My grandparents used to make spontaneous phone calls. They were also people who stopped by the neighbors’ house unannounced — something I can’t imagine anyone I know actually doing. Whenever I read a magazine offering tips for “unexpected guests” like “Always have frozen cookie dough in the freezer in case of company,” I think, “I cannot fathom a universe in which my friends would do this.”
But I’ve seen us all become a lot more grandparent-esque in the past couple months in our communication styles. Like my grandfather, to whom it didn’t seem to occur that someone would ever be busy when he dialed their number, my friends and I have started just calling each other. For no reason at all.
It makes me chuckle to think about how carefully I planned my phone calls in The Before. How I’d pour myself water and situate myself on the couch and craft a solid excuse to leave in case the conversation dwindled. I’d put phone chats on the calendar and give myself ample padding room on either side (probably a self-protective practice for those of us whose energy is zapped by socializing).
Now, when I get a text from a friend that says, “Can I call you?” — a sentence that would normally send shivers down my spine — I reply “YES!” And mean it.
What this time lacks in almost every other type of spontaneity, it makes up for in impromptu communication. I’ve become a lot more comfortable with the odd 10-minute chat with an acquaintance, or the quick stroll-by hello. Whereas these kinds of unexpected encounters might have felt invasive before, my social life now feels more fluid. FaceTime with someone I met once at a wedding? Sure! Zoom happy hour with my dance classmates I haven’t seen since last summer? Why not?
In The Before, my time was so structured that sometimes it squeezed the life out of organic friendships that naturally ebbed and flowed. I’d make lists of friends I really wanted to prioritize in a given month, and decline invitations to hoard precious alone time.
Although we’ve had to stifle so many of our instincts as social creatures, this time has infused some humanity into my social agenda. Now that I have ample alone time, I’m freer with my yeses and more generous with invitations.
This is something I’d like to bring to The After: a bit more looseness with my socializing. I’d like to start calling people like my grandpa used to: Whenever he felt like it.