Priyanka Chopra Jonas is “worried” about the COVID-19 pandemic, because she has asthma and her husand Nick Jonas is diabetic, which puts them both at a greater risk of the virus.
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“The current cannabis convictions against members of the Black community is horrifically racist and disproportionate,” 32-year-old *Natasha from Birmingham tells me. Natasha is one of many Black women in the UK who stand in opposition to current cannabis laws, as the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis in the UK have been up for debate for many years. Earlier this month, the mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he would be launching a review examining the feasibility of decriminalizing cannabis as part of a new approach to tackling drug-related crime (and as a part of a larger bid to gain support for re-election amongst London’s younger population). To understand the implications of this review, it’s important to know the history behind the UK’s dogmatic stance on the issue. Cannabis was made illegal in the United Kingdom on 28th September 1928 as an addition to the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920. However, doctors were able to prescribe cannabis for medical use in the UK. That was true, until 1971 when the Misuse of Drugs Act came into force, creating the Class A, B, and C classification system, making even more drugs, such as cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine, controlled substances. Since then, there have been multiple reviews into the drug’s medical benefits, leading ministers like Khan to review the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis. To date, there has been little movement towards that goal, though many don’t understand why. Natasha, who smokes cannabis recreationally, says the drug should be legalized. “It’s a completely natural substance,” she says. “If it’s decriminalized, it will be better regulated and it’ll be safer marijuana than the drugs bought on the street that is often laced with PCP, and there will be less crime.” The Venn diagram between those that use cannabis recreationally and those that are punished for their cannabis usage paints an even bleaker picture. Suspicion of drug possession is the most common reason given by offices when using controversial stop and search powers, with Black people stopped and searched 6.3 times the rate of white people. In response to outcries of racial discrimination, The Metropolitan Police said earlier this year that it would examine how effective its pursuit of those suspected of possessing cannabis is in tackling violence in London. “My brother has been stopped and was given a caution when driving to visit me at university,” Natasha continues. “He barely had a spliff on him. Black people don’t get let off at all.” Fashion stylist Fen, 30, from London, who smokes cannabis recreationally, says she has lost count of how many times she’s seen people being stopped and searched, especially young Black men. “I myself have been stopped a couple of times as I was smoking rolled cigarettes at that time too, I was an easy target,” she tells me. “You just have to look at the prison numbers and how many young Black men and women are inside due to drug charges. It’s insane.” A quick review of those numbers confirms Fen’s claim. Black and minority ethnic offenders are far more likely to be sent to prison for drug offences than other defendants, according to research commissioned by the Sentencing Council. The study found that for possession with intent to supply a class B drug, 37% of white offenders would be expected to receive an immediate custodial sentence, compared with 46% Asian, 44% of Black and 45% of Chinese and other ethnicities. Figures from the Ministry of Justice in 2020 found one in five of those found guilty of cannabis possession in England and Wales in 2019 was Black, with campaigners demanding reform. Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, an independent charity that campaigns on drugs and drugs law, tells Refinery29: “The criminalization of cannabis possession in England and Wales — and the inequitable application of drug law enforcement more broadly — remains a key driver of racial disparity in the criminal justice system, from stop and search right through to prosecution and sentencing. “The criminalization of cannabis has not been effective in curbing use, nor does it support those who use the substance do so as safely as possible. Instead, criminalization drives people into the criminal justice system and exacerbates the stigma and discrimination of people who use drugs.” Eastwood’s observation is supported by the harsh sentences that come with cannabis convictions, which lock offenders into an extended cycle of punishment. If found in possession of Class B drugs, such as cannabis, offenders are likely to receive up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both, while