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3 writers on love in the time of lockdown

As connecting and communicating take on digital dimensions and collectively we navigate new meanings, three writers discuss how they think relationships are different now. By KATIE BERRINGTON

Lifestyle

Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow

A realization I have had about relationships and togetherness during lockdown is that love involves as much doing as feeling. We are at a moment when we really need each other – and these needs involve more than affection. I spend several hours a week gathering groceries, medication, household items, wine and flowers for the people in my life who are vulnerable. For me, relationships have become about taking risks, so others don’t have to.

Communication during lockdown has been far more inclusive. It doesn’t matter if a friend lives around the corner or across the ocean – I talk to people now simply because I want to. There will be no follow-up date or outing. In today’s climate, the conversation is its own reward, so the quality of the exchange is the only variable.

I have been keeping connected by letter-writing. Each day, I send two or three. Sometimes I write to close friends and family, and at other times I send notes and cards to people I hardly know. It’s a good feeling to write and to be written to in return.

Something I am particularly looking forward to beyond this is doing all the things I used to do, but without the silly hang-ups I had before. For example, I look forward to going to brunch with bare nails (I haven’t had a manicure in weeks), and maybe even a bare face. This time indoors has made me feel more comfortable with my private, unadorned self. I look forward to greeting the world in this new way.

I’m finding that distance makes me swing between loneliness and solitude, but it is good to know the difference.

I think that love on the other side of lockdown will be frenzied at first. But I suspect we will be more pared down in our understanding of what it means to be happy. Once the dust settles, our connections will be deeper and more sincere.

Tayari Jones is the author of Silver Sparrow, now released for the first time in the UK, and the award-winning An American Marriage

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For me, relationships have become about taking risks, so others don’t have to

Leslie Gray Streeter, author of Black Widow

A realization I have had about relationships and togetherness during lockdown is that they mean something different to what I previously thought; before, I had to talk to my friends through doors and hug the air between us. Togetherness takes work. It’s not just about proximity. It’s about filling the space between with meaning, which sometimes means deep conversation, and at other times, just watching TV together on FaceTime.

Communication during lockdown has sometimes been too much, and also not enough. I have started, like many of us, turning down Zoom Happy Hours because I realize I sometimes turned down in-person ones for the same reason. Netflix is calling. And weirdly, sometimes in the silence, I find myself talking to my late husband, Scott (the subject of Black Widow), because we used to do that in the dark, like you do when you know someone so well. Those are pretty good conversations. He doesn’t talk back in words, but I hear him, you know?

I keep connected by any means I can. I’ve had a lot more phone conversations of late, and I love that. The first few were odd, because usually, when family or close friends call me, it’s to tell me bad news or that someone has died. I don’t know if reporting or widowhood informs my fatalism more – and we are in the middle of a deadly pandemic. But it’s a weird relief to lean in to these connections – on the phone, on instant messenger, even on Instagram or Twitter.

Something I am particularly looking forward to beyond this is dating. I deleted all my dating apps before the crisis, then went back on one for about 24 hours, before I was like, “nah”. Finding connection as a widow who is almost 50 is fraught enough, so putting myself out there for random weirdness isn’t worth my time.

I have found that distance makes it so much clearer who we need to be in contact with. I crave the chance to hug my grandma, my nephew, my twin sister. I see them at least weekly on scheduled family Zoom chats, but it’s not the same. I need to be with my people.

I think that love on the other side of lockdown will be more authentic, more cautious, but freer. I will hug everyone I love. I will touch them.

Leslie Gray Streeter is the author of Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like ‘Journey’ in the Title, out now

Togetherness takes work. It’s not just about proximity. It’s about filling the space between with meaning…

Emma Straub, author of All Adults Here

A realization I have had about relationships and togetherness during lockdown is how often I usually see my parents, who live a five-minute walk from my house. I think about them a lot. I wasn’t aware until now of how many times a week I would see them. And now I’m like, “Oh my God, I need that.”

Communication during lockdown has been a disaster as a messy, disorganized person! The only people I’m really communicating with all day are my children, because I’m with them constantly. Other than that, my email keeps suggesting I respond to messages that arrived a week ago, and it is a circle of hell that I’m avoiding.

I keep connected by FaceTiming with more people and more often, because it’s just so nice to see their faces. My husband and I own a bookstore, so we’ve been having meetings via Zoom and, even though I exchange emails with those people all day, every day, to actually see them makes me so happy.

Something I am particularly looking forward to beyond this is hugs. I’m looking forward to being in my bookstore and having people walk in and just being able to talk to them. I’m looking forward to parties and dinner dates outside my house.

I have found that distance makes everything more difficult. I really am a person who thrives on being around other people, so it takes away so many layers of interaction in my daily life.

I think that love on the other side of lockdown will thrive on us being more aware of how lucky we are to be with the people we care about. I’m not going to be able to take things for granted anymore – I’m going to really make the effort to see the people I love.

Emma Straub’s latest novel, All Adults Here, is out now

I’m looking forward to being in my bookstore and having people walk in and just being able to talk to them

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