When is socialising a thing we particularly need to do? | Eva Wiseman

This question – now a directive – is one we’ve spent two years trying to decide the answer to

Don’t socialise, said Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, discussing the spread of a new Covid variant, if you “don’t particularly need to”. Well. Upon hearing this I immediately began breaking the concept down into digestible parts. What is social? What is need? What is the thing where you are fizzing with excitement at the promise of going out but then, after dragging your best dry-clean-only to the bar through sodden cold and joining a conversation about dairy, you feel suddenly extremely weary and in urgent need of silence? Is that the “particularly” clause? Is that the “don’t”?

It’s sage advice, admittedly, even without the threat of death. The need to socialise has been brought into sharp relief over the past two years, the need to hold a hand that’s not your own, the need to bitch a little shittily about celebrity affairs, the need to simply eat a meal you have not toasted yourself. But many of us have also found, between the yearning and loneliness, some forgotten pleasure in being alone. Many of us also have performed a sometimes-unconscious winnowing of friendships, streamlining our social lives so we now need only leave the house for people we love, friends who are going to make us laugh, or strangers whose presence will improve our posture, bringing out our best and hidden selves.

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