Whether it’s a chingwag over coffee or getting the lowdown over drinks, we all love a good catch-up with our friends. And right now, we’re all trying to find new ways to connect with our friends. In an exclusive piece for the HQ blog Andi Osho, author of the feel-good and funny Asking for a Friend, writes about how she’s been keeping in touch with hers and how it’s more important than ever.
And don’t forget to tell your own shero that you’re thinking about her and send her an Asking for a Friend ecard today.
This latest lockdown has been tough. With its ‘wake up, work, social-media, Netflix, bed’ spiral, life’s become more Groundhog Day-like than the 1993 Bill Murray classic. Forget about knowing what month it is, the only way I can tell the weeks apart is by which season of my new favourite TV show I’ve just devoured.
With life looking nothing like we remember, it’s easy for our interactions to be limited to the Amazon delivery guy and the occasional supermarket checkout person safely shielded behind a plastic screen. To maintain some semblance of normality, we’ve had to get inventive about how to keep our relationships alive – especially our friendships. In these mad, mad times, our friends may be the only ones who can keep us sane. But just because parties, get-togethers and birthday drinks are off the table, that shouldn’t stop us finding ways to stay connected.
Obviously, there are the more traditional options like Zoom although it feels strange calling it ‘traditional’. Twelve months ago, Zoom was the song on the Magic FM ads. But what a godsend it’s been even if it took us a hot minute to master using it. I, for one, have lost count of the times I’ve watched a friend silently nattering away, while everyone else waves at the screen, ‘Babe, you’re on mute. Unmute, darling. Unmute!’
And haven’t we all had to learn to push through the awkwardness of figuring out how to end a video call, repeatedly cooing, ‘bye… bye… great to see you… you too… Speak soon!’ while trying to hit the ‘leave meeting’ button.
Or worse, realising the meeting has been set up using a free account and will end in three, two, one… noooo! just as a girlfriend is in the midst of spilling some juicy tea! The horror of Karen being cut off mid-goss haunts me still.
Another way I’ve really enjoyed staying connected is the ubiquitous online quiz. At the beginning of the (first) lockdown I was halfway through a theatre rehearsal. We were all devastated to abandon our production but decided to stay in touch by setting up lockdown quizzes. It was loads of fun, gave us a great excuse to catch up and exercise our competitive streaks! Even in the run-up to quiz night, there was plenty of playful banter and good-hearted gamesmanship. I loved it because somehow, even though we were miles apart we recreated the spirit of our rehearsal room, reminding us of the life we’d left behind in spring.
But as great as the online options are, I’ve also appreciated the more left-field ways my friends and I have stayed in touch. A few weeks ago, my pal Amy messaged, asking if I was home. ‘I’ve left a present outside your door. I promise it’s not dog poo!’ I laughed when I arrived back and saw her gift neatly tied up in a little black bag… because it did look like dog poo.
Luckily it wasn’t. I unwrapped it and inside found a lovely jar of homemade pickles. Amy often gifts them, her way of expressing love. Seeing this jar of deliciousness, I beamed from ear to ear. Yes, I like pickles but what really made me smile was the thought. What a lovely gesture, cycling all the way over to surprise me with this homemade gift. That, for me, is true friendship and makes me smile every time I dip into my purple, pickley treat.
So with socially-distanced walks, paired outdoor work-outs, zoom quizzes, phone calls and more, it has been possible to find ways to maintain friendships. Obviously it’s still not the same as ‘before’. How could it be? And the contrast was never more evident than on New Years’ Eve. Normally we’d be meeting up with friends, heading out to pubs and clubs or having folks over to usher in the New Year together but this year we were all on our sofas watching Jools Holland with a supermarket-bought tipple.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from these lockdowns, humans are inherently social beings. We need interaction to survive. Whenever a text from a friend pings onto my phone or I have a two-hour video call putting the world to rights or even find a random jar of pickles on my doorstep, the shift in my mood is massive. It feels like everything’s ok, even just for a little while.
And so, as Valentine’s day, or if you’re a singleton like me, Galentine’s day approaches, remember that it’s still possible to be close to your besties no matter how far apart you are. This 13th Feb, let’s raise a glass to our BFFs and toast to a brighter 2021 when we can all catch up on those IRL hugs, kisses and spilt tea!
Asking for a Friend is out now.