As you can imagine, over the course of the last year I participated in fewer coffee dates and practically zero lunches with dear friends. I didn’t grab brunch with my work bestie. I didn’t have playdates with friends from church and their kids. I didn’t sneak out of the house after my kid’s bedtime for a late-night drink and chat with a girlfriend.
Are We Still Friends?
At various points over the year a different friend would pop into my mind and I would think, “Wow, I haven’t talked to them in a really long time.” One Saturday this spring, I thought of someone. We hadn’t spoken socially in months, although our paths crossed through some overlapping work responsibilities. Otherwise, we hadn’t been in touch. This was someone that I met by chance when she moved to Iowa City and we were introduced online by someone who knew I worked at the University of Iowa. We scheduled breakfast together for our first meeting. It was a “friend blind date.” Over hot coffee and cheesy omelets, we hit it off instantly and had enjoyed a friendship ever since.
But were she and I still friends? Maybe we weren’t good enough friends before the pandemic to make it past such an absence. Should I have done more to solidify that friendship? I wasn’t sure. I still wanted that relationship, but did she?
Then, recently, another specific friend popped into my head. I realized we hadn’t spoken since February 2020. Sure, we had sent the occasional text message here and there, but we had not been in the same room as one another in over a year. This was someone I saw pretty often socially before the pandemic — a dear mom-friend who is a parenting stage ahead of me and gives the best most down-to-earth advice. She is also the friend that made me a strong margarita and helped me Google all my new neighbors (through fits of giggles) when we bought our new house a year and a half ago. She is a friend that values my snark and sass and I hers.
I hadn’t seen her. I hadn’t hugged her. I hadn’t talked to her.
“Are we still friends?” I thought. How did I define whether our friendship was still active or not? I wasn’t sure. I mean, I had not done a good job of reaching out to many friends in my life over the past 12 months. But they also hadn’t reached out to me. Again, I blame the pandemic.
Did “not seeing” each other mean we were suddenly “not friends” anymore? I didn’t know how to answer that question.
The Answer: Yes
I texted my breakfast friend that Saturday and asked if she wanted to come sit in my garage, have a drink, some snacks, and visit. We could remain socially distanced, and that would work well for both of us. She said yes. I was nervous. What if we didn’t have anything to talk about? What if the conversation was awkward? When she arrived, it pained me not to hug her. But that didn’t stop us from hours of conversation, laughter, and joy. She told me later that she was so excited to receive my text message about coming over and it was a no-brainer to her to say yes.
We were still friends. And it felt nice to have the validation. Why had I been so fearful?
Then, a few Sundays ago, I was standing in our church foyer, masked and chatting with someone. It was one of our first times back to church in-person. We were fully vaccinated and feeling excited to be back in a place that was special to us. As I chatted, I turned around to tell my impatient six-year-old to chill out and there she was. My mom friend who made me those margaritas all those months ago. We made eye contact. We gasped. And I said, “Can I hug you?” She said yes. I could have cried. Her sincere joy and excitement to see me told me everything I needed to know.
Just like my other friend, this person and I never stopped being friends. We simply adjusted to a weird “normal” that meant not seeing one another for an extended period of time. The friendship is still there. It never went away. And when we get together soon, it will be just like it was. We will have margaritas, and be sassy, and tell stories.
If you have a friend you haven’t talked to since, oh . . . March 2020, give the relationship the benefit of the doubt. That friend probably wants to come over. They probably want to talk. They might be wondering if you are still their friend. They likely need a margarita. Maybe reach out. Figure out a way to get together that feels good to both of you.
You’re still friends. I promise.