After competitive sourdough and competitive who-has-it-hardest, the virus now brings us competitive unsentimentality. Some people do not care whether or not weddings go ahead or Christmas is cancelled, and they would like it noted that this is because they are grownups.
Others care a great deal, and this is because they are not robots. I am more worried about Halloween. I can predict the wild street scenes, half the houses wanting to keep things festive for the kids, the other half bog-eyed at such irresponsibility, neighbour against neighbour, festering resentments giving way to full civil war, with a bunch of seven-year-olds in the middle of it all, dressed as ghosts. Which, now I come to think about it, sounds quite fun.
Yet the wedding issue arrived first: on Thursday, I found myself waiting outside an English register office with confetti and some rice that I had dyed with food colouring. It was far too unusual and surreal to activate those emotional brain areas associated with marriage: for a start, most of us weren’t allowed in.
Everyone was masked, except the bride and groom, in one of those loopholes that has been reverse-engineered from the rules – masks indoors – without reference to the reality, which is that we were all going straight to the pub afterwards. The happy couple emerged. They have been together so long, by the way, that none of us had to tell our kids they were not invited, since they all thought this wedding happened years ago. A man driving past in a British Gas van honked so jubilantly, I would consider switching my energy supplier. Then, wham, everyone was crying.
This turn of events was so unexpected that no one had a tissue. Was it all the pent-up emotion of 2020, the cloud of all the normality denied, the weddings that might have been? Actually, no; it is just a very moving thing, two people who love one another enough to declare it to their friends, plus a functionary. It doesn’t matter if there are only 15 of you.