I miss the girls’ nights, the park playdates, and having a friend just randomly ‘pop by’ for coffee. I miss giving hugs, even the polite ones. I miss getting them even more. I miss meeting up for a workout and choosing to grab lunch instead. I miss deep conversations during an afternoon neighborhood walk. I miss bumping into an old friend at Target and spending too much time catching up. I miss saying, “You look cute today!” in passing to a friend at drop-off. I miss meeting up with a friend to vent, like really vent. I miss having a friend’s shoulder to cry on. I miss making plans to meet-up, canceling those plans, and then repeatedly talking about rescheduling said plans.
I miss my friends. Period.
Call it #FirstWorldProblems, but I hate knowing that I’ll only be able to see my friends through a screen. Unfortunately, it seems we are all in long-distance friendships for the foreseeable future.
However, I’m no rookie to a FaceTime friendship. The fact that I have to cross state lines to bear hug my BFF has completely prepped me for the current situation. In fact, due to the basic concept of geography, my best friend and I have been unintentionally practicing social distancing for years. And honestly, we’re really good at it.
Under normal circumstances, most conversations between my best friend and I are spent while getting dressed, driving (handsfree, of course), or perusing the aisles for things I definitely don’t need. Since we won’t be going anywhere and the chance of me putting on real clothes is highly unlikely, we’ve had to tweak things a bit. That being said, I thought it might be helpful to share some advice and a few ideas to help you make the most of your new-found, virtual friendships.
The Golden Rule
The most important piece of advice I can give you is: Get used to having awkward moments, and more importantly, get comfortable with silence.
Generally speaking, when things feel awkward and uncomfortable we jump ship. With long-distance conversations, there are a LOT of weird pauses. In that uncomfortable silence is when a lesser-friend might say, “Well… let me get back to [XYZ]. I’ll call you later!” — Any other time, that’s fine. But for now, DO NOT HANG UP! THIS is considered hanging out and you should treat it as such. If you were out for drinks or chatting on her couch, would you just leave if the conversation drifted off? No, you’d just move on to a different topic. Those normal conversation transitions just FEEL uncomfortable, because we’re not used to them coming through a device. It will definitely take some getting used to, but it’s the only way to move beyond surface-level chatting.
Social Media is not Socializing.
Before you share that super fun Facebook memory of the two of you, pause. Instead, send that picture or screenshot in a text with an open-ended question.
A simple “Miss you, friend” is likely to receive a generic, almost automated response. But sending a message with, “Remember this trip? Where should we plan our next vacation?” This is great for two reasons: (1) It starts the conversation, and (2) it gives you both something exciting to look forward to, even if it’s only hypothetical.
Make the Mindless Meaningful.
My grandmother always says, “when I die, bury my sink and washing machine next to me so I feel at home.” Day 36 of quarantine and I finally understand how she feels. A house full of people creates what feels like a never-ending cycle of household chores. It’s not like folding towels and drying dishes require a lot of concentration, so why not pass the time by chatting with a friend?
If you’re not sure where to start, look around. From practical to “when I win the lottery,” what is on your current wish list of house projects? If you’re actually planning to tackle a project, such as purging your wardrobe, having real-time feedback from a friend on what to toss can be extremely helpful.
And don’t feel bad if you’re too busy rinsing 100,000 sippy cups to actually complete one of your projects, it is a pandemic after all. Dare to dream. If nothing else, it’s always fun to verbalize a Pinterest board.
Share Experiences, Separately.
I don’t know about you, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to find ways to entertain myself these days. “What have you been up to?” can feel like a loaded question. But we need to experience things that bring us joy, and everything is better when shared with a friend!
Perhaps you’re typically only free to chat at a time your friend is not. In this case, decide on a book to read or show to watch. Now the next time you have the chance to talk, you’ll have plenty to discuss!
If you can hardly find time in your day to sit, much less read a book, try something more essential. You’re out of ideas for dinner, so try a new recipe together. You can even make a habit of FaceTiming each other while cooking.
I mean, you can’t live on frozen pizza forever, right? (No, really. I’m genuinely asking.)
Make Plans. Virtually, Of Course.
You’re both interested in the same Facebook Live? Maybe it’s an informational seminar, maybe it’s a drag show. Either way, grab your favorite cocktail / mocktail (or coffee, depending on the time of day) and tune in together. *Bonus: A fun side commentary through texts and/or FB chat.
*Pro-tip: You don’t need an excuse to chat over coffee. Fuel your day with coffee and your soul with friendship.
Do you talk about exercising more, but don’t seem to follow through? Vow to complete the same exercise regimen, and then hold each other accountable. Perhaps you could find a virtual class so you can attend together!
Recreate a Night Out, In.
Why do we even have girls’ nights anyway? To let loose, of course. Just because we’re stuck at home doesn’t mean we can’t have fun! Heck, dress up if you want; if anything it’ll lift your spirits!
Another equally valuable aspect of girl’s night: Girl talk. There are things we reserve strictly for the unbiased, judgment-free zone that is girl’s night. We rely on the support and encouragement of our friends. They make us feel validated in our feelings and encourage us to do what’s best. More than ever, we need a safe space to air our frustrations. So, VENT. VENT. VENT. And then vent some more. *Especially if the only people within the vicinity are the ones you need to vent about…
If all else fails, there’s always some type of drama going on. Did you report your neighbor for throwing a social distancing party? Have you had to fuss at a parent to stay indoors? Is Karen ranting conspiracy theories in the neighborhood Facebook group? Everyone loves a little gossip!
Remember: This is REAL LIFE
In my house, there is no stronger kid-magnet than a screen. My children’s favorite hobbies include FaceTiming various portions of their faces until eventually, someone runs away and hides my phone. One solution: Have both families try the same activity. Including the kids, you can discuss what aspects everyone enjoyed, what you’ll do differently next time, and what was just a complete laughable fail. You’re creating memories even in unfavorable circumstances.
Lastly, and essentially Golden Rule 2.0, the probability that your child will interrupt your conversation is almost guaranteed. Don’t cut your conversation short for something silly like your kid screaming for another snack or your pre-teen copping an attitude. I promise, your friend gets it; she’s in the exact same boat. Take care of your business, and jump right back in. On any given day, you bounce back and forth between tasks, so picking up where you left off should be a breeze.
If you find that you’re having a hard time adjusting to this “new normal,” you are not alone. Lean on your friends, utilize your support systems, and reach out if you need help. If you find yourself thriving and wanting to take full advantage of your time home, you’re not alone in that either.
At the end of the day, it’s the same friendship, just different means of communicating. We are here to support one another, nothing less.