I have been brooding on a Twitter suggestion that we should introduce a Covid “friendship amnesty”: a mutual agreement to forget our recent shortcomings as friends is definitely needed.
Even in normal times there’s a truism that you can only succeed at two out of family, work and friendship; pandemic pressures have left many of us feeling we are failing at all three. I have, however, maintained an unbroken record of daily crisp eating and watched approximately 260 hours of the intense Australian cookery show My Kitchen Rules, which is something, I suppose.
If Hallmark produced honest cards addressing our friendship failures over the past 18 months, I would definitely buy: “Our most recent exchange in June 2020 ended with me saying ‘Let’s definitely get a drink next week – I’ll message you.’ I don’t really know what happened, sorry.” Shamefully, I also need: “Congratulations on your baby, whose gestation I entirely missed. She looked beautiful in the picture I scrolled past in a dread-tinged daze last week.”
There might be a market for more delicate ones, too: “You said something odd the last time we met, so now I’m too worried you’ve gone a bit Naomi Wolf to get in touch.” Or: “Your apparent ability to breeze through a global pandemic photogenically unscathed is stopping me making meaningful contact (instead, I have viewed all your Instagram stories).” Perhaps a bleakly universal: “Sorry, I sucked” would cover most bases.
We have found ourselves philosophically at loggerheads with those we thought were soulmates, while gulfs in our material and relationship circumstances felt more unbreachable than ever. We’ve all gone through something transformational – loss, anger, existential questioning, developing an elaborate fantasy life involving Pete and Manu, the judges from My Kitchen Rules – so it’s no surprise that friendships have become strained or withered.
But the new, peculiar versions of ourselves we have become need the friction of human contact and difference to sand off our weirdest edges. That’s what friends are for. So in the interests of collective sanity, how about a one-off cancellation of friendship debt? Let’s get Bono on it.