Dating During Corona Season
The last year has not been good to some of us. We have tried to weather the storm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by cautiously and optimistically navigating a new and unknown world of dating during these so-called “unprecedented times.”
Subsequently, we have tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy by meeting others in a safe manner while also keeping our human urges at bay with the thought that having to get closer than 6 feet to anyone might actually cost you your life, as well as the lives of everyone around you. No Miley Cyrus, I am that wrecking ball.
Whereas in the past we may have been able to find someone online or in person, now it seems that dating is strictly an online venture.
In the old days before COVID-19 was possibly lurking in everyone you met (whether they knew it or not), you could go on several dates on a weekend and not have to worry about infecting yourself, your family, your neighbors, your elderly parents, their Bunco friends, and the kid working tirelessly at the grocery store.
Yes, dating during Corona season has certainly changed many things for us. So what does dating during Corona season really look like for someone who was crazy enough to try it?
It has been a long-held belief, even back when AOL was hosting chat rooms to throngs of lonely hearts craving connection, that you can hide behind your phone or computer and be anyone you want in the World Wide Web. It also meant that you could reach out and touch someone without actually having to reach out and touch someone.
With the advent of text messaging, not much else has changed. Texting is not new to dating apps and has been the preferred method for many years for people as the first step to getting to know someone. It is also the best way to beat a lonesome Thursday night that used to be reserved for a night out — no 6-foot bubble needed.
The problem with texting someone is that not everyone is as text savvy as you’d like to believe.
Just like having a conversation in real life, there is a give and take to texting. If you are trying to get to know someone, it would seem logical that you would ask questions about them and thus have conversations about the things that you are texting.
Where the communication breakdown quickly happens is when your new texting buddy doesn’t ask you about yourself. Or any questions in general for that matter. This can lead to you holding up the conversation thread with questions of your own and very little in the way of actual conversation.
Unfortunately, this is the red flag signaling a few things are amiss.
One, your new friend is just not into you. They may have decided that they had nothing further to say about your trip to Europe, your latest Netflix binge, or the fact that you played board games with your friends, pre-COVID.
Two, your new texting friend is so popular that they have been unable to message you back with questions or comments because they are too busy texting all their other dating app friends.
Three, they are engaged in a deeper, more interesting conversation with someone else who has taken all their attention and left you in the dust.
Or…they really are just terrible at conversing through text messages.
The disappointing part of text messaging with potential dates is that no one seems abashed by ghosting anymore. It has become the norm to simply move on when you no longer want to play with the shiny new toy.
So while text messaging has been a great way to move onto more adventurous connections, it more often than not results in a lot of talking and not talking. And ghosting.
When you can’t go out to dinner or drinks and everyone is trying to stay safe but still meet new and interesting people for potential dating, what alternatives do you have? Virtual dating!
A virtual date consists of using a video messaging app, like Face Time or Skype, to talk with your date. This is more intimate than a phone date and allows you to safely decide if your date really did filter all those sexy Tinder photos.
While this is certainly safer and warmer than meeting up with someone in person in the winter months, it had some drawbacks.
On both virtual dates that I had in the last year, I found that I was constantly focusing on the way my video looked instead of listening to them. Is my hair sexy enough? Are my teeth white enough? Are they silently judging me based on all the junk piled behind me in this freezing cold garage?
At the end of both dates, I came to the realization that this was not the best alternative to actually having a phone conversation. I was too worried about how I looked and the lack of body language when someone is just facing a camera chest up was disappointing.
When you are seated near someone, it is easy to tell if they are interested in you. A date who feels chemistry with you will turn their body in your direction and look into your eyes while they are talking to you. However, when you are talking over a video messenger, there is only a face to detect chemistry. Unfortunately, the chemistry was not there for either date. I blame the fishing gear lurking behind me.
I’m not going to lie: I enjoy talking on the phone. A little habit I picked up back in high school before cell phones were a thing, talking on the phone has been a great way to get to know someone safely before you commit to meeting them in person.
Of all the dating blunders during the last year, the phone dates have been the best. I have a great sense for small talk (thank you Lyft!) and it is easy for me to converse about a large variety of topics with most anyone.
