By Mary Lynn Bruny

We were all in our homes for a long time during COVID quarantining. We thought that when the floodgates opened again, we would all just zip back into our old socializing lifestyles. But like everything else that has gone on in the past many months, we are experiencing some unexpected surprises. Have you felt a wee bit of socialization reentry stress? Answer these questions to assess your status:

Do you find that you feel naked without your mask on when in crowds of people? Do you define crowds of people as more than two?

Have you discovered you completely forget how to make small talk? Does it feel like your brain and your mouth are no longer connected when you are face to face with a human with whom you do not live? Is your brain flipping through subjects like the weather, the price of gas or the shortage of rental cars, but is confused as to how to progress and make actual conversation?

Do you find that having more than one social event a week with many people is just way too overwhelming? After these social events, do you need days to recover in semi-darkened rooms with Peruvian flute music softly playing and calming lavender candles?

Do you find that the one person you used to have a hard time tolerating before quarantining you absolutely can’t stand being around now? Do you wonder how you could have listened to them before without jamming a corkscrew into your brain? When you see them now – even for a minute – do you find you just keep thinking about different types of corkscrews?

Have you considered renting an Airbnb in another city just so you could get away and hole up by yourself with masses of Trader Joe’s frozen foods and not be bothered by anyone in your town?

Do you find yourself not just backing away but practically running away from “close talkers,” “spitty talkers” and “inappropriate huggers”?

Did you invite a few people over for a dinner party and forgot how to do it? Were you unable to remember how to chat while simultaneously cooking various courses and refreshing drinks? Did it all seem amazingly overwhelming to the point where you can’t believe you could ever do this before? Does competing in a triathlon seem easier?

Instead of FOMO (fear of missing out), do you experience FOMI (fear of missing in) – as in the inside of your home?

Does the idea of going to a live concert with people behind you breathing down your neck give you the willies? And do these willies make you not want to listen to Willie Nelson for a while – it’s simply too many willies?

Have you thought that perhaps you really are more suited to hang out with your pet than with most of humanity? At least with Snookums you don’t have to try to make small talk about the shortage of rental cars.

If you are experiencing any reentry stress, go easy on yourself. I would advise medicating with bubble baths and season three of “Virgin River” (or whatever mind-numbing series with which you like to veg out). Jumping into socializing can feel rather intense right now. But know you are not alone. All of us are equally wide-eyed and hoping that someday our fight or flight responses will just chill the heck out.

By Mary Lynn Bruny. Mary Lynn writes about local real estate and home-related topics. Contact her by e-mail at [email protected]. To read previous The Lighter Side articles, go to