Having never previously seen one another in our respective professional settings – he thinks a ‘copy deadline’ is the time frame you have to rip off another publication’s exclusive, and my knowledge of pharmaceutical sales, well, let’s just say I’m not entirely sure that’s even his job but it’s there or thereabouts – we’re discovering completely new sides to each other.
It took until the sixth week of lockdown for me to realise that this beyond-unusual (can we all agree to ban the word ‘unprecedented’ for a while?) situation is providing my partner and I with more one-on-one time that we’ve ever had before, and almost certainly more than we will ever have again – until retirement, perhaps, should our relationship make it that far.
But amidst all the ‘ultimate relationship test’ chat and ‘walk in during an important Zoom meeting one more time and we’re getting a divorce‘ jokes (the real punchline being that six years in, he still rolls his eyes when I suggest he might want to get down on one knee at some point) there have, actually been some surprisingly – dare I say it – pleasant moments over the last few weeks that have made me see my boyfriend in a new light.
Despite my fear that I may well be falling into dangerous ‘smugsolation‘ territory, I’m finding a huge amount of joy in listening to him conduct his professional life and discovering all sorts of little details that he’s brilliant at or situations he’s handling well, that I otherwise would never have witnessed.
I find myself frequently distracted from my own job and busy beaming with pride when a colleague calls him up to ask for advice on how to handle a specific client, or when one of his own confirms a booking. His boss’s booming congratulations down the laptop speaker only echo my own, and I share in his frustrations when a seemingly-certain pitch falls through. I watch him battle to find ways to retain a client, and when they sign on the line I feel a sense of thrill similar to that of an article going viral.
Of course, it’s not all respect and admiration. He has a ‘phone voice’ that, were he not sitting next to me at our kitchen-table-turned-home-office, I would not even have recognised as being his. There’s the occasional fake American twang that I used to notice the Made In Chelsea boys do when they were nervous (“great, yeah, speak in thirdy-minutes”) – the fact that he was Made In Yorkshire making it jar all the more. There’s also the incessant use of the word “buddy”, and he keeps telling his colleagues on conference calls to “take it away” when they’re about to elaborate on a point before signing off with a bizarre but firm wave-cum-salute accompanied by “take care, stay healthy”.
I cringe just thinking about those moments, but probably just as much as he cringes when I pitch what I think is a brilliant idea to my colleagues on Zoom only to be met by twenty confused faces and deathly silence. And rather than get too heavy-handed and turned-off by these newly-unearthed habits, they’ve merely become fresh material to tease one other with.
But when we’re not teasing, we’re genuinely interested and invested in the other’s daily successes and failures. He’s helping me flesh out commercial pitches and come up with catchy campaign hashtags, while I’m proof-reading his key client emails and teaching him the invaluable art of not sounding like a pretentious prat on the phone (kidding, but also not kidding).
He cheered with me the other day when one of my client pitches came to fruition, and when he read an interesting statistic about people struggling to sleep during isolation he suggested I write a piece on it. Sure enough – once I’d spoken to several experts to decipher the science behind the phenomenon – it was our most-read new article of the week. He still insists that I owe him for that one.
I just asked him for suggestions as to what I might’ve helped him with professionally over the last few weeks, and he said – seemingly seriously? – “just your laugh, that encourages me!”. That may be a tactful way of him letting me know that I’ve helped him in absolutely no tangible way whatsoever, but I’m going to take this one at face value. We may have a confirmed new case of smugsolation – albeit without the bucolic Norfolk second home or adorable family terrier to snuggle – but I promise we won’t start making TikToks until at *least* week ten.
So whether reading this serves as a reminder for you to look for the positives in WFH as a couple, or merely one to myself when we’re much further down the line that I haven’t *always* despised the man that I live with, it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge and appreciate the moments of light in the most seemingly ordinary moments during this extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime (surely?) situation.
A situation that could well have – and one I’d have predicted would have – driven us apart has, in fact, somehow brought us closer. When we inevitably (please, God, surely?) return to our old routines in a few months time, I’m looking forward to our previously repetitive “How was your day?” conversations.
I’m looking forward to actually understanding what he means when he says that a deal ‘depends on compliance’, or who he’s talking about when he recalls a joke he and a colleague shared.
Unless he’s talking about Tristan. I’ve witnessed more than enough second-hand Zoom calls to know that Tristan’s a bit of a t***.