I just lost a friendship over COVID
Not a friend, thankfully. Just the relationship.
I just lost a friendship because of COVID. Not the friend, thankfully. She’s alive and well. But the relationship is over. She thinks I’m an insensitive jerk, and I’ve realized how little respect she has for my professional knowledge. There’s no coming back from this - not for either of us. Maybe someday. But not now and not soon.
I’ve known this woman for more than a decade. My kids adore her. My mom thinks she’s delightful. I thought she was in my life for the long haul. I’ve helped her hire staff and make business decisions and I’ve reminded her she’s better than the jerks she dated. I really thought we were friends for life. COVID, though, has a knack for breaking these things.
We’ve all seen the big breaks. The families split by anti-vaccine beliefs or poisoned by the toxic brew of far right disinformation - the qanon/5G/microchip/white power mystery ride of horror. We all know that’s happening. The media is full of horror stories.
We rarely talk about the less dramatic breaks. When science-minded, COVID-aware people make different choices about managing risks - and then resent each other for it. It’s partially the result of this DIY pandemic. Government guidance has been confusing and inconsistent in almost every country. We’re making dozens - hundreds - of choices a day about protecting ourselves, meeting our responsibilities to others, and maintaining lives of activity and joy and meaning.
People tend to characterize these choices as personal, but they're not. They’re individual, but making decisions that could lead to infecting others with covid is the exact opposite of personal. They’re deeply communal choices, even if we refuse to acknowledge that fact. They’re also deeply emotional choices, and when someone you care about chooses differently it can feel like an attack.
I’m choosing caution, and that choice is a privilege. I live in a place where I can do all my socializing outdoors, all year round. I share a home with my husband, my two sons, my mother, and a fluffy little dog. Even when we lock down, I don’t risk loneliness. I can stay home and stay safe and also bask in the company of my loved ones.
Most of my single friends don’t get to do that. Maximum safety means isolation, for them. Maybe my careful choices look like judgment. Maybe they look like paranoia. The choices are complicated, individual, and painful.
When someone you care about makes a choice that doesn’t match your own, it hurts. You feel judged for being timid or you feel judged for being reckless. That hurt can pour out all over and bake itself into anger.
There are big breaks - like me and my beloved friend. And there are slow erosions until relationships just cease to exist. One friendship is gone to me. How many more are waning? Which of my relationships are fraying because I won’t eat at indoor restaurants, because I keep my kids masked at playdates? Who am I going to lose next?