Most mornings during the pandemic, I’ve had coffee with my girlfriends. Well, not technically with them. What it actually looks like is me filling a mug, grabbing my phone, and settling into my favorite chair to catch up where we left off the day before. Usually, it’s a lot.
There's the text chain with my three work-turned-life wives, which might rack up 500 messages in 24 hours, about everything from recipes to relationship drama to home decor decisions. There's also the DM flurry from my BFF who lives in L.A., mostly consisting of cute animals interspersed with detailed life updates. On Marco Polo, I check in with my two closest Brooklyn buds, both of whom have new babies; video messaging works best for us because it’s all the face time with none of the scheduling hassles. We record and watch when we have a minute to ourselves. That thread has become a lifeline, especially this year.
I'll spare you the countless reasons that 2020 has been one long heartbreaking bummer: We all know what they are, and what they’ll continue to be until we finally have this virus under control. But while it feels flippant to pluck a silver lining from the rubble, I have been thinking a lot about what I’m grateful for these days. One standout fact is that the bonds with the women in my life are stronger than ever before.
Because the truth is, prior to all the mandated social distancing, we were growing emotionally distant. In our younger years—before marriage and children, impressive job titles and major life changes—we were a gluey mass held together by shared Chapsticks, cheap happy hours, and brunch dates that stretched across entire weekends. Then, right on cue in our late twenties, the drift began.
Winnowed free time was poured into me time; romantic prospects outranked Saturday nights with the girls. We were always trying, and often failing, to hang out, cementing plans via Google calendar weeks in advance only to raincheck the day of, because someone who copped to being "the worst" was "totally exhausted." Sometimes, that someone was me.
Not that the most valued relationships didn’t get enough maintenance to keep things going. There were always breakfast hangs, cocktails hours, and couples dinners with the core crew. We were happy to see each other when it happened. But there is a difference between feeling like a priority versus an obligation someone manages to fit in.
In February, my husband and I bought a house in Upstate New York—a "weekend place," two hours from the city. Ironically, the plan was to use it for getaways with friends we wanted to spend more time with. You can guess where this is going: By March, we were living there full-time, hundreds of miles from our social bubble which, due to the pandemic, had effectively popped.
He and I were in a new town alone, indefinitely. In the overwhelming majority of senses, we are incredibly fortunate. Even so, I knew that, to get through this, "just the two of us" wouldn’t be enough. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one: In the very early days of the pandemic, the people in my inner circles began turning to one another.
Some were single and isolated in skyscraper apartments while others were marooned with a spouse out in the suburbs or suddenly at home with Boomer parents. But soon, these women surged back into my daily life. For the first time in years, we made weekly commitments to one another: Zoom dinners eaten in front of our laptop screens during which we dissected the news of the day and did our best to cheer one another up. As the weeks ticked by, we celebrated birthdays and took calls outdoors to vent from a safe distance about roommates, parents, or partners. We opened up about what was on our minds, big and small, and heatedly debated the value of a Dyson vacuum.
It’s been almost 10 months since this all started. In that time, other friends have left the city too, for the short term or permanently. People have had pandemic weddings and pandemic babies, gone to pandemic funerals; they’ve bought houses, endured breakups, begun new jobs. Among other things, my conversations are full of fragile hopes for the future.
At some point, we stopped needing to "catch up" because we were caught up. Maybe that’s because we were inviting one another inside the messiness our new "normal" lives in a way that can’t be approximated by a wine-soaked dinner every other month (even though that sounds amazing right about now). Going through the same thing, at the same time, moved the content of my relationships into the present. You could say this year pulled us apart. You could also say it brought us back together.
You Might Also Like