When the coronavirus first put the brakes on life as we know it, the behavior guidelines were fairly straightforward. For instance, don't gather in large groups, and when you do venture out, wear a mask. Now many of us are fully vaccinated and eager to get together with family members and friends, while others are waiting (and waiting) to get an appointment for a shot.
Such differences in vaccine status are giving rise to some tricky etiquette questions surrounding everything from party planning to potentially polarizing conversations over who got their vaccine when, and how.
We turned to the experts — a professor of bioethics, professional manners consultants and a syndicated advice columnist — to help make sense of it all.
1. You're dying to let someone you perceive as a vaccine line cutter know that you are not okay with what you see as her “me first” behavior. What's a little honesty between friends?
In this case, a little honesty may not actually be the best policy. “Stay in your lane,” advises Lisa Grotts, an etiquette expert known as the “Golden Rules Gal.” Most of the experts we talked to agree with Grotts that the best approach is to steer clear of this kind of confrontation. Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated advice column “Ask Amy,” says her approach to COVID-related topics is different than the often frank advice she offers in other areas. “I have turned the corner and have finally adopted a ‘live and let live’ attitude,” she says. “I have been very fortunate. I have been able to live what I would consider a normal life. Because I live in a rural area, I'm outside a lot. I am able to enjoy nature and see other people outside. I still have my job. But I have family members and close friends who have had radically different experiences with the pandemic — and radically different attitudes about the pandemic. And I respect that."
Besides, notes Jodi RR Smith, president and owner of Boston-based Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, “There are a lot of people with medical issues — maybe a temporary illness or a long-term situation that's not easily visible — and they don't necessarily want others to know what their situation is.” So it's possible that questioning someone about their vaccine eligibility could bring up private health issues they'd rather not discuss.