supply and production can see offenders locked up to 14 years in prison, and given an unlimited fine, or both. The severity of these potential charges are not considered lightly, but oftentimes, the choice to consume cannabis outweighs this threat. Fen started smoking recreationally with friends at parties in 2008, but she never thought she’d be an every day smoker today. “What made me smoke on a daily basis is the fact that I got diagnosed with anxiety,” she says. “I’m against pills and so the therapist told me to look into CBD instead. I personally enjoy smoking weed a lot as it makes me relax, it stops me from overthinking too. I enjoy smoking, not just because it’s beneficial for my health, but for the whole experience that comes with it.” In addition to opening up the doors for recreational usage, she adds that the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis would create so many opportunities for young Black men and young Black girls, including jobs, and new income streams for the Black community as it has been in the United States. “I’d love to be the first Black woman in the UK that owns a CBD business, I would love this. I would love to see more CBD and cannabis-related businesses grow in the UK as I think it will be very beneficial for a lot of us.” Lorraine, 30, from London, agrees. She first started eating edibles a year ago in hopes of relieving her chronic pain that developed from having severe fibromyalgia. “At first I didn’t feel the difference, but after trying it again a couple more times, I realised that it numbed the pain in my joints, and not to mention how helpful it was for my depressive symptoms.” A Washington State University study confirmed this, suggested that inhaling cannabis can significantly reduce short-term levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, while a 2019 study found that patients given a cannabis variety containing 13.4mg of THC and 17.8mg CBD were more likely to experience a 30% decrease in chronic pain. Niamh adds that the benefits of decriminalization are well-evidenced, both for its medicinal benefits and as an economic driver for minority communities, but England and Wales remain far behind when it comes to drug policy reform. “Reform is coming sooner than you might think, but it is the extent to which our cannabis reforms will eradicate the harms of prohibition and alleviate racial disparity that is of most concern.” “Whilst these reforms may be beneficial for some, reforms are unlikely to be beneficial in the long term for Black communities in particular.” Lorraine agrees and cites racism as a reason why Black people are disproportionately targeted in relation to drug-related crimes and cannabis possession. “Racism is systemic, and whether Britain wants to admit that or not, the evidence is there,” she says. “The government uses the law to target young Black men. Many other races and cultures smoke weed too, yet there’s still a significant amount of Black boys behind bars for carrying the substance” She continues: “In my area, all I see is white guys smoking weed in public. They aren’t even afraid of being caught because they themselves know that they aren’t the ones who the police are targeting. The criminalization of cannabis is just an excuse to throw Black people into prison, and secretly everyone knows it.” *Names have been changed to protect identities. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?
Astrology is the belief in and study of universal territory. The sky, its expanse, and the dark mystery beyond it are ungovernable. No matter how many shuttles and satellites compete to make a claim, the planets claim themselves. In astrology, we write the story of their relationships over and over. Because one body is near another, because one planet is illuminated by a grouping of stars. On Earth, our relationships are just as valuable but, on the only planet that sustains life, we destroy it. We say we love each other, but what good is what we say compared to what we allow? This week the US police killed yet another unarmed person, a 13-year-old Latino boy. This month, 33 states have introduced over 100 bills against rights of transgender people. Bills that ban trans people from participating in sports, bills that keep trans kids from accessing affirming healthcare, bills that want to remove trans kids from their supportive families. A people policed to death is a people for whom the carceral state is a past life. What if we began our new life now, and agreed that there will be abolition? We, who can feel the rumble and pulse of it begging beneath the concrete. What if we refuse the law of the land when it means to harm the people of the land? What if we are to become ungovernable, like planets, we who know another way is not only possible but inevitable. If you feel small, if you feel far from it, take a look at Pluto’s distant influence. If we are to believe that the planets and asteroids and stars