Dating During COVID-19
My answer to this problem, silly or prudent I don’t know, was to download a dating app and try to make friends that way. Because that’s what you do today, right? You can swipe left or right (like or dislike) on suiters, potential friends, from the comfort of your home; charm them with your personality before the complication of physical appearance and, I reiterate, you don’t have to leave your house.
Please realize that this wasn’t my smartest choice. I was a girl in my early 20’s with the naïve intention of making friends on an app crowded with people looking for a weird version of romance. But the appeal of not leaving my house to meet people, and the minimal effort required to do so, was strong. With my eyes wide open, I jumped off the cliff.
Now, in the days and months of a pandemic that specifically prohibits us from going out, online dating is the perfect solution. Right? Maybe… There are two ways to look at this: in one view, we have more time than ever at home, so there’s a lot of time to talk and get to know someone. Alternatively, if you’re the person who prefers to hurry up and meet before spending a lot of time on the keyboard, not so much. I’m the kind of person who prefers to hurry up and meet, so I know trying to date during this time would leave me hopeless, despondent. What is dating really like during COVID, though? I wanted to know and, thankfully, people have time to share.
My main interest in this research is my single friends – the ones on the dating websites and apps. When I started interviewing people about their feelings toward online dating, I was hearing the same or very similar feedback: “it’s pointless,” “I’m bored with it,” and “it feels like a waste of time because we can’t meet in person.” Those are the responses I expected so I wasn’t too surprised but, turns out, these answers only represent one of those two types of people. The people who prefer to hurry up and meet, we’ll make them group A, aren’t liking anything about this quarantine. I spoke to a woman in the “prefers to talk” group, group B, and she said the opposite: “guys are more engaged and they’re having conversations more than before.” She said that it’s nice because they seem genuinely interested.
Now that I’ve created those groups, A people and B people, you can forget them again because everyone was in the same boat regarding moving their relationships beyond the app or website. There were few reported phone number exchanges but, for the most part, I was reminded that “it’s pointless because we can’t meet up.” That’s fair. The general theme of these interviews was that online dating during the pandemic is futile.
I was hoping to hear stories of first dates via Zoom or while keeping a 6-foot distance, but I didn’t find anyone who took it that far. A small part of me thinks that sounds like fun and something I’d try if I was single, but it seems that people have just accepted the fate of staying off the dating apps during this time, which is okay too.
In a similar vein, what does dating look like for couples? When you can’t leave your house, what kind of creative ways are you keeping romance alive? Are married people prioritizing their relationship among the stress of corona? Do the dynamics of relationships change when you’re together 24/7?
I was pleasantly surprised by these answers. Although there were a few who reported more disagreements due to the inescapable high stress and anxiety levels of the world right now, the couples out there seem to be handling the quarantine well; I anticipated a high report of arguments due to the lack of personal space and microscope that we’re under but, for the most part, tension levels in relationships remain consistent with “normal” life. That’s good news.
The key to sanity for couples during quarantine, in case you’re looking for one, is to set aside time to spend together, intentionally. People reported going on picnics with their partners, packing food and going on a drive, playing video games together, baking, gardening and, a fun one, taking an online dance class. My boyfriend and I, quarantined together after less than a year of dating, make it a priority to watch “our” tv shows, play board games, and cook together. That one is funny for anyone who knows me, because I definitely do not cook. More accurately, he cooks the food and I set the drinks and napkins on the table. I contribute to conversation while he’s cooking, so it feels like an important job.
The last friend I talked to had the most unique and relatable answer of any of the groups (A, B, coupled, or married). She claims to fall into the “other” category because, as she lives on a farm, she has been spending her time during quarantine with the animals. As much as I love my boyfriend, being quarantined with a bunch of farm animals, to me, sounds pretty close to perfect.
Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of a book, Greater Things, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.