The Joy of Picking a Fight With Friends

In isolation, I’ve begun to recognize the entertainment value in making the biggest deal over the smallest thing.

“Anyone for Zoom Uno?” I suggested to a group chat. “Maybe Friday night?”

“I can’t, I have plans,” said Mel, with a vague enough tone in her reply to make me immediately suspicious. Who has “plans” in a pandemic that they can’t be specific about? There aren’t many options: It’s either “I have to House Party with my great-aunt” or “Was planning on masturbating” or “Sick of Zoom.”

“What are you doing?” I asked. The conversation continued without an answer to that question; she probably hoped I didn’t notice.

I, of course, did notice and marched right over to another group chat, one containing a friend I suspected was part of the mystery plans, just to confirm my hunch. “Uno? Maybe Friday?” I asked, again, for no other purpose than entrapment.

“I can’t,” said the friend, Lana, unwittingly ensnaring herself in my rising tide of indignation, “I’m playing Clue with Mitch and Mel.” (All names have been changed … poorly.)

“Oh thanks for the invite,” I said, hoping my text relayed that I was not even the least bit thankful. These two Judases were hanging out without me, and I was furious. I’d lit a tiny fire of conflict in our group chat, and now everyone could sit back and watch it burn. You’re welcome, group chat.

I realize how this sounds. To make you understand, it would take an exhausting slog through a many-layered history of a situation I agreed to get over a long time ago and is actually kind of stupid.

“This is stupid,” Lana said. “I talk to you more than anyone else.” Her comment was begging me to be rational and not do the thing she knew I was about to do, and did: harp on my non-invitation for the next three days.

All this? Over a murder-mystery board game for children? Yes. Because in isolation, I’ve begun to recognize the entertainment value in making the biggest deal over the smallest thing. (Why does she even have friends? you may ask. I ask, too.)

After weeks of feeling grief over not being able to hang out in any sort of a real way, most of my interactions had taken on a kid-gloves vibe: When everything felt so hard, how could you not be nice?

We made sure to hop on every Zoom, FaceTime or House Party even when we didn’t want to, because people needed people. We made extra cookies to deliver to one another from a social distance. It felt like the kind of extra good behaviors you exhibit the first few days of being a guest in someone’s home. The behaviors you let go the minute you realize you’re in it for the long haul and can’t hold in your farts anymore. We can let it rip now, and what relief.

Things are still hard, but we’ve all gotten a bit more used to it, and in a perverse way it feels good to stop being so polite, and start being ourselves again. And what makes us ourselves is to throw little hissy fits when we don’t get invited to do things. So I threw one. It felt great. It was probably more fun than playing Clue would have been, anyhow.

Allison P. Davis is a features writer at The Cut and New York magazine.

Doodles by Vinnie Neuberg. Vinnie is a freelance staff editor at The Times.

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