Party like it's 2021: what get-togethers will look like post-lockdown

Mila de Villiers imagines what it'll be like when friends get the chance to put the social into social distancing

02 August 2020 - 00:09 By Mila de Villiers
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Where there’s a will to party there’s a way.
Where there’s a will to party there’s a way.
Image: 123RF/Ioulia Bolchakova

“Hey, so, ja, I'm working on an essay about futuristic novels imagining pandemic-stricken societies with an emphasis on Albert Camus's The Plague, Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, and, uh, Deon Meyer's Fever.”

The masked millennial squints at his coursework assignment and absent-mindedly rubs his left eye with a recently sanitised hand. “Could you direct me to your speculative fiction section, please?” He looks up hopefully at the second-hand book store owner seated at her desk, his peeper hurting a little.

She blinks twice. Attempts to adjust her Iris Apfel-esque glasses behind her visor.

“I believe you'll find those titles under our 'New Normal' section,” she says, hastily ushering him towards Fiction: A-Z, inwardly hoping he won't take his sweet time — it's her 60th birthday, her guests are due to arrive in two hours and she has to ensure that the correct protocols are in place.

As she rings up the titles, she thinks not only of how novels once deemed “speculative” or “dystopian” are now categorised as “new normal”, but also of how the advent of the dreaded pathogen has changed the nature of socialising.

She began organising her jol a year in advance: her favourite burlesque club had been booked. Two hundred and fifty of her closest friends RSVP'd. Her 24-year-old adopted daughter planned to fly in from Azerbaijan. Her lipstick and custom-made nose-rings were to be imported from Paris. The marijuana procured from the Pamir Mountains. In short: a proper rager.

Yet here we are in February 2021.

Her house borders Devil's Peak and she decided to host on the large field behind her home. Social distancing: tick.

The guest list has been reduced to 10, and no under-50s — diminishing the odds of exposing “the aged” to the virus by still-socialising 20-somethings: tick.

Masks to be worn at all times: tick.

And, she winces at the thought, no sharing of zols — no putting saliva on the paper: tick.

Yes, en masse gatherings have been replaced with intimate get-togethers.

I miss you guys. Want to come over for a cold one and some gwaais? A 28-year-old WhatsApps her favourite set of twins. We'll have to sit on the steps, tho. Don't want to risk being kakked on by my neighbours ... A GIF of an anime character raising a glass is sent in return.

The twins arrive. Elbows are tapped. The threesome make themselves comfortable (ha) on the stairs, plenty of space per person.

The eco-friendly Pick n Pay bag containing two six-packs of Castle Lite is dragged closer. They shrug. They get it. Her new contact in the now-illicit alcohol-trade is a popular one. Sorry sister. Only ciders, whiskey, brandy, gins, Castle Lite and vodka left, his latest WhatsApp to her read. She paid R600 for the beer. The cigarettes they're smoking (Sharp and Savannah Blue) cost them R150 each. Their salaries have been reduced by 40% and their clandestine habits are costing them many a ZAR. But smoke, suip and socialise they will.

They light up, drink, laugh, and reminisce about the days when they could imbibe at bars. The last drags are taken, the final sips sipped. The host makes sure that they discard every stompie and empty bottle. Lighters are sanitised and the twins depart with mask-muffled “awês”.

The following weekend a friend messages them, inviting them over to her flat for — yass! — Black Labels and Marlboros (the girl has connections, hey). She's only allowed three guests at a time, so this shindig has to be kept on the lowdown. The fortunate three feel uncomfortable about this, but what's one to do?

They haven't seen this china from another vagina in weeks. After having their temperatures taken and written down by the door guard — and reminded to “please sanitise” at the provided pedestal — they're allowed in. It's a biting autumn eve, yet they're in the spacious courtyard of the heritage-building where their friend stays. (Outside good, inside bad.) “Drink the cold away!” they proclaim in mock-cheer.

Elsewhere in the city, a young creative has recently turned 31. The previous year he hosted a rooftop blowout in Jo'burg's CBD. He has since moved into a house in the 'burbs and asked eight select people round for a bring and braai. If you can make it, please Uber — we don't want to make it look like a moerse party (Covid-lockdown), the invite reads. The eight adhere and a solid soirée ensues.

A reimagined SA this might be, but if fields, steps, courtyards and homes be the sustenance of socialising, (house) party on!

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