Life Advice



Burned-Out Librarian Can't Relate To Work-From-Home Friends

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do I politely tell my friends and family I do not want to socialize online? I love them, but I don't have much in common with them since the pandemic started.

I am a public librarian who has been required to work indoors with the public through most of the pandemic. In addition to doing our regular jobs, my colleagues and I have been tasked with asking customers to put on or pull up their masks and, for several months, to limit their stay to 30 minutes, all while worrying about our own exposure in an indoor space full of shared surfaces.

We have often been the targets of frustrated customers who did not want to wear masks or were angry that they couldn't stay beyond 30 minutes. To top it off, we were not eligible to receive the vaccine until after many people in work from home professions were given priority.

I have found myself unable to enjoy online social gatherings because those in my social circle have been working from home for over a year. The jokes about wearing sweatpants all day and statements such as Now that we're all venturing out again ... are getting old.

We are not all venturing out again. Some of us have been out this entire time, working and hoping not to die.

I have many friends who are now embarking on wonderful vacations, even though they have still not set foot back in their offices. Meanwhile, I have a hard time getting vacation days because the library is open seven days a week, and we are always stretched thin on staff.


How should I politely decline online and other social requests when the truth is I just can't stand the assumptions that we've all been staying at home for a year or more?

GENTLE READER: Burnout has, unfortunately, inflamed your social responses.

Normally, you would remember how easy it is to decline a social invitation with thanks, but without excuses. Or you would presume that your friends would be interested in what you have to say, and take the opportunity to explain to them that their experiences are not universal.

But Miss Manners recognizes that you have developed an unreasonable grudge against those who have had an easier time of it than you. Please recognize how futile this is. It is as if someone who had been on a ventilator, or who had lost a relative, accused you of having it easy.


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