Smart Solutions: Creative socializing, from a distance

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

Like many other families, we were overbooked in March before the world turned upside down. Most weeknights had schedule conflicts between our daughter’s sports and school activities, work events and other social commitments. Of course that was before the cancellations that turned my calendar into a clean slate.

We let our daughter see one friend before the stay-at-home order went into effect. They took a short drive and watched the sunset. I had a feeling she wouldn’t see anyone again for quite some time and unfortunately I was right.

Eventually, we all adjusted to our new routines that kept us in the house with no physical contact other than the occasional neighbor from a distance outside.

Handmade posters like these have become a popular option for children’s birthday celebrations in the age of coronavirus.

Now many have been forced to get creative with their face-to-face gatherings. Welcome to socialization in the age of coronavirus.

Other than the occasional phone conversations I’ve had with family and friends, my last real interaction with others happened at a baby shower in early March that seems like a dream to me now.

When the book club I just joined hosted a virtual meeting last month, it turned out to be the most fun I’d had in a long time. As I sat at my laptop with a glass of bubbly by my side, I listened to these smart and witty women share how they were navigating the new normal.

Since this club typically meets in a restaurant setting, it was a real treat for me to see some great homes in the background. One of the women had a graphic gallery wall where she sat with a glass of wine and a charcuterie board for one (why not?) that caught my eye.

In the Farmington home of interior and graphic designer Christina Clark, a gallery wall of sentimental items could be seen behind her in a recent virtual book club meeting.

That weekend, my daughter finally got to see her friends in person at two drive-by birthday celebrations, even if it was for a short time and from a distance.

An old friend I recently reconnected with told me about her preteen daughter’s birthday when her friends taped posters to a window and they spent some time together outside while staying six feet apart. 

Other creative adaptations include another friend’s Cinco de Drinko party that remains one of the highlights of my year. Though she couldn’t host it in the traditional way, she wasn’t ready to abandon the popular concept altogether. So, she set up a colorful curbside cart for guests to grab a mini bottle of tequila, a container of frozen margarita mix and a small bag of tortilla chips to enjoy at home. She also set up a donation jar for Detroit PAL, a non-profit that helps youth find their greatness through athletic, academic and leadership development programs.  

With Memorial Day around the corner, we’re not sure what our plans will be this year. While I doubt we’ll be doing our usual swim club get-togethers, we can always come up with an alternative solution like al fresco dining on the deck. As social creatures who crave connection, we simply need to review the latest guidelines and adapt accordingly, finding new ways to celebrate until we can return to our normal routines.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at