have their power, then imagine what the influence of all our bodies might be. While Pluto works on our values, pitting fear against faith, Saturn and Uranus continue to square off. A minor trine between Mars, Jupiter, and the Sun plus Mercury is our weekly reminder that our actions and rituals have a far-reaching impact, especially for the younger ones who will survive us. Each step we take presses down a new path. Aries Sun & Aries RisingWhen the world gets heavy, people reach for something big to believe in, but you don’t have to believe in God, if God doesn’t suit. You don’t even have to believe in The Universe or anything invisible above or below you. You just have to believe in yourself — in what you see for yourself, and what you want badly enough for yourself to go hard. You have to believe that you have what it takes to raise the child in you and that you’ve earned the right to let the protector rest. What some think of as divine is no bigger, no more sacred, than the work of loving your whole self.Illustration by Stefhany LozanoTaurus Sun & Taurus RisingYou are allowed to feel like one of the lucky ones and still be unsatisfied. You’re allowed to want something more for yourself, even if you can’t articulate what that something is quite yet or how you’re gonna get it. What if dissatisfaction is a sign of life? What if it’s proof of all the pleasures waiting for you on the other side of complacency? It’s better, Taurus, for you to be honest than be humble, better for you to be human than a hero. Otherwise, you might find yourself subconsciously bulldozing what you have to make way for something that you don’t. Illustration by Stefhany LozanoGemini Sun & Gemini RisingIt’s not all a crapshoot, even if it feels like one on days when nothing plays out like you’d rather it did. While it might not be evident right away, there are always a few stakes in the game and consequences to your actions. It’s like Neko Case sang, “time’s a revelator” — eventually, we come to the end of a thread we’ve been holding without realising it. Don’t let this stop you in your tracks, Gemini, let it give you perspective. Yes, the hurt matters, the mistakes you’ve made matter and they won’t pass unnoticed. But so does the good you’ve done and want to do.Illustration by Stefhany LozanoCancer Sun & Cancer RisingIt can feel selfish to trust your gut instincts and make decisions about what’s right for you — not what you wish felt right, or what someone else needs you to feel. In fact, when someone else’s feelings are in the mix, prioritising your own viewpoint and values can feel like discounting theirs. But, it isn’t. No one benefits from your decisions to do things that don’t feel good or right to you. No one gets to experience you at your best that way. Besides, you should know by now to trust your intuition and never underestimate it. It’s a tool that works better the more you use it. Illustration by Stefhany LozanoLeo Sun & Leo RisingIf healing isn’t linear then neither is the path we take toward it. If we can fall off the wagon and get back on, if we can cut ties with people who cause us harm and then hastily sew those ties together in a moment of desperation before remembering why we left to begin with, we can forgive ourselves for losing faith in our ability to learn a new way to live and relate to others. When you get angry at yourself for all the ways you wish you could show up, slow down and find one way. You don’t have to be all in all at once, but when you’re up for it, your ride is here to pick you up.Illustration by Stefhany LozanoVirgo Sun & Virgo RisingIt’s only natural that what felt good to you once might no longer do the trick. Human beings are agents of change and under certain world-defining and delaying circumstances, only more so. With all that time for introspection, some personal shifts might have experienced an acceleration process. But, it takes a while for the mind to catch up with the body, to put into language what might have at first seemed like a hiccup in the spirit. It can feel like the body knows something that we don’t. What you feel is more trustworthy and valuable than what you want to feel.Illustration by Stefhany LozanoLibra Sun & Libra RisingA body needs to use or release what it stores. The materials are easy enough to identify: tears, mucus, waste. But the body is full of systems that produce responses harder to see, like the endocrine system, the sympathetic nervous system, and our immune systems. Like Libra people, these systems work as mediators, communicating between stimulus and stimulated. But, unlike Libra people, these systems want to process and let go, because when they can’t release, they suffer. When you’re wondering whether to hold on or let go, look to your body for guidance. Illustration by Stefhany LozanoScorpio Sun & Scorpio RisingLike the dream of a past life, hopeful buds are showing up along the wintered tree of you. A week full of beautiful