Return of Social Life

As a junior, I’ve never experienced a full year of “normal” Bates, meaning about three quarters of the students here haven’t either. I thought I remembered what it was like to go out, be in an in person class, or sit in Commons, but after about a week of the return to “normalcy,” everything still feels profoundly different. 

I feel like one of those pandemic babies in the videos where they see an escalator or other people in a park for the first time– absolutely paralyzed with shock, awe, and horror. When the hell did this school get so big? Who are half of these people? 

This is, of course, a very warped world view. Bates is undoubtedly a small school. However, when you stand in line outside Bardwell for the first time in two years (which I do not recommend), it doesn’t quite feel that way. 

But you want to feel “normal” and do “normal” college stuff, and now you finally have the opportunity. This is all we’ve been asking for for a year, so why does it feel so disappointing? 

Social life last year was different, and though some broke rules, many chose to gather masked with groups of under ten friends. This is a low pressure situation where you know everyone involved and don’t have to worry about watching your drinks or wearing your dirty sneakers so you don’t mess up your nice ones by stepping in beer, urine, or vomit in the basement of some overcrowded house. 

I don’t think I remember how to do small talk, and playing flip cup, as it happens, is not at all like riding a bike. You forget. Beyond the simple fact that typical parties are hard to get back into, it also feels ridiculously self absorbed to engage in beer pong when you’re acutely aware of the suffering of millions globally. Yes, college kids playing beer pong isn’t necessarily going to make the COVID-19 situation any worse (provided those individuals are vaccinated and following guidelines), but the pandemic has marked one of the greatest tragedies of the modern world, so throwing a tiny ball into a plastic cup with that on your mind is a bit strange. 

So what are we to do, then? Hang our heads, refusing to engage in any small pleasures because the world around us is burning? I’m certainly not suggesting that. We do have to acknowledge that we’ve essentially been collectively traumatized, and the way we relate to others may never be the same. I may have been able to stand mindlessly swaying back and forth in a hot sweaty room before the pandemic, but I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again after. 

For me, part of this reality comes from the fact that I was able to learn that I truly hate parties. I went out to them because other people were. I thought I sort of missed them when they were gone, but now that they’re back, I miss the intimate gatherings with friends more. The good news is that I can still do those, and I would encourage others who feel similarly about partying (particularly as it remains relatively unsafe to do so given breakthrough cases) to remember that. Just because we’re all allowed to party again, doesn’t mean we all want to. There is no such thing as a “normal” social life.