In the depths of winter, I usually miss sunshine, summer dresses, and sandals. This year, I can add friends and socializing to this list. I have made a conscious effort through these social distancing months to keep up my friendships and adapt my “normal” socializing to our “new normal,” but my best efforts have gone to the wayside thanks to frigid temperatures.
Case in point 1: Book Club. This evolved from being in person monthly (for the last 6+ years) to becoming Zoom book club for a couple of months (not great) to evolving to outdoor Book Club (lovely in warmer weather), to no Book Club (it’s too cold).
Case in point 2: Cocktails and dinners with friends. By the end of last April, Zoom happy hours stopped being fun for me. While outdoor dining and patio cocktailing were the highlight of my summer, I now think of them as an opportunity to “après ski in the city.” Not all of my BFFs are up for this type of frigid entertainment, and even for the bravest, outdoor dining means meals are shorter, and there is no lingering at the bar for four hours.
I miss my close friends.
I also miss those friends with whom I have “weak ties,” as explained by Amanda Mull in this recent article in The Atlantic.
I miss Lori, the American Airlines gate agent at the New Orleans airport, with whom I am on a first name basis and who gives the best hugs. I miss Bernard, the bartender and master entertainer at Thunder Burger, whose mimosas are my favorite (a dash of Triple Sec is his secret ingredient). I miss my Sunday football watching friends Liz (Patriots) and Mike (Bills), and Stacy (Eagles) and Jeremy (Steelers). I miss Andy who always greeted me with a huge smile when I walked in to the SoulCycle studio. I only know them by their first names, and I miss them dearly.
Mull explains this well: “The psychological effects of losing all but our closest ties can be profound. Peripheral connections tether us to the world at large; without them, people sink into the compounding sameness of closed networks. Regular interaction with people outside our inner circle “just makes us feel more like part of a community, or part of something bigger,” Gillian Sandstrom, a social psychologist at the University of Essex, told me. People on the peripheries of our lives introduce us to new ideas, new information, new opportunities, and other new people. If variety is the spice of life, these relationships are the conduit for it.”
As we hopefully return to bars, restaurants, gyms, airports, and each other’s houses over the coming months, I will never take moments with friends, close or not, for granted again. To end on Mull’s words: “As we begin to add people back into our lives, we’ll now know what it’s like to be without them.”