reminders, that relationships and projects you thought dead were simply dormant, germinating under the cover of darkness. It’s enough to welcome what returns, to regard the cycling nature of all things — including the patterns of others. A budding tree will come to bloom whether you watch it or not and after its bloom, it will shed and go on about the business of greenness. If certain absences hurt you, if opening again scares you, just hang back and let time do its work.Illustration by Stefhany LozanoSagittarius Sun & Sagittarius RisingOf course you know how to stay busy, how to lend your time to whatever problem crops up. And, it’s true that staying busy can do wonders for those of us who, left to leisure, are also left with an emotional state we’d rather let alone. But busying oneself with whatever is furthest from the spirit is a fool’s errand, you know that. You will never stay busy enough. This week might be full of people and places demanding you make good on your work, and you will. But if you don’t make time to keep the promises you’ve made to yourself, your word won’t be worth very much to you.Illustration by Stefhany LozanoCapricorn Sun & Capricorn RisingIt’s time for you to express yourself, Capricorn, to stand in the light of the golden hour. So much of this month has been about setting your limits and figuring out what you don’t want. Don’t you think it’s time for you to not only figure out what you DO want, but actively set out after it? Of course the time between invocation and reception can be slower than some might like, but you know how to be patient if the reward is good enough. You’ve been putting the pieces in place for everyone else long enough, set the dominoes to spell your own name and give the first one a push.Illustration by Stefhany LozanoAquarius Sun & Aquarius RisingThere are months that ask you to rest and months that show you what that rest was for. Rest is a process necessary for both body and mind. Rest can be sleeping in or declining invitations or taking trips to the seaside for salt air. Rest is, no matter how you come to it, a gathering of strength, and it can be taken alongside the daily grind or outside of it entirely. My hope for you, Aquarius, is that you’ve taken your rest seriously and sacredly, because within it were lessons for the work you’re endeavouring upon now. The work comes from that rest; it’s possible because of it.Illustration by Stefhany LozanoPisces Sun & Pisces RisingWe shouldn’t have to choose between what makes financial sense and what makes sense collectively and, in a perfect world, our lives could be easily built in service to the communities we love and care for. But, because this isn’t a perfect world and because some resources are finite, it’s important to approach long-term plans as if they are exactly that — long term. While some situations require immediate response, your present day solutions need not define your vision for the future. You can take care of yourself now without jeopardising your big beautiful dream.Illustration by Stefhany LozanoLike what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Charge Your Vibrators: Venus Is In TaurusObsessed With Astrology? Thank TikTok — & COVIDHow Important Is Your Roommate's Zodiac Sign?
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Mercury, a planet that’s known for impacting communication, rationality, and reasoning, is inching its way from Aries into Taurus on 19th April — the very same day Taurus season begins. This will stir up a massive dose of stubborn, yet diplomatic energy that’s sure to affect all of us, especially in the ways we talk to one another. “When Mercury enters Taurus, the flow of communication naturally slows down,” says Narayana Montúfar, senior astrologer for Astrology.com. “Mercury enjoys a swift pace, but the Taurean energy is a bit too slow to accommodate the cosmic messenger’s preference. Expect some blocks, surprises, and delays in communicative exchanges.” Just like Venus in Taurus, Mercury in Taurus likes when you take things nice and easy. Resist the urge to send a frantic text or a quick email, especially if it’s about something important. Take your time with your written and spoken communications, and make sure the meaning of what you’re trying to say really gets across. “We can expect our words and thoughts to feel more deliberate,” says Madi Murphy, astrologer and founder of The Cosmic Revolution. But the more relaxed pace won’t necessarily interrupt your effectiveness. “Taurus is a sign that’s known for taking care of business and for being super-reliable. You can expect to feel inspired to slow down and express ourselves in more productive ways,” Murphy says. “When Mercury is in Taurus, there is also a persistence that can be quite powerful. If you’ve been getting distracted or been procrastinating, this transit may give you a boost of celestial stamina.” In other words, if you’ve been putting off any projects or responsibilities (which is understandable, given that Mercury was just in fiery Aries), now’s the perfect time to tackle your incomplete to-do list. We often equate “responsible” with “dull,” but Leslie Hale, psychic astrologer for Keen.com, says that this push toward the finish line benefits our creative spark too. “Aries season was the time we felt inspired and full of new ideas, and now is the time to turn these ideas into concrete reality,” she says. “Mercury in Taurus can give our communication and thinking a practical type of style and determination.” The influence of the Bull’s energy has the potential to cause some tense interactions. “Mercury in Taurus can point to being so stubborn in your views that you can’t see the outside perspectives,” says Lisa Stardust, astrologer and author of Saturn Return Survival Guide and The Astrology Deck. “The lesson here is to be more flexible in our thinking and mindset.” Try to go with the flow during this transit. Your temper will thank you. On 24th April, Mercury meets Uranus in the sky. This is notable because it will bring “unexpected developments in the form of messages, but also big aha moments,” Montúfar says. Although erratic, she says that this energy can be brilliant and creative. Hale suggests writing down your big ideas on this day — they might disappear from your mind as quickly as they come, and some of them will be worth saving. But it may be a better time to brainstorm than it is to act. “Mercury will also be squaring Saturn at the same time, so stay away from pushing your agenda, especially when it comes to career-related matters and issues with authority,” Hale warns. Overall, Mercury in Taurus is creating a definite The Tortoise and the Hare vibe, and as the book taught us, it’s best to bet on the slower strategy. Our vision and communication during this time will be streamlined, and we’ll be able to think practically and responsibly about how to best get what we want — all we have to do is take the time to listen. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Your Horoscope This Week: April 18, 2021Please, STFU While Mercury Is In AriesThe New Moon In Aries Is Supercharging Your Spring
Covid tests for holidaymakers could fall below £50 How far can I travel in the UK? The destinations likely to make the 'green list' Advice: Travel insurance and the traffic light system Sign up to the Telegraph Travel newsletter A traffic light system for restarting international travel “poses a risk” of importing new variants, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned. “We don’t know where the variants of real concern are going to come from, which is why an approach to international travel that tries to categorise risk with some countries labelled as red-list countries and others deemed to be safer poses a risk,” Ms Sturgeon told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday. “None of us know where the next variant that might be really problematic is going to occur,” the First Minister added. Scotland has tougher restrictions in place with all people arriving from overseas facing a stay in a quarantine hotel. Britons arriving in England are only required to enter such a facility if they are returning from a country on the “red list”. Ms Sturgeon’s comments come as travel industry modelling suggests just eight countries would meet the criteria for the UK Government’s “green list” when foreign travel resumes at the earliest of May 17. The analysis based on the Government’s “risk” criteria suggests the US, Israel, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Australia and New Zealand will be among those on the list for quarantine-free travel. Scroll down for the latest travel updates.
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From CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser to Elvive’s Dream Lengths Wonder Water, TikTok has propelled many under-the-radar beauty products to instant fame. The latest one to steal the limelight? The Ordinary’s Multi-Peptide Serum For Hair Density, £15.80. In fact, it looks like it’s one of the most googled hair products recently. The lightweight serum is designed to transform hair, making it thicker, fuller, denser and healthier thanks to a megamix of clever ingredients, and it seems TikTokers can’t get enough of its hair boosting properties. Hair thinning is something I have experienced for a while thanks to hormonal condition polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which causes diminished hair around the hairline and temples. I also straighten my hair daily so welcome anything that helps strengthen frazzled strands. Admittedly, hair growth shampoos, conditioners and treatments haven’t worked well for me in the past but on hearing so many excellent things about The Ordinary’s serum, I had to try it. @thehealthyhygge I’m so happy with the results 😛 #greenscreen #hairgrowth #hairgoals #hairregrowth ♬ Up Down (Do This All Day) (feat. B.o.B) – T-Pain