Reflections on Dating in a Pandemic
Updated: Feb 16, 2021
Physical touch. Quality time. These are the love languages that have seemingly been denied to me amidst “Rona’s Reign.” If caused by nothing but the wariness crafted by my own fears and intuition, the dating pool has dwindled dramatically since the start of the pandemic. I have become increasingly guarded as I continue to prioritize my health and that of my family. This, however, has left me feeling incredibly isolated—a feeling I’m sure much of the globe now knows all too well at this point. To my mind, the most difficult part of dating in a pandemic is ruling there to be enough trustworthiness in someone to meet them in person.
In an effort to (at least temporarily) quell this sense of solitude, I joined dating apps for the first time. Yet and still, the feeling of loneliness persists. This is not a new feeling, however. I have found myself to be continuously disappointed by the likes of men whose personalities center misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, racism, classism, and other harmful ideologies (an idea discussed in depth in one of my favorite books, The Tragedy of Heterosexuality by Jane Ward). Unfortunately, in my very limited experience, this tends to narrow my options drastically, and, naturally, the pandemic is no exception. Harmful ideologies like the ones listed above have always been red flags to me because if I cannot trust this person to find the humanity in other people, how can I trust this person with my heart?
In my experience, the online dating arena has been full of cringe-worthy profiles and creepy men. A “match” is established shortly after the approval of someone’s profile which is filled with trivial details and their most flattering photos. Conversations then seem to be short-lived. The ones that have the potential to stick may eventually be cut short by the unwillingness of one or both parties to meet, for safety and health reasons.
Ideally for me, a successful date is indicated by a revering touch. I am not asserting that the infamous first date kiss is the litmus test for a great match, nor am I adding to the controversial sex on the first date debate, though both of these things can be obvious indicators of a successful date. However, something as simple as a tender hug, a wholesome handhold, or an affectionate touch communicate attraction to me. From there, the romantic in me revels in the idea that we might enjoy each other’s company. Maybe they like me. And that small pleasure, that seeming interest that I gather through touch, brings me comfort. Perhaps one day I’ll unpack that, but, for now, I’ll yield to that thought.
The couple of dates that I have been on are a little more awkward than usual as social distancing guidelines preoccupy my mind. I’ve perceived dating in a pandemic to be a Catch 22—loneliness and safety versus comfort and risk. Ultimately, the rise of the Coronavirus pandemic has left me feeling unsatisfied.
I find this unfortunate isolation that many of us are experiencing to be a symptom of this unrelenting pandemic—only to be alleviated, in effective scale, by the end of the pandemic (and conceivably by the vaccine on a personal level). I don’t blame this on the individual of course. The Trump administration’s failure to stop the spread of the virus is 100% to blame. It is completely unrealistic and foolish to assume people would risk their lives to go to work in person, but not see friends, family, or the other.
Truth be told, there is no guarantee to know whether or not you can trust a person enough to meet up with them during the pandemic. Test results can ease a person’s mind, but they can also be inaccurate or out of date. There is a risk every time you step out of the house. To some extent, I am envious of the people who do not feel the same way that I have described throughout this essay. I do sometimes wish to be absolved of this anxiety. Nonetheless, I remind myself that my health and the health of those around me are paramount. If being safe means feeling lonely, well, at least I’m not the only one.