This is a rare moment when excluding people doesn’t have to mean we don’t like them, writes advice columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith – so handle your approach with grace
Now that lockdown restrictions are easing a little bit in my area, my family’s been getting a few requests for playdates and dinner visits. It’s exciting but we don’t want to turn our lives into a rotating door of visits and visitors, because there is still risk out there. One of the people who’s been quite persistent in inviting us over lives nearby, and volunteers for the same organisation as me. But geography is where the closeness ends – we don’t have that much in common and, face to face, our conversations are often awkward. If we’re going to expand our small circle we want to prioritise people we like better. Is there a polite way of telling someone we don’t want them in our bubble?
Eleanor says: I’ve been waiting for this moment, the one where our reaction to the risk starts to change, even though the risk itself stays more or less the same. In normal circumstances we expect our reactions to have a half-life: when there’s a fact we can’t change, like “she left me” or “I didn’t get the promotion”, there’s a point when we’re meant to move on.
But when the fact is an ongoing risk, instead of something that recedes into the past, it’s not clear how long our reactions should last. We don’t know what the half-life of fear is meant to be. To some of us it feels as though the fear should be dissolving by now: we’ve had the big reaction, we’ve processed the horror and, like any other grief or upheaval, there’s a point where we need to return to normalcy.