What is in The Ordinary’s Multi-Peptide Hair Density Serum? According to The Ordinary, the formula boasts a technology called REDENSYL complex. Don’t let the obscure name put you off, though. Basically, it contains peptides (otherwise known as proteins) which are said to repair and strengthen hair. Alongside these peptides you’ll find caffeine, which the brand says makes the formula easily absorbed into the scalp, alongside castor oil, which has long been championed by trichologists and hair loss experts for stimulating hair growth and thickness when combined with regular scalp massage. There are also hair conditioners to increase softness and humectants (moisturising ingredients) like glycine. Although the product is labelled as a serum, the texture is actually much thinner, like water. But don’t underestimate it. It sinks into the scalp without a trace so doesn’t feel greasy or sticky in the hair. @hasinikay Reply to @mikelamezini The Ordinary Multi Peptide Serum for Hair Density Review #theordinary #hairgrowth #hairgrowthtips #curly #curlyhair #curlygirl ♬ original sound – Hasini Kay How do you use The Ordinary’s Multi-Peptide Hair Density Serum? The leave-in serum is recommended to be used once a day, applied to a clean, dry scalp and ideally at nighttime before bed, when it’s said that skin and hair tends to regenerate. As the product contains castor oil, I set aside a couple of moments after applying my evening skincare to really massage it into my roots in a bid to stimulate hair follicles. Overall, it was really quick and easy to use compared to hair growth products I’ve tried, such as hair masks (which need to be rinsed out) and hair oils (heavy and sometimes sticky in dry hair). Does The Ordinary’s Multi-Peptide Hair Density Serum work? Yes, and the before-and-after pictures are proof. While the instructions don’t state how long you should use the product for, I noticed teeny tiny hairs begin to sprout from my roots after just two weeks. A whole month later, my sparse patches gave way to a crescendo of dark baby hairs which concealed my bald patches. Amazed, I scoured the internet for other reviews. Some people said that they noticed the best results after using more than one bottle, while others saw changes after just three weeks. The majority of Cult Beauty reviews are a full five stars across all ages and hair types. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice much of a difference in my parting, which is also starting to thin out, but I put that down to scraping my hair back every day. That said, my right side in particular shows obvious growth and thickness, and when I brush my baby hairs, any sparse patches are totally concealed. While it worked well for me, some factors might stall hair growth, for example hormonal issues and genetics. If you are concerned about hair thinning or it’s getting you down, it pays to visit your GP or a trusted hair expert or trichologist for further advice. What are the best products and treatments for hair growth? There’s no doubt The Ordinary’s Multi-Peptide Serum is a game-changer but Dr Nilofer Farjo of the Farjo Institute says that there are also some medicines that can help manage hair loss and hair density. “Finasteride in tablet form is probably the most effective medicine for strengthening hair and halting further loss,” she explains. “Another popular treatment is minoxidil, widely known as Regaine, which is applied as a foam or lotion.” This can be bought over the counter at multiple pharmacies as well as Boots. The Farjo Institute’s Dr Bessam Farjo adds that these are the only FDA or MHRA-approved medications to treat patterned hair loss. While some products may advertise hair growth, they are unlikely to be backed by as much scientific research as the above two treatments, but it’s all down to personal preference. What about hair supplements? “The problem with supplements is that you could walk down the aisle of most chemists and find an array of supplements promising to help hair loss,” says Dr Bessam. “But the truth is, this is an area of the market where unfortunately you might see a lot of overpromising and perhaps miss-selling.” Dr Nilofer seconds this and adds: “There is a definite place for these non-prescription products as part of your hair loss treatment regimen, as long as you appreciate it is more of a support role.” In other words, hair supplements alone won’t solve the issue but might make a great addition to leave-in hair treatments, such as The Ordinary’s. “Supplements are also a good option if hair loss is at a very early stage, or the objective is to improve the quality of existing hairs,” continues Dr Nilofer. When it comes to product recommendations, The Farjo Hair Institute rates Help Hair Vitamins, Viviscal Pro Tablets and Florisene tablets, the latter of which may be beneficial for women who are deficient in iron. Again, it’s important to consult your GP or hair expert if you have any worries or