The Moment I Decided To Leave My Girlfriend Zoom Hangouts For Good
The fatigue I'm feeling is real. And it all seems so artificial!
At first, it seemed like a wonderful idea. Four friends, each isolated by the pandemic, would get together via Zoom once a week to chat. Hooray for technology! I thought. We’ll do this even after COVID-19 — and why not? We don’t live close to each other. Kathleen lives in Manhattan, I live in Westchester, Sonia lives in the Berkshires, and Jane lives in L.A. Now we’d be together once a week in this whole new way. Girlfriends!
Kathleen bailed after our very first Zoom. She called me the next day. “I’m dropping out,” she said. “I don’t like it.”
“I hate looking at myself all that time, staring at my wrinkles.”
“I didn’t see any wrinkles!” I said. “And there’s a way to block your image from yourself.”
“Then I won’t know if I’m in the frame! And it’s not only that. It just feels uncomfortable.”
I couldn’t persuade her to stay, but a few weeks later, I almost dropped out myself. I had emailed a story to Sonia and Jane, and on our next Zoom they told me its faults — with, I thought, unwonted glee. They were quoting lines and laughing, egging each other on. It was the old two-against-one dynamic: Mothers of girls are sometimes warned against inviting two other girls over because any two will often gang up on the third.
When my friends came at me that day, I didn’t want to see either of them again, and certainly not together!
I went back to my story, extended it, and addressed two of my friends' jeers. And I sold the story in a day. This made me feel better, and the next Thursday at 6 p.m. I was ready to see them again (and tell them my news!).
But, where were they? Jane showed up a little late, but where was Sonia? I texted to tell her we were waiting.
“No one reminded me,” she complained when she finally joined us at 6:15.
“This is supposed to be a standing date,” I said. “Every Thursday at 6.”
“It’s a bad time for me,” said Jane. “It cuts into my afternoon.”
Our 6 was her 3.
“We should do it two hours later.”
“That’s dinnertime!” I protested.
So, we kept it 6 p.m. ET, but one or another of us often forgot. Or had something else to do.
“We need to prioritize our friendship,” I said piously when one of them asked to switch the time.
Thursday evening is a popular time for Zooms.
Once I had three other possible Zooms on Thursday evening, though I always put the Girlfriend Zoom first.
Still, more and more it felt like an obligation.
Our Zoom dates fell into a pattern. We discussed our hair and how we were managing without haircuts. We spoke about the weather, with the California girl complaining when the temperature dipped to 55 degrees. We never discussed politics because one of us combusts easily. But we did recommend books and movies. Indeed, we spent much of our time talking about films and series.
As the other two went into the intricacies of series I never watched, I grew impatient, thinking, Why am I here? While I can easily talk on the phone with either of them for an hour, using up the 40 free minutes of Zoom time — gazing at my friends throughout — was a real challenge. And although there were only three of us, we were constantly interrupting each other, lacking the little clues we normally get about when to talk and when to listen.
It felt so artificial! When you’re with friends IRL, you do not sit in a chair and stare at their faces. You are swirling some wine or petting a cat or taking a walk. A little silence feels natural, but on Zoom it’s a threat.
And Zoom made me feel compelled to entertain the others rather than talking deeply. Somehow, on Zoom we never discussed intimate things, and I would “Leave the Meeting” feeling oddly irritable and impoverished.
No more! I love my friends, but right now, at this moment, I've decided I am leaving my Girlfriend Zoom hangouts for good. From now on I’ll talk to them one to one, sometimes on video, more often just on audio. What I need now is a single caring voice, going straight to my heart.