It's a situation that more and more of us are experiencing. You go on a socially distanced walk with a friend. You stay safe, take precautions. But a couple of days later you feel that dry cough at the back of your throat. Now, as a good law- abiding citizen, you have to self-isolate at home (even an eye-testing drive to an excellently reviewed castle is no excuse to leave). But, so does that friend you met. Enter the Covid apology.
At the end of last year, I caught Covid within days of lockdown two being introduced, and had seen three friends in the week leading up to it. Doing the call around, as you tick off names and give numbers to NHS Test and Trace, feels reminiscent of those awkward film scenes where someone warns all their former lovers that they might have passed on an STI. Except with Covid you don’t just alert those you’ve slept with, but anyone you’ve seen, which includes of course (gulp) anyone you may live with (expect tense housemate meetings).
This new faux pas takes us into uncharted territory. I pride myself on being a polite person, I know when to send a thank you card and to always bring a bottle to a dinner party, but there’s no rule for the ‘I’m so sorry I met up with that friend that never wears a mask properly and now you’re going to be ordering Domino’s 10 nights in a row.’
Or at least there wasn’t until recently. Now, ‘I’m sorry I gave you Covid’ cards are popping up on Etsy and brands like Baked By Steph will send beautifully arranged biscuits reading ‘Sorry you have to isolate bcz of us’.
So how best to navigate this minefield? First, the obvious – don’t send anything wearable as an I’m-sorry treat – usually a fulfilled wish list from & Other Stories is a dream present, but with diaries empty it’s just depressing. The second big no-no is anything you’ve made. A painting you crafted or a wonky clay mug is more of a present for you than them – when lockdown ends we’re going to realise our homes are filled with all the dismal DIY we busied ourselves with on bored weekends. And I shouldn’t even need to say this, but nobody wants an apology Zoom event – not a quiz, bake off, or a drinks party.
So what should you send? Flowers to brighten up the home they’re stuck in, slippers as outdoor shoes are now superfluous, or, if in doubt, send food you didn’t make – their loss of taste is no excuse to unload another batch of banana bread.
The reality is, of course, it’s not really about the gift itself but the act. Being stuck indoors and isolated can be incredibly lonely and difficult. Really, we all just want to feel loved and remembered, and in lockdown it’s easy to forget you are. But, provided you haven’t been acting a fool at illegal raves, friends will likely be forgiving of having to isolate (accidents happen) – so let’s make a Covid apology a great excuse to brighten someone’s day.