concerns about hair growth. Looking back at the before-and-after pictures, it’s obvious that Multi-Peptide Density Serum is working for me, so much so that it has become a firm fixture in my evening beauty routine. If you’re interested in giving it a go, I’d suggest doing a quick patch test (as with all new topical products) before committing fully, to minimise any potential irritation. Refinery29’s selection is purely editorial and independently chosen – we only feature items we love! As part of our business model we do work with affiliates; if you directly purchase something from a link on this article, we may earn a small amount of commission. Transparency is important to us at Refinery29, if you have any questions please reach out to us. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?I Cut 10 Inches Of Hair Off & My Curls Look GreatThis £9.99 Hair Treatment Is The Next OlaplexI Tried Olaplex No.8 & The Results Are Incredible
“I have no idea what my friendships look like now,” says 32-year-old Janelle*. “Since the pandemic, one of my closest friends, who I used to message every day, has totally disappeared. I know she’s anxious and easily overwhelmed but it hurts.” In the same period, Janelle has been through a lot of upheaval: changing jobs twice and moving from her rented shared house in London back to her mum’s in Sheffield to save money. Life has always been prone to changing fast. Even before coronavirus, you could wake up to find everything you know turned on its head: people we love die, relationships end, companies fold. But the last 12 months have exposed more people than ever to the inherent uncertainty of human existence. Some of our friendships have changed and we feel it for better and for worse; but the true extent of any long-term changes to our relationships are still revealing themselves. During the first lockdown of 2020, social scientists in France carried out a large-scale study of 16,000 people to assess the impact of the highly restrictive lockdown there. The participants skewed towards women who had attended higher education. A key impact of lockdown on their friendships, the researchers found, was what they called “relationship funnelling“. This was a process whereby some friendships were prioritised and even strengthened through care and increased communication, while others just “fizzled out”. In a (hopefully) long life of many decades, the pandemic will one day seem like a blip for friendships that had already lasted longer than any lockdown. Nonetheless, those who responded to the survey said that this period had severely tested and, in some cases, transformed their friendships. Janelle is feeling this. “I know lockdown has shrunk all of our worlds but it feels hard not to take it personally that my friend is now basically uncontactable. She rarely replies to my messages now, it feels like we have really drifted. It feels like such a loss.” I know lockdown has shrunk all of our worlds but it feels hard not to take it personally that my friend is now basically uncontactable. Janelle Twenty-six-year-old Emma* from Leeds has had a similar experience. “My best friend and I have always been like sisters but in the first lockdown she started a new relationship and ended up moving in with him due to the restrictions. She now lives really far away from me and I feel like we have completely drifted apart. I’m single and, honestly, I feel like we have been growing apart because she stopped checking in and went into her own bubble with her boyfriend.” This has caused Emma to feel left out and left behind. “She seems settled in her new life now and I’m not a huge part of it anymore.” For young women in particular – a demographic which has been sold the idea that while lovers come and go, our friendships are forever – these shifts and drifts can be particularly painful and difficult to navigate. The seed of this expectation was planted when, in Sex and the City, Carrie and co. suggested that they, rather than men, could be each other’s soulmates. But just as romantic relationships let us down, so too can friendships. This is particularly true at a time when we – all of us – have been changed in some way by the experience of living through a pandemic. The distances between us as we come out of this lockdown are not only geographical. Some people have had children, changed their career, lost their career. And while some have started relationships, others have ended them. If our friendships have changed perhaps it is because we, too, have completely changed. Clinical psychologist and author of The Key To Calm, Linda Blair, says it’s important to realise that you might not be coming out of this as the same person who went into it. “Whether we enjoyed the experience or not, we have been forced to rethink our lives,” Linda explains. “That has, for some people, been a wonderful thing but, for others, it has been horrible. I really caution people to take their time