Before Covid, people often shared their dating stories with me. Not only friends but also colleagues at the tea point, or acquaintances at a mutual’s birthday, gesturing wildly about the lover who left a bad taste. Perhaps it was my approachable personality (or my own war chest of romantic failures), but these chance interactions added an extra dimension to my life. I missed them.
But when, recently, I reconnected with an acquaintance who complained about the lack of commitment from her new love interest, something was different.
“It is a weird time to be starting a relationship, though, what with the limitations on meetings,” I said. “I can see why you’d keep it cool.”
“What have you done with the old Coco?” she laughed. “You’re meant to take my side, tell me I’m amazing, and that I should bin him off.”
“I’m on your side!” I said defensively. “But everyone deals with their situation differently.”
“Wow,” she said. “You’re fun.”
Much as seeing someone after many years makes you notice how their face has changed (or, in the case of my now-hench cousin, how their neck has disappeared), nothing brings clarity like a bit of distance. And with pandemic-enforced separation from certain faces and rituals, I, too, see clearly: I have changed. My committed “You’re a kween, hunni!” attitude to female friendship feels alien. It’s not that I’m less loyal, but I see better how the same situation can make people behave differently, and that there is no right or wrong. Perhaps it was all the conversations about respecting people’s decision to disinfect their groceries (or not) that did it.
No doubt we are all changed, but how much is yet to become clear. As I write, at the start of the vaccine programme and lockdown 3, we are about to find out.