For the several men that I talked with on the phone during Corona season, I would have to say that Justin was my favorite. He lived close to me and we had a great conversation for the few hours that we talked. It was nice to have the pressure of meeting in person off the table and the ability to get a good sense for someone when you talked with them on the phone.
Unfortunately, I had such a good feeling about my phone conversation with Justin that I hastily agreed to meet him before our scheduled date because I was sure that we would hit it off just as well in person as we had on the phone.
Lesson learned — never make that assumption. Cue the masked date!
A masked date? Well, it is the season for masks of all kinds, so why not? My advice to you would be to NOT attempt this. In hindsight, the entire situation was shotty at best, but I was so eager after our great phone conversation to meet Justin that I convinced him to meet me at a popular retail store not far from our homes. It was near Christmas. It was crowded. It was horrendous.
While it seems like a safer, less risky way to meet someone indoors, especially with the weather in flux this winter, I would highly advise against it for several reasons.
One: Your smile says a lot about you. If you cover that smile up with a mask, it will be difficult for your date to connect with you. Science agrees that hiding that smile can be damaging to your first encounter.
According to Ronald E. Riggio in Psychology Today, “Looking at the bigger picture, each time you smile at a person, their brain coaxes them to return the favor. You are creating a symbiotic relationship that allows both of you to release feel-good chemicals in your brain, activate reward centers, make you both more attractive, and increase the chances of you both living longer, healthier lives.
I wanted to smile and in return have him smile back, but taking off your mask in the middle of a crowded store was looked down on because, you know, Corona season. I tried to smile extra hard so that my eyes would at least wrinkle to signal him that I was smiling, but it probably looked more like I was squinting at the terrible fluorescent lighting instead of trying to smile with my eyes.
Whoever said you could smile with your eyes has never made a terrible first impression in a congested cereal aisle wearing a mask.
Two: Talking in a mask is difficult. Your voice is muffled and it is harder to hear — especially in a crowded store a few weeks before Christmas. I tried to stand a little closer so that he could hear me better, but it just resulted in more people trying to crowd around us as we stood awkwardly in everyone’s way.
Three: You have to keep adjusting your mask when you are talking. The more you talk, the more it slips down past your nose and you are having to adjust it. There is also the issue of having hair in your mask so your nose is constantly itchy, the earloops getting tangled in your hair or God forbid you sneeze and the entire mask gets wet (not to mention everyone suddenly backs away from you like you’re a pariah).
Needless to say, it should not surprise anyone one bit that I was promptly texted later, after trying to apologize profusely for my terrible first impression, and told that he and his wife were taking a break from dating. It is true that you never get a second chance to make a great first impression when it comes to a masked date.
Meeting in Person
In the summer here, it was common to meet someone at the park for a date, walking around and chatting with the comfort of knowing you were outside and thus your risk was mitigated by a nice cross breeze. However, now that it is winter and everything is shut down, including bars, it is difficult to find a way to meet someone without exposing yourself to a potential “less than 6 feet” situation.
I decided after a few weeks of great conversation on text message to actually meet someone in person— so I went to their apartment. It was a chilly night and there wasn’t much open where they lived as far as outside seating. He assured me that he had minimal exposure risk within his bubble and while he was an essential worker, it seemed safe enough.
After hanging out in his studio apartment while Monty Python and the Holy Grail played on the tv, I am not sure if it was the insistence that the government had been concealing information about aliens for years or the fact that I spent the next two weeks convinced every time I coughed that I had contracted COVID-19 that ruined it for me.
We texted a few times after meeting, but for whatever reason, we didn’t end up on a second date.
As the case may be, having a good date was not in the cards for me this year. I risked ghosting on text messages, awkward hair moments in video chats, a disastrous masked date (if you can call it a date), and potentially a contraction of COVID-19. It was a lesson that we can all learn from as we navigate the contaminated waters of the pandemic.
As the season of Corona wears on, I find my need to make connections waning, and my desire for something more morphed into finding a new hobby instead. At least I can only hold myself to blame if I can’t follow the tutorial on Youtube on creating happy little trees.