with their friends as we emerge; what you think about your friendships as you’ve experienced them in such pressurised circumstances is not necessarily a reflection of your normal relationship with those people.” We must try to keep an open mind, Linda advises: treat our social interactions now as fact-finding missions to see how we feel in our friendships. Maybe they won’t be the same but perhaps we can meet one another with a new level of understanding. “Ask people questions about themselves,” she says, “see if you can get to know them again, renavigate your relationship. To be so intolerant as not to forgive people for how they have behaved under unprecedented circumstances of which we had no warning would be to cancel out some of your own behaviours. Think back to how stressed you have been and give everybody you can bear to give a chance, a chance.” I’m single and, honestly, I feel like we have been growing apart because she stopped checking in and went into her own bubble with her boyfriend.emma However, Linda adds, there are exceptions. “If someone has been truly harmful and poisonous, it’s okay to say goodbye to them.” She would define this as someone being “consistently and deliberately hurtful” to you. Over the last year, 29-year-old Kaya* from the southeast of England has done exactly that. She realised that her best friend was, as she puts it, “toxic” and has deliberately phased her out to preserve her own mental health. “Before the pandemic, we were very close and used to tell each other everything. We’d always be texting or tagging one another in memes. I’d call her my best friend – the person I’d run to in a crisis,” Kaya explains. “Our friendship wasn’t perfect, though. She would sometimes try to undermine me (for example if I’d achieved something notable at work) and sometimes she would comment on my clothes or makeup in a negative way. But she’s always been brutally honest and I just put that down to her being a November Sagittarius.” Everything changed when Kaya’s boyfriend broke up with her during the first lockdown. This was the last time she saw her former friend. “Although she came to support me, she gave me some really awful advice and I felt like she was trying to make the situation worse or stir trouble. Then the second lockdown hit and spending time apart from her made me realise that I felt drained whenever I talked to her and she made me feel bad about myself.” It was only when she spent time alone that Kaya feels she was able to reflect on the friendship. Lockdown, she says, taught her how to “protect” her “peace of mind” and with that came the steady realisation that this friend made her feel anxious. She began to reflect that her friend used to make unkind comments about her appearance: “She used to comment on the way I look or do my makeup.” On top of that, she would belittle her achievements at work: “She would actually laugh at them.” For Kaya, having the space to drift apart slowly has been hugely beneficial. She says she has surrounded herself with other friends who make her feel positive. “I don’t think this would have happened without the pandemic!” she reflects. “I think we would still be meeting up regularly for dinner and drinks and each time I’d probably come away feeling crappy and the cycle would continue. We texted each other a happy Christmas but I haven’t spoken to her since and have no desire to, to be honest. Sometimes friendships come to a natural end.” Some rifts will be irreparable and others, in time, will heal. “I like to think of friendships as an onion,” Linda says. “We have inner layers and outer layers. The next few months – and I really do mean months because this is a process – are about deciding who we allow to remain in the inner layers and who needs to go to the outer layers of only saying hi if we see them in the street.” I spoke to tens of people for this article, all of whom had similar stories. They all felt a sense of loss and some described themselves as grieving for how their friendships had changed. Our world has changed, so it follows that we have evolved and adapted too. Whatever we do next, Linda says that kindness and compassion are key. “Slow down,” she adds, “take your time and think about what you want from your friends.” If it still feels hopeless, remember that there are people out there who you haven’t met yet. People who have also worked on themselves during this time and will be looking to make new connections. “I’ve recently started using Bumble BFF,” Emma tells me. “I was really nervous about it but it’s been so helpful! I’ve been meeting people who live near me and forming local connections. I do still feel like the loyalty I have to my oldest friends hasn’t been reciprocated but I’m meeting people who have been through similar stuff to me and who knows what will happen in the future…” *Names have been changed to protect identities Like what you see? 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