By now it’s possible you’ve successfully reunited with the people in your life you love the most. Best friends, grandkids, the coworker you commiserate with, parents. But, as of May 19th, many New York City restaurants are able to reopen at 100% capacity. That means your social life is edging toward 100% capacity, too.
Instead of dedicating hours to a glassblowing competition show viewed in isolation at home, your schedule has likely already bloated with all the innocuous acquaintances that have been on friendship sabbatical for over a year. New Yorkers may refer to this new era as “Hot Vax Summer” or, in some circles, “Orgy Summer.” If you ask me, though, this will be the summer we all retrain ourselves to be People People.
Some summer meetups may push beyond the bounds of your current state of social functioning. For example, you’ll have to talk and listen, intermittently. There will be no opportunity to tap the right side of someone’s face as if to swipe into the next slide of their “Story.” You will not always be able to dissuade a third-tier friend from ordering a second glass of wine, despite the fact that you two have nothing left to say to each other.
Obligatory resocialization is not for the faint of heart. But it is temporary. Since, by the time fall arrives, everyone will be sick of each other and many of your close friends will have disappeared into serious relationships. Until then, use this foolproof method to help get you through a socially mandated dinner unscathed.
Basic Dos & Don’ts For Having Dinner With Someone You Only Sort Of Enjoy
Do spend ten minutes analyzing whatever outdoor restaurant structure you’re sitting in. Rely on synonyms like “yurt,” “pagoda,” “hut,” “tent,” “bubble,” “cabana,” and “The Outdoor Villages presented by American Express x Resy.”
Don’t kiss on the mouth, even as a distraction. This will become complicated, and the staff has been through enough this year.
Do mention the lovely Amtrak train ride to the town of Hudson, New York.
Don’t be completely yourself. Instead, offer the best 40% of your personality.
Do hydrate, ensuring frequent bathroom break opportunities to check your phone.
Don’t say “Fauci Ouchie” aloud more than once.
Do fake your own death at the table before dessert, if you must.
Act 1: Open With Confidence
Start the meal by slightly tilting your head and asking, “How are you?” Choose one of the three words in the phrase to emphasize. Try it with me now. How are you? How are you? How are you. Can you feel the difference? Good. This will make your introductory question sound sincere because you’ll be singing a little bit while you ask. Repeat your singing until they become marginally incensed.
When the person you’re out with inevitably turns the question around on you, begin with something observational and neutral. You saw your first NYC black squirrel today near Stuytown and are now convinced all black squirrels live in a pseudo-gated community with its own daycare program, for instance.
Act 2: Reveal Exactly One Dramatic Thing About Yourself
Discussing the full breadth of your pandemic ups and downs will take introspective energy you simply don’t possess while there’s a seasonal crudo and a singular glass of wine present. So don’t show all of your cards. Plus, you might already pay a therapist named Howard, or, as you refer to him behind his back, “Howie.”
Offer a curated dose of trust and friendship by unloading exactly one piece of emotional baggage on this person. This tidbit could even be something hypothetical, like you’re thinking of moving to Seattle next year for easy access to the great outdoors. You’re probably not actually moving to Seattle, but they don’t need to know that. Mention Mount Rainier and Shota from Top Chef.
Act 3: Keep Up The Momentum
Your goal should be to convince this person you’re the reason they’re enjoying dinner, and not just because they’re happy to be outside in 75-degree weather. Listen for key phrases like “spontaneously took time off to go upstate,” or “I’m healthy and employed,” and then start clapping for them. This will make them feel affirmed.
If there’s a lull in the conversation for more than 15 seconds or so, ask if they ever went to their cousin’s wedding in Florida back in October that no one approved of. Or comment that you saw they recently made chicken tenders in an air fryer. If all else fails, you could prompt them to explain the electoral college in as few words as possible.
Act 4: Parting Words
By the time next summer rolls around, you may still seek this person’s approval. That’s because it’s likely you’ll see them in the future - preferably in a group setting or at a bar that’s too loud to exchange words.
Therefore, we suggest creating a final impression that says, “I think we shouldn’t contact each other for at least a month.” Not with your words, but with a limp hug. There’s little dignity to a hug where only your arms graze each other, but they won’t be able to resist it, especially after you said you might move to Seattle. Leave them wanting more, but not that much more. You have to run, anyway - it’s time to go home and do nothing.