Breaking up is hard to do, as the Neil Sedaka song says. We’ve all been through this whether breaking up with a romantic or business partner, a spouse, friend or family member. That’s why it’s so tough to admit that we’re thinking of splitting up with some of our Zoom groups—or at least taking a break or not meeting as often.
Our Zoom gatherings provide regularity and purpose to our lives during the pandemic when everything else seems to have come apart. For almost a year, we haven’t been able to go to our favorite gyms and spas; see our dearest friends over weekly meals or wine get-togethers, and we certainly haven’t been able to plan holiday meals with the same number of people, if at all.
However, what we can count on are these Zoom groups, which include a small or large number of friends or family members meeting up online on an appointed day and hour to give us something to put on our calendars that are otherwise blank and to give us something to look forward to.
It’s not that we dislike our Zooms. Quite the contrary. When we participate, members engage us in good conversations, make eye contact with us, share jokes, notice our longer, grayer hair for the women and balder heads for the men and give us a reason to get dressed and out of our pajama tops, even if not our bottoms.
We share pressing questions with these Zoom pals. What’s the safest mask—and safest routines—how many can be in our pod now without risking infection? Has everybody been vaccinated? And by the way, what do we think of the various vaccines now available? How did we each react to getting the shot finally—tears or huge smiles?
We also listen as others tell us what new skills they have developed in the kitchen and what online classes or lectures they are taking or attending or took, from having a virtual tour of Berlin to learning about tulipomania or password protection strategies and finding out how different French pastries might be to create.
But, after more than 11 months, the Zoom bond has begun to wear thin. The honeymoon is starting to be over, even if not done. It’s hard to pin down when this happened as many of us have discovered with the help of expensive weekly therapy. Zooming weekly has sometimes become like a command performance, and we have missed the spontaneity that we once enjoyed in our social gatherings.
So, we ask, do we need to close the curtain completely or instead of weekly meetings, do we stretch out gatherings to every two or three weeks, even monthly or in six months? If we do bow out completely, what might be the best ways to do so when the pandemic ends, and we go back to our pre-COVID-19 busy lives? Here are our suggestions to slowly move away. Try one, two or all.
The direct method
Lay it on the line; be brutally honest. If you’re wondering why we haven’t Zoomed with you for more than two weeks, here’s the reason. We tell the group what we feel—that we are tired of hearing about everybody’s grandkids’ brilliance and perfect SAT scores, that we hate when so-and-so has to share all the silver linings of this awful period—why do we always have to see the glass full, or how someone perfected a down-dog yoga pose, a perfect pirouette or another person in the group was nominated for a Nobel prize in getting souffles to rise as high as Mt. Everest. Cooking was added to the Nobel categories in light of everyone cooking so much more at home. Didn’t the souffle fall as soon as it was removed from the oven?
The slower route
Because we pride ourselves on being kind, we think this total-honesty approach doesn’t cut the mustard, especially as we try to be better, kinder, gentler people. That’s how we want to be remembered. We’ve had some wonderful times together talking about trips, kids, cooking tips, politics and on and on. We’d like to hang around but not as often.
The we-can-still-be-friends’ approach
We can still be friends. In a way nothing has changed in our relationship. I can still call, text or email any of you in the group. And who knows, maybe absence makes the heart grow founder as they say. Perhaps, one day when we do pop back on Zoom, everyone will be excited to see us again. It will seem like old times, and an excuse to open the bubbly and bring out great nibbles, maybe, even now from a restaurant since many more are back in business.
Excuses: The passive aggressive tack
If you take this approach because you’re a wuss, here are a list of excuses you might use when you don’t want to show up on screen:
- Lost assignments.It’s the equivalent of the dog ate one of our grandchildren’s homework assignments, and we had to help the child redo it since their parents are so busy working from home.
- Up to our elbows. We’re busy baking sweets for all in the group, and we are literally up to our elbows in flour and sugar.
- Boxed in.You can say you’ve been downsizing and packing in boxes what you plan to keep. Or even better--this one you’ll like if you were impressed with Martha (Stewart) and her many talents. Say: I was busy sewing burlap bags for our boxwoods to protect them from the storms coming our way this past winter and am now just too exhausted. This won’t work for all since many of us live in apartments without gardens and others never learned to sew in home economics classes. If you bow out now as spring approaches, explain that you were busy irrigating the soil, pruning the bushes so buds will emerge and cleaning up your gardening boots for all your yard work as those crocuses and tulips start to emerge.
- Moving on. We’re too busy honing the skills we mastered on one of those pricey MasterClass Zoom classes, after we studied cooking with Alice Waters or learned about all the great U.S. Presidents from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.
- Fight flight. This might work better and actually hold some kernels of truth with so much togetherness these days. We had a big fight with our spouse or significant other and just can’t face the group with red eyes and tears streaming down our face. Fortunately, most of us are getting along splendidly with our loved ones, although occasionally they do become incredibly irritating when they are messy, keep repeating themselves, can’t hear or mumble when they talk.
- Tripped up. Sorry, I’m going on a Disney cruise. Bye. Bye. I don’t think so. OK, here’s another really, really good but dishonest one. Our spouse or significant other surprised us with tickets to a dreamy romantic vacation in Tahiti. We’ll be away for weeks and aren’t taking our devices. This is a Swiss cheese approach--full of holes. Who is traveling that far and to another country with so many bathroom stops needed on the flight? And who brags about this out loud?
- Clean slate.Too busy cleaning up our cat’s vomit on the new rug we ordered from Amazon.
- I moved.There is no forwarding address yet, you say. Lame excuse for a virtual activity. But a few points for trying to be clever.
- New relationship. You are loath to admit it, but you have been disloyal to the group. You hooked up with another Zoom group, which meets the same time. Sorry to break your hearts and play favorites.
- Growing apart.You feel you’ve given up too much for these Zooms, and the wear and tear of this type of relationship isn’t worth it any longer. You have limited energy these days and must save it for your family. You become a no show but alas the result is you become the center of attention, which you hate. Everybody wants to know where you were. Get over yourself, show up, fess up and apologize for making everybody sob and beg you to stay.
Cutting the cable
So, what to do to make this work and effective? We suggest telling the Zoom group that you care about each member, have cherished the get-togethers, learned so much and appreciated everyone (or most) helping all to get through these wretched months and year. Then, lower the boom boldly. Share that you’d like to spread out the meetings or take a break. Get everyone’s reaction to the idea.
To make any of these approaches more palatable, we suggest scheduling a virtual party. Or, because we live near several in the group and the others can fly in for this big event, we might suggest an in-person gathering. This would be an option only after everybody’s been vaccinated and can show an app as proof, tested negative and again can show the paperwork, washed their hands at least 10 times that day—there will be an app for this soon, had a temperature check before entering the gathering, gotten their hair cut and coiffed, done their own nails and put on something stylish, plus a mask to match.
This also means shedding the pajamas, sweats or any of that leisure wear that became the new popular pandemic fashion. Then, suggest that black tie, business casual or cocktail attire will do nicely, along with heels or fancy-dress shoes rather than sneakers or fluffy slippers as the price of admission. Good luck in finding a store that still sells such items, and share the name and website since we’re not yet ready to go into stores.