We have a lot of feelings about the way dating works right now, as we live through a global pandemic. We’re sad and angry and frustrated and horny and NOT horny and, I guess, occasionally happy?
Everyone is juggling so much – here are some things that might be affecting your dating landscape in ways they did not before: fear, anxiety, depression, sheltering in place with roommates, sheltering in place with your parents, having to see your date 24/7, not knowing when you will next be able to hold hands with your date, being split up from your polycule, quarantine, illness, unemployment, having a heightened sex drive, having a non-existent sex drive… the list goes on and on and on and on.
We are living through a very destabilizing time, and dating – something that can be confusing and overwhelming at the best of times – is suddenly a lot harder. Or maybe not! Maybe the past few months have been amazing for your dating life. It’s all quite confusing and hard to keep track of, but we’re doing our best.
Some members of the Autostraddle editorial team gathered to talk about how we feel about dating during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are our thoughts – we’d love to hear yours in the comments.
Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor
I’ve spent the better part of the last year recovering from a breakup that left me pretty fragile and questioning myself, and I had just hit a point where I was actively ready to start dating again. I was almost excited about the prospect… then uh, this happened.
In the Before Times, I worked a 7-day-a-week, mostly night-based schedule, so time for dating was extremely rare. These days, I browse all the apps but the truth is I have a hard time with casual dating. I’m Scorpio as fuck and have something of an all-or-nothing approach, which isn’t my favorite but it’s unfortunately how I’ve always operated. If I start talking to someone and I’m not that into it or I don’t feel like it has the potential to turn into something serious, I don’t see the point in continuing. That said, I do have room for a person in my life and for the first time in a long time I’d actually like to have one. Self-isolating alone has also… confirmed that.
Early on in my quarantine, I did start talking to a lovely woman which seemed promising, but as time went on the whole thing started to bum me out. She was great, but I didn’t feel like we had particularly strong chemistry, and how was I supposed to find out? Whereas some articles have suggested that wanting something you can’t have would be tantalizing etc, I actually found it depressing. What are we doing here? Are we supposed to text each other for who-knows-how-many months and then maybe go on one mediocre date? After all of that?? What, are we gonna go to a crowded bar?!? There would be so many expectations for something I’m just not sure about! I just could not imagine dragging it out for an as yet undetermined length of time.
She did encourage me to take some excellent nudes with my newly acquired plague doctor mask though, and for that I thank her.
Anyway, I’m spending the rest of my quarantine telling people I’d like to make out with that I’d like to make out with them, because when I get out of here it’s fucking on.
Riese Bernard, CEO
I was in a series of long-term relationships of various seriousness levels near-constantly from the top of 2007 to the middle of 2019. I never really intentionally dated, it just kind of happened? Now I… don’t know how to try or to date, and I wish I did.
That said, I’ve been through a lot in the past year and learned a lot about myself and who I am and what I want and how I can be the best partner possible – things I wish I’d taken the time to learn between all those aforementioned relationships instead of jumping into the next one. So I was, like Stef said, finally in a place like “ok let’s do this, I am going to stop working 60 hours a week and actually actively try to meet someone.” LOL. Isolation itself isn’t a problem for me, I love hanging out alone, but I’m anxious about this as well as being anxious about the entire world. Also WOW I’d love to touch another human body.
Even though I’m on a few apps, I don’t like them and I’m bad at them. I’m oddly much more comfortable (and better at) meeting people in person than online, and that physical connection is crucial to me. I think I have a lot of self-consciousness around anything I do on the internet because of ~waves hands wildly~ all this. Even typing this right now I’m like… Should I not do this roundtable? Is it inappropriate?? But also my personal writing led to this website existing so it’s weird to just stop talking about that stuff??? On apps sometimes I’ll match with someone and they’ll message me just to thank me for making Autostraddle? Which is very sweet! But I swiped on them because I thought they looked cute and funny and I was excited that maybe they thought I was cute and funny too.
So my plan for finding a girlfriend in 2020 was really just to spend more time with friends, get involved, go out more to the world in general, where I hoped I’d meet somebody that I could eventually go to museums and to the pool with and then have a nice wedding with all of our friends. I’ve got no clue how Lex is working for people, in LA it’s the same 10 people posting ads over and over. So I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that I am not dating in the time of coronavirus because internet dating isn’t my thing!
I’d say my strongest effort is eyeing a few people on instagram about whom I sometimes think, “I wonder if they are single and also if they could like me???” and do nothing about it. Also I’m a romantic and would prefer an in-person meet-cute, but since that’s not possible I wish I could be adept at ads and online dating like Drew is. If you’re smart, funny and ambitious feel free to DM me, I will be sitting here awkwardly with my tiny dog.
Drew Gregory, Writer
I miss people and I’m horny so I’ve been very active on dating apps. But to what end? I’ve never had more matches or more messages and some of these people seem genuinely great! But as it became clear this would not be ending anytime soon, it began to feel impossible. I cannot sustain constant conversation with strangers.
The first wave of fatigue prompted me to just focus on the person I liked most. I suggested we switch off asking each other questions. This was fun! It got us out of the “how was your day” cycle which is boring even when not in quarantine. There was one night where I learned a lot about this person and it was really fun and then… even that had a time limit.
My hope is I can talk to some of these people like once a month and there can be an understanding like sure when this is over we can go on a date, but talking while we wait is just too exhausting.
I had one FaceTime date with someone and we talked for four hours. She was cool, but when it ended I realized I’d fallen back into old oversharing patterns. Because of the lack of physical intimacy available it felt like the only way to connect was to have really serious discussions. Which is fine I guess! It’s just afterwards I was like well I guess we know a lot about each other now. Let’s do this again in a month? Or never and just reconnect when dating is possible again? But she texted me the next day. Which makes sense because of how intimate our date was. But I was like what else could we say to each other? I don’t know. It feels like dating is all of the bad parts with none of the good parts.
Do you know what feels best these days? DM slides. Whether it’s someone I’ve already hooked up with who lives far away, an IRL friend, or just a mutual, flirting on Instagram and Twitter has felt way more satisfying than anything on Tinder. I think there’s less pressure for it to be something, because the focus isn’t on dating necessarily. It also feels more like you’re talking to a real person.
But here’s the thing. That’s how I felt before quarantine. I