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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Tidd

Relationships Unmasked

Over the holidays I called a friend to see how she was doing, thinking she was likely just hanging out at home like I was, trying to distance herself as much as possible to keep the Covid numbers at bay.

"Our friends are here," she said when she answered. "Can I call you back tomorrow?"

I hung up the phone not feeling rejected that I wasn't invited; more like morally superior because even if I had been invited...I wouldn't have gone. Get togethers like that were something I felt was irresponsible, so I sat on my couch in my smugness and continued to watch Netflix.

Fast forward a day later and one of my kids had a few friends in the basement and one had her boyfriend over for lunch. At that point I did have the wherewithal to think, "What's the difference between my friend having people over last night and my kids having people over today?"

The only difference that I could see is that it wasn't ME having anyone over, but I did give the kids permission and people outside the family were in the house, which is basically the same thing. Bizarrely, I still don't agree with what my friend did even though what I allowed my kids to do was similar. And I recognize that someone else out there might be sitting in bitter smugness watching Bridgerton and thinking about me, "I haven't done what she's done. I'm better than that."

I know. I can't explain it.

For days after our quick phone call, I thought about it and had to keep reminding myself that I was guilty of doing the same thing she did. It's ridiculous, really. But this judgy, self-righteous feeling wasn't new to me. I'd been feeling it pretty steadily ever since I heard the phrase "stay at home order."

I was one of those people who took the order seriously. I didn't go out unless I was picking up food. I was one of the few parents (it seemed) back in the spring who wouldn't let anyone outside of our family in the house. I wouldn't allow the kids to drive with anyone else in the car. When my youngest asked if she could have a friend over, my response was, "Call the governor and ask his permission. When he says it's okay, then you can."

I followed orders. And began watching (and judging) others who didn't.

As time went on, things got a little looser and people decided to (foolishly) start using their own judgement on what they could and couldn't do (including my own family). During the last year, I've distanced myself from people who haven't behaved the way I thought they should. I've unfollowed friends on social media who argue that wearing masks does nothing but violate their rights. I've seethed as I look at pictures of friends on vacation when the entire country has been asked to stay home. I've shaken my head at people who still get together with elderly or at-risk family members. I've watched in disbelief as people I know denounce the whole thing as a hoax.

And I was pissed.

After the conversation with my friend over the holidays, there has been one question I can't stop thinking:

How long will my bitterness over Covid infractions last?

Will everyone's actions over the last year be enough to permanently change relationships? Or will there come a time when 2020 will just be this foggy memory of binge watching and irritation? When we come out of this, will I be able to let go of what annoys me now and just be grateful that we made it through or will I still be annoyed with those who didn't handle things the way I believe they should have?

Between politics and Covid, I think 2020 has really put a spotlight on our differences. I know that a more positive person would say that in many ways it brought us together, but I think it really showcased our different values and beliefs - even with lifelong friends and family members. With something as simple as whether or not to wear a mask we're saying to some people that we're "sheep" and to others that we don't care enough about humanity to protect it.

That one piece of fabric could be the difference between meeting a friend for happy hour when everything opens up or hitting that "unfriend" button now because we feel like we never knew who they were until this moment. Only time will tell if this is something we're able to move forward through or if the effects are something that will stick with us and possibly break us apart. As with everything that's happened this year, it will be interesting to see what happens when we emerge from our homes.

When we can finally do anything with anyone...will we?

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