Jen Zoratti | Next
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It's been 200 years...
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It's been 200 years...

It’s amazing how two years can feel like 200, isn’t it?

Two years ago this week was The Last Normal Week, before COVID-19 rearranged our lives. I wrote about The Last Normal Week in 2021 when we commemorated the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic and oh wow, look, we’re still doing this.

I’ve struggled to know how to feel at different mile markers of this particular marathon, and this one, the Dawn of Year Three, is similarly fraught. I know there will never be a Free Press A1 announcing the end of the pandemic because that’s not how pandemics work, but I honestly thought I’d feel differently about being able to dispense with masks and vaccine cards. I don’t feel anxious for myself, personally – your girl has been very social lately but I’m probably still going to wear a mask in public places – but I also don’t feel like celebrating. COVID-19’s death toll stands at more than six million worldwide. Millions of people will be navigating the vestiges of the virus in the form of Long Covid, the deleterious effects of which will be felt for years.

But life goes on, and it feels like it’s really going on at the moment. Yes, people are travelling again, but the real tell is in the number of event invitations rolling in. A friend of mine has already been invited to eight (8) weddings in 2022. I’m pretty sure I’ve been to no more than 10 weddings in my entire lifetime, including being a one-and-done maid of honour.

I am still being invited to wedding socials, however; you don’t need to make the cut for the wedding guest list to be invited to those. I’m pretty sure I had Manitoba’s first money-losing social – or maybe we broke even, but still, was it worth it? It was not – and now I will 100 per cent pay people to not have to go to their socials. Whoever invented the “support ticket” is a genius.

Anyway, congratulations and best wishes, but, as a very soon-to-be-37 year old, I am hereby announcing my retirement from attending socials. Unless we are literally best friends, I shan’t be donning a polyester Going Out Top to drink room-temp Copper Moon out of a plastic cup in a community club any longer. I can eat sweaty cheese cubes and listen to 1990s slow-jams from the comfort of my own home, thank you very much.

This is one facet of “re-entry” that I think will be difficult for many people: the temptation to say yes to everything to “make up for lost time” – my goodness, is there a more stressful phrase than “you only live once”? – and our general societal discomfort with saying no to things we don’t want to do. And now that public health has moved back to being a series of “recommendations,” people will be balancing their risk tolerance on top of their current social stamina and desires.

Still, I absolutely get wanting to celebrate birthdays and weddings and promotions and, ugh, socials. I get wanting to dive head-first into the buffet of life and absolutely gorge yourself silly. But it also feels like we skipped a few pages. I think about the lack of space we’ve had to grieve this major, life-altering thing that has happened to all of us. That’s still happening to us.

And so, as we approach the two-year anniversary of the pandemic, I want to remind you – especially if you’re nervous – to pace yourself. And for those on the receiving end of gratefully declined invitations, be gentle with your friends and family members. It’s going to be a weird few months. Grace — for ourselves and for each other — will help get us through.

Note: There will be no NEXT on March 16 as it is my birthday and I am celebrating turning 37 by not working. I’ll see you the week following.

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti, Columnist

Jen Zoratti


The iconic — and, for me, formative — 1990s anime Sailor Moon celebrated its 30th anniversary this week, and I’ve been rewatching it on Crave. It’s the Toei English dub, not the DiC version that I would have watched on YTV in Grade 5, but I like it better as it’s far less anglicized.

Usagi Tsukino (or Serena in the other dub) is a ditzy, klutzy middle school student who meets a talking cat named Luna and finds out that she’s really a super hero named Sailor Moon, and is joined by other Sailor Guardians to defend love and justice on earth.

It’s got some, ah, problematic elements — there’s a whole storyline involving Usagi’s bestie Naru falling in love with a GROWN MAN that made me repeatedly yell “you’re 14!!!!” at the TV — but wow, it takes me back to elementary school.



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