020, nothing at all has seemed normal, and after a summer of mostly hiding in the house and trying not to contract a deadly virus, the very idea of plans that involve breathing around people you don’t live with seems…weird.
And yet – Quarantine Summer 2020 has, for many people, begotten Wilding Out Summer 2021, as isolated and now hopefully vaccinated souls try to make up for lost time by doing all the things. Taking all the trips. Going to all the crowded clubs. Eating at all of the buffets. DOING ALL OF THE THINGS. (Admission: I spent last summer hanging out safely and hermit-like on my porch in West Palm Beach, then moving my entire life to Baltimore, where I spent the rest of the summer hanging out safely and hermit-like in my friends’ guest house until we bought our own house and I hermitted there until my kid started school. So I was like a travel hermit.)
Suddenly, plans are a thing that you’re expected to have again, and not something you didn’t have to have…nay, were obligated not to have, because safety and stuff. I am a person who loves having plans – I may be naturally obnoxiously social. But the very real state of the world, virus and violence-wise, as well as turning 50 and being delighted about not having to do anything if I didn’t want to, made me reconsider. There’s a pressure that comes from suddenly being invited to do things – inside, even – and not being able to use “Y’all know I don’t breathe on people” as an excuse.
I mean, you still can use whatever reason you want to not go anywhere you don’t want to go, because nobody gets to tell you what to do. You’re a grown adult and “No” is still a complete sentence. But it’s not even about not wanting to go to specific things, but getting used to the fact that you’re allowed to go anywhere. I had kind of gotten used to assuming that all the parties and Happy Hours I was invited to would be on Zoom, so the first time I got an invitation that didn’t include a link, I was confused. You mean I’m supposed to leave my house for this?
So when I was asked about plans, I really had to think about it. We do have a few plans – I managed to pile together enough pennies to pay for a week of baseball camp and then theater camp for The Kid, and we are taking a week’s staycation during the week of theater camp in a nearby city we stay in all the time, but this time in a hotel I actually paid for in advance and didn’t try to Hotwire the day before. I mean, I actually PLANNED it.
But I’m not afraid to say that a large part of the summer is going to involve sitting on my front stoop writing pop culture stories for various publications while my kid plays with neighborhood friends down the street. I’m going to train for a half-marathon while my knee yells at me and I try not to notice the “You go girl” responses from well-meaning fellow runners surprised by a larger woman running. I am going to create new potato salads. I am going to watch Patrick Swayze movies. I am going to change up my wine of the month selection.
And then I’m going to plan not to plan, unless I decide I want to.