As many people continue to worry about whether we accidentally touched our faces while checking the mail and beg our federal, state, and local governments to not let more people die (as fucking if), our leaders are basically telling us, "Relax—just calm down, don't be so unchill."
In our personal lives: Some of our friends are probably saying, or thinking, the same to/about us over our lingering trepidations over hanging out in person, precisely because of the political forces telling people they're safer than they really are.
Despite being a nail-biter about The Spread—you can probably tell by now that, in early days, there were periods where I didn't set foot out of my apartment for full weeks at a time—I have been lamping with my friends recently. It felt sort of against all logic or broader kindness at first, but it's going OK and it makes us happy. In this: I've found so many rad and solid ways to see local people, and, wow, I missed them so much, holy hell.
Masked, six-foot-apart park days, hikes, and beach hangs have become the social events of choice for those who want to keep loneliness at bay and see their loved ones without giving them, and others, a deadly virus. But… there are actually ways to make those things feel differentiated.
First, no matter what you're doing: Here are some universal tenets as you consider seeing another person you miss so much you could glow in the dark:
- Not seeing people indoors at all, whatsoever
- Not sharing bathrooms
- Not sharing the same food and/or drinks that other people's mouths or utensils have been on
- Not with people who are elderly or immunocompromised, period
- Nor who have been sick, or are currently showing any symptoms of being sick, are you kidding me
- Nor who have been stone-cold blithely chilling as though COVID-19 wasn't currently the dictating, awful factor of our daily lives, because literally screw them
- You likely have to wear a mask for a good portion of the time, at least while getting to where you're going
- Keep it little, group-wise, and keep the duration of the hang short; the fewer people with you, the better, and do your best to keep it to 16 people at the absolute upper max
- Don't hug or roughhouse (two normal hallmarks of my usual hangs) or otherwise touch, even if you’re drinking
- Practice good hand hygiene, for God's sake—bring and persistently use sanitizer and wash your hands when you get home
- Plus, have a conversation beforehand about what safety has to be for everybody involved—and understand that you and friends should feel free to cancel (even at the last minute!) if you suddenly come down with what may or may not be "allergies," or if someone decides that they're going to do their own thing, safety-wise.
With all of that in mind... get the hell outside! It's possible! You can remember that life isn't just this one awful Escher-ish series of rooms that you have nobly confined yourself to! Inch into the world with great intent and care: The worst thing would be to have done all this internal sort of living just to throw away those efforts—meaning, sicken others—in the end.
Here's how to see a face (and grown-out haircut) that isn't on a computer while doing your best not to impose enormous health problems on it or other ones.
1. A wonderful premise I learned about from a particularly curious and charismatic friend: Take a "story of my life" walk. In 30 minutes, give a detailed explanation of your autobiography, from the beginning—your literal birth— to the present day. Make it a rule not to interrupt each other, but to do a Q&A portion at the end of each before you switch.
2. Another iteration of this: Take each other on personal-history tours of your neighborhoods. Point out places you've lived, had weird hookups, gone to a good party, had a wonderful dinner in celebration of something, broken up with someone, or whatever you want.
3. Go birdwatching. At a local park or nature reserve, you can probably spread out with an ornithology-for-amateurs guide, or the Audubon Bird Guide app open on both of your phones. This is best done early in the morning, which is helpful, too, because fewer jackjobs will be out and crowding about with their masks dangling from their dicks. (But it's also very nice to go birdwatching near dusk.)
4. Go roller skating or skateboarding, or teach yourselves to do those things in the same general vicinity! Either is near-to-always a distanced way to hang, so probably won't even feel that bleakly compromised, as pandemic versions of normal activities go.
5. Play "describe a movie or TV show you've never seen," because we obviously can't go to the movies together/watch TV at home piled onto a bed together. (Once, playing this with a dear friend who co-invented this game with our clique, I learned that she thought the protagonist of The Sopranos was named... Sal Soprano, which everyone was laughing too hard about to immediately correct.)
