Aerin It OutNightlife

A Recovering Introvert Eases Out of Quarantine

The new normal

Aerin Spruill

The other day I was heading out with the boyfriend and he ever so “gently” alluded to the fact that every middle-aged man in the bar knew my name (an exaggeration).

For a second, I was confused, then defensive because no one can hold a candle to bae, then curious as to how I’d managed to even meet new acquaintances in the first place.

I’ve always been a “no new friends” type of person, especially when it came to men. Anyone who’s in my inner circle will report the same.

Blame it on astrology (I’m a Taurus) or the fact that I’m an only child; I think the truth lies somewhere in between extreme loyalty/trust among those closest to me and a complete distrust of strangers/lack of faith in humanity.

On most occasions, a stranger is met with little more than an eye roll and resigned silence after they’ve attempted to drum up a conversation with me. But these days, apparently, Aerin’s been a whole new mood. The culprit? I blame quarantine.

For a year, we were forced to retreat to our homes with only the comforts of Tiger King, TikTok, Houseparty and (for the lucky ones) the company of at least one other human being to keep us sane. All the while, terrified to even look at a stranger for fear of contracting COVID-19.

Fast forward to 2021 and here we are on the heels of quarantine, free from the bondage of house arrest, trying to relearn how to actually interact with other humans in social settings. And let me tell you, friendliness and conversations shared with strangers are running amok.

If you thought it was weird before to find yourself sitting on a bench in the women’s restroom for an hour swapping compliments like “Your eyebrows are perfect” with a Sharon who you’ve never spoken to before even though you’ve been petting her dog in passing for two years — think again.

Now you can be totally minding your business touching up your makeup and River from outside of where you live back home has reached around you to wash her hands and convinced you that you’re gorgeous just the way you are, that you don’t need to shower every day anymore and that the “No Shave November” shins you’re sporting are actually the most retro thing you could ever do as you exchange numbers.

There’s no slow burn interactions that lead up to a casual conversation about the stench of tater tots and chicken wings one day and the “I feel like I see you here all the time” conversation the next, followed a month later by actually learning the person’s name even though you still haven’t talked for more than 10 minutes at a time.

Nope, now Average Joe sits down next to you at the bar teetering on the edge of six feet and within five minutes, he’s saying, “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop on your conversation. I’m from New York, Bills Mafia, the pizza sucks here. I’ve been living in Charlotte for three weeks and was wondering where I should go to meet people my own age.”

At any other time in my life, I’d have fired back with some version of, “But you are eavesdropping, good for you, and I don’t know but also don’t talk down to me like I’m a child,” as I grabbed my purse and made my way to the opposite side of the room.

And yet, the next thing I know, I’m three beers and two shots deep analyzing this man’s divorce, looking at pictures of his kids, and Googling, “Where people 40 and up meet in Charlotte, NC.”

A week later, I’m introducing him to my close friends like I’ve known the kid for years and it dawns on me, I don’t know his name and have no shame about it whatsoever.

It’s quite comical to witness the post-quarantine social experience evolve (or devolve depending on how you look at it), especially when you take into consideration that we were also dealing with a pandemic of racial injustice and political warfare simultaneous to the one against COVID-19.

You’d think the combination of physical and mental isolation combined with social unrest would harden us as we start to tune back into the regularly scheduled program.

Tell that to Samantha, who just sat down across from me and took a shot of whiskey straight, repositioned her mask, walked over and plopped down. She sighed deeply before saying, “I know you don’t know me, but there’s a lot of creepy guys in here, wanna ditch this place and go to Uptown Cabaret with me and my girlfriends?”

A year ago, this invitation would’ve straight-up terrified me. But post-quarantine, this is par for the course.

Oh Samantha, I’m not that adventurous on this lovely Tuesday, I thought to myself as I laughed hysterically and shook my head. Maybe I’ll get there.

Read more of Aerin Spruill’s Aerin It Out columns here.

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