With this Bubble I Thee Wed

Drawing by Rory, age nine.

All my life has been a rehearsal for this. And it turns out, I couldn’t get the show together on time. If only someone (Who? God? Boris? Wuhan?) had given me a deadline! Then I’d have known what I was working towards. I’d have started the refining process, the whittling down, made some cuts or cast the net wider.

Today I found out I’ve been cast ‘outside an isolation-bubble’. Which pretty much sums up my whole life. Hell, in my teens I thrived on this outsider-identity. ‘You all like Greenday? Ha! I like Easyworld….oh you haven’t heard of them? Well….’. If only I’d embraced these assimilation skills in my twenties, this periphery existence would have made great training for MI5. I can go-native in any environment. I am your city-friend ordering an Uber at the end of the night. I am your country-friend making a fire on the beach to cook up some mussels. But am I actually in your bubble? Lockdown-bubble or not, the answer is: Nooooo!

Here’s what happened: when I asked if I could see a friend, she told me she was in ‘a lockdown-bubble’ with two other families, so no. Indefinitely, no. Thanks Covid. You’ve locked-me-down all this time with just 3 other humans, you’ve made my working life mental and now you’ve stolen the credit for my research project’s ultimate goal: To foster a culture of honesty around friendship. Covid-19, I charge you with forcing polite British folk, who surely, we all agree, can very rarely call a spade a spade, let alone make public declarations of affection, to actually confront their feelings and declare their mutual ‘like’ for each other. This is a culture-shift I didn’t think I’d get to see in my lifetime. How dare Covid-19 get the credit for this movement and not my academic rigour and so far unwritten but definitely-will-be-definitive ‘how-to-guide’ A Formula For Friendship! 

In the name of science however, I must explore my feelings to this latest and to date most odd friendship-rejection. Reactions in no particular order:  1) Cor, what a smack in the face. 2) Urggh, how contrived. 3) Why didn’t you pick meeeeee? 4) Is everyone in bubbles? Am I/we the last family outside a bubble? 5) Bubbles bubbles feckin bubbles. I want a bubble.

With every new stage of life I’ve tried to create a bubble. A school bubble. A uni bubble. A work bubble. But alas, bubble member I am not. I’m with Nick Hornby’s character Marcus in ‘About a Boy’ (I’m also an English teacher, excuse the GCSE set-text references from now on, I have quotes from Romeo and Juliet, An Inspector Calls and Of Mice and Men coming out of my ears):  ‘Suddenly I realised – two people isn’t enough. You need backup. If you’re only two people, and someone drops off the edge, then you’re on your own. Two isn’t a large enough number. You need three at least.’ Yes Marcus you wise 12 year old you. But I’d like to up that number to five. I’ve tried threesomes (go on, get your giggles where you can) and they don’t work for me. With a three, if one person buggers off (in my experience) it is way too intense for the two left standing. As a ten year old going off to play in the woods I was told to go off as a five, ‘So you’ve got one to get injured, one to stay with the injured person, two to go off for help and there you go’. ‘But Mum,’ I mused, ‘that makes four people?’  ‘Oh it’s always handy to have a floater love’. Indeed Mum. Indeed.

I’m keen to refine my Formula For Friendship. And to be researching friendship in the advent of bubbles…what a boon! If I can find a formula and use it to enhance meaningful connections: score! Or what do you reckon, should I just prick that bubble right now and say screw bubbles and screw formulas… Public Displays of Affection (between friends) or ‘with-this-bubble-I-thee-wed’ gestures are simply too evolved and raw for my poor British brain. Bring back the awkwardness and limbo that’s typified my last 35 years!