6. We can, if we want, project a movie onto a bedsheet or building wall outside. Some cities have started opening drive-ins, too, but it seems like the selection is sort of limited. Maybe have a Sam Raimi, Spike Lee, or Aishwarya Rai marathon over the course of a month while the weather is still good? It would also be sweet to pick a famous movie from or set in someplace you wish you could travel to together and watch that.
7. Look up—go stargazing. Download the Night Sky constellation-identifying app, get into the silky-ass darkness, and look up the names of the star formations and planets you find to learn about the astronomy and mythology involved with them.
8. Meet up at—or start—a protest against racist anti-Black violence. (This year's recent anti-racist protests in support of Black lives, as tracing and tracking have shown, have not significantly contributed to the viral spread of COVID-19.) Be especially careful of getting too near police, because they (a) seem to hate masks and social distancing and (b) are police, aka the regular kind of violent, as well.
9. Bring sign-making supplies for others to the protest and create a station where other demonstrators can, from a safe distance, create their own placard. Draw a few of your own and tape them up—to a lamppost, a tree—to exemplify some options.
10. Provide community aid and basic necessities in support of protesters, unhoused people, elderly people, and/or immunocompromised people in your area. Tag-team a supply run of water bottles, hand sanitizer, masks, granola bars, shelf-stable fruit, and first aid, assemble kits in clear plastic bags from a distance in a park or backyard, and distribute them on foot or bikes.
11. Open a fire hydrant and take turns screaming your way through it in bathing suits while the other person/people wait on their own gap of sidewalk. (Non-city option: Set up a sprinkler in someone's backyard.)
12. Draw portraits of each other. Include the landscape behind the person you're sketching. I like to use one-dollar bills as my canvas for this because I think they look chic under refrigerator magnets in people's kitchens, and earning that position is the ultimate goal here.
13. Have a teenage burnout–themed hang in a parking lot. Shotgun beers. Talk about "getting out of this town and seeing the world," which is actually a pretty apt topic for this moment in time. (Optional [but not that optional]: Play Bruce Springsteen and/or Tracy Chapman out of the open door of someone's car.)
14. Go dogspotting—if where you live is anything like my city, there are basically bouquets of pandemic puppies everywhere—and grade the dogs. Don't be afraid to say what you really think.
15. Dress up. The past few months have included a lot of time spent shirtless in too-big cutoffs, with whatever mismatched socks fit into my getting-the-mail sandals. I wore thirdhand gold Dior sandals to see a friend recently, and it perked me up a lot. Look nice, and take pictures of your nice-looking friends. If we have to spend these, our halcyon hottie years, this way… let's at least have some documentation that we weren't always in two "hell's pigtails" wearing an oversized promotional T-shirt for a car dealership at this point in our lives.
16. If you live near a body of water: Go fishing! Or, if you have crabs, go crabbing. (I prefer crabbing because crabs are cuter and easier to throw right back, and it's less like, "Here is a bloody, gasping animal to deal with, that I put into that condition," and it's more like, "I'm mostly ignoring some bait on a string into the water as an excuse to drink a couple of beers.")
17. Plan an art project together and have a creative or editorial meeting about it in the park. Give each other assignments, then, when the deadlines have been met, get back together to show your work and figure out how to put it all together.
18. See if there's a community garden in your area that could use some distanced volunteers and go plant and/or weed together.
19. If you miss sports: Get a cheap croquet set and create a two-person Summer Scuzzball Croquet League.
20. Go as far to the edges of where you live on your bikes as possible. Draw a map of what's there, and make more trips to keep adding to it whenever you can.
21. All right, fine! Literally just go sit in a park or beach on two blankets and shoot the breeze/talk trash/generally enjoy the company of someone outside of your house!! When everyone is doing their best to take care of one another after spending so much time inside for that exact reason: However you safely see friends, that is a glory, and such a simple, complete relief. Say hey to them for me—but, even more so, say hey to them for you.
Follow Amy Rose Spiegel on Twitter.