‘Decade Dinners’ and How to Be Social During Isolation

I clumsily rolled out to the kitchen with all the elegance of a toddler taking its first steps. Donning my childhood rollerblades several sizes too small and velvet flares, after a premonitory wobble I skidded to a stop amid the derisive laughter of my family.

Insults were flung, photos were taken, and the blades had to come off. This was one of the weird ways in which my family is livening up isolation during coronavirus.

My proposition was this: for every weekend my family is social distancing, we’ll have an isolation decade dinner.

Using only what we have in the house, we’ll don the attire, accessorise, and listen to the music of the decade in question.

Starting with the 1950s, we took inspiration from pin-up styling, mid-century housewives and greasers.

The following weekend we entered the swinging 60s, adorning ourselves in minidresses and psychedelic patterning. From The Beatles to the Beatniks, there was plenty of cultural inspiration to be drawn.


The 70s was a decade of political activism and upheaval, second-wave feminism, disco and floor-sweeping styles. My brother turned 26 and dressed up in an old, all-white formal suit, bringing those Saturday Night Fever vibes.

For my family, our decade dinners have been about getting creative, but also all about establishing new routines that give us something to look forward to. It’s a social occasion but maintains the safety of isolation.

Some of us have lost jobs, income or job opportunities. Some have had their education, social networks or the rituals that constitute their everyday life completely disrupted. Many of us are experiencing fear and uncertainty for the future, and many are struggling to adapt.

Bessel Van Der Kolk MD is one of the leading trauma experts in the world of psychotherapy. He suggests that by living through coronavirus, we may be experiencing “pre-traumatic” conditions, including:

  • Lack of predictability
  • Immobility
  • Loss of connection
  • Loss of sense of time and sequencing
  • Numbing
  • Loss of safety
  • Loss of a sense of purpose and identity

Van Der Kolk recommends that in order to journey through this tough, unpredictable and turbulent time, there are some strategies that we can implement.

  • Create new schedules, don’t merely try and force your old one to work for you in isolation.
  • Plan each day and week, schedule in activities at certain points in the day and week.
  • Schedule time to stay connected, whether this is via phone, video link, or face to face with the people we live with.
  • Create something to look forward to, as making plans gives us a sense of context over time.
  • Continue to be involved with things that affirm who we are.
  • Activate our bodies through these activities, whether that be exercising, cooking, doing work, building or creating things.

As Bessel Van Der Kolk has said, a loss of sense of time can present itself in these circumstances. By setting times for getting together with people at home or over video link, it helps us have something to look forward to, something to prepare for and restores this all-important a sense of time.

The decade dinner concept implements a few of these strategies to ward off some of the negative side effects of isolation.

While dressing in pyjamas or activewear every day was a blessing in the first couple of weeks, eventually, I began to feel rather sludgy, a bit lost and my self-esteem wavered.

I’ve found that these themed nights have been a way of connecting with my identity and re-engaging my creative side in regard to makeup, hair and style. Whether it’s been researching how to do a Twiggy-style pop 60s eye or attempting 70s disco glam makeup, it stoked the creative fires.

Most will have probably seen the work-from-home “Formal Fridays” that have replaced Casual Friday’s at the workplace, with people dressing up in cocktail attire to do menial tasks such as sending emails, filling out spreadsheets and taking the bins out.

Another themed event I’ve seen on social media from a journalist living in London is having a dinner and movie night centred around a country. They cook in the style of the cuisine, then finish the night with a cheesy movie set in that country or culture.

By creating new routines that help engage our imaginative and resourceful sides and give us something to look forward to, we help subside the apathy and impassivity that comes with lack of routine and loss of identity.

It’s important to consider our mental health and well-being at this time. Finding small things to make us smile and making plans for the future within the confines of social distancing and quarantining measures can help us get through these tribulations.

If you or someone you know are struggling, head to Beyond Blue’s website to get coronavirus related resources, or call their hotline on 1800 512 348.

Image by Rachel Darling