For the media

5 things to talk about other than COVID

By The Health News Team and Jen Spengler | May 31, 2021
Girl friends sitting in the park social distancing.

Jennifer Spengler is a health and wellness writer for Sharp Health News and a marketing specialist with Sharp HealthCare.

There are lots of things you can learn about yourself during a pandemic. Perhaps you found that you like to bake. Or you discovered that you can learn another language after 40. Maybe you realized that “Tiger King” is just not for you.

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am a bit of an introvert. I don’t mind the solitude required of a lockdown. I’m relieved there’s no pressure to make plans, show up or put on pants without an elastic waistband.

However, now that my husband and I have both received a COVID-19 vaccine, we find ourselves in an interesting position. It is once again safe to meet a vaccinated friend for dinner on a patio. And standing on the sidelines of a soccer game among fellow vaccinated parents is not as daunting as it would have felt just 1 month ago.

Heck, even the CDC says it’s safe to spend time indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or physical distancing. Indoors! This could lead to all sorts of activity I’m not yet ready for.

And by ready, I mean prepared to put on clothing suitable to be seen by people I don’t live with. I don’t even remember which pair of jeans in the drawer are my “go-to,” because I haven’t gone to that drawer in what feels like a decade. And it’s not just what to wear or how to make my self-styled pandemic hair look presentable that I’m worried about.

A rough start to a renewed social life

Recently, we went out for lunch — dipping our toes in the pool of post-pandemic possibilities — and sat in the restaurant’s makeshift outdoor dining space in the parking lot. Within seconds of removing my mask and opening my mouth to talk, both my husband and daughter shushed me. They shushed me!

I no longer seemed to have the ability to gauge the loudness of my voice when a mask isn’t covering my mouth. They said I was “literally screaming.” I prefer to call it enthusiastic enunciation after months of lockdown.

But my biggest concern about a return to some pre-pandemic social activities is not that I’ll talk too loudly, but whether I’ll know what to talk about in the first place.

Post-pandemic preparation

What did we discuss before COVID tests and social distancing? Are there topics other than positivity rates and vaccine numbers, best types of face masks, and which restaurants are following guidelines?

What did we chat about when among polite society? I think politics and religion are still considered taboo. And I know sports are back, but the only sport I know about is the one my daughter is playing. (And let’s be honest, no one other than her father or grandparents really wants to hear about that.) And sure, there’s much to discuss about kids returning to school and adults heading back to work.

But then what?

Does anyone really want to know about the knitting I started at the beginning of the pandemic, but didn’t finish? The single quiche I made that was really good, but probably just a fluke? The hiking trail I found that had more people honoring social distancing guidelines than not?

It’s my guess that we’re all a little over those topics. People are ready to move on from COVID-19 conversation and get our social grooves back.

So, I’ve done a little research and come up with the top 5 topics considered perfect for cocktail-party conversation. And while I certainly have no plans to head to a party anytime soon, I do plan to use them as I slowly ease myself off the couch and out among civilization.

Top 5 COVID-free topics to talk about

1. Pets.
Everyone likes to talk about their pets, and lots of people have gotten new ones since the beginning of the “p-word” (it’s pandemic, you know, the thing we’re avoiding talking about). And if you find someone who doesn’t have a pet or — even worse — doesn’t like pets, you can always talk about “Tiger King.” (It was strange and horrible and I don’t get its allure, by the way.)

2. Favorite TV show or movie.
Admit it, you’ve watched more television and streamed more shows and movies than ever before. From that tiger show to “The Crown,” and “The Bachelor” to “The Queen’s Gambit,” there were so many great — and absolute garbage — choices for entertainment. While not everyone may be quick to admit they couldn’t leave the couch because they were transfixed by “Cobra Kai,” they’ll likely own up to watching a documentary or two.

3. Travel.
Boy, do I miss travel. Well, I don’t miss all the people or long plane rides or the price of travel — I am secretly hoping someone’s mastered teleportation over the past year. But I can think of a dozen places I want to go, especially after not being able to go anywhere other than the grocery store and down the block. Ask someone about their favorite trip before 2020 and then share where you’d like to go next. (By the way, a trip to Costco doesn’t count, in case you’ve forgotten what travel really is.)

4. Food.
Unless you’re talking to someone on a very strict diet — bor-ing! — food is a super topic to sample. You might not want to go into the sourdough starter crisis of early COVID days, but asking someone about their favorite restaurant or secret family recipes can lead them into stories of travel and their childhood. It can also give you an idea of whether they fall into the sweet, savory or spicy camp — preferences that might also offer a peek into their personality.

5. The person you’re talking to.
Everyone likes to talk about themselves — even people who swear they really don’t like talking about themselves. Ask them about their family, hobbies, career or collections. Sure, you might want to make a mad dash back to the safety of your sofa after a minute or so of hearing about someone’s passion for taxidermy, but at least you’ll have them talking. Mission accomplished, disturbing as it may be.

A friendly reminder

A quick note before you set off in preparation for your post-pandemic social life, talking tips in hand: It’s important to remember that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over. California currently has the lowest COVID rate in the country — high-fives all around (as long as all participants are vaccinated) — but as we’ve seen in other communities, things can change quickly if we’re not being careful.

So, go forth and safely socialize, but continue to follow CDC guidelines. Wash your hands often and wear a face mask and keep a 6-foot distance from others when the situation calls for it until more people are vaccinated and we reach herd immunity.

And if you haven’t already, get vaccinated, for goodness’ sake. Literally.

Get COVID-19 vaccine information and access to COVID-19 resources from Sharp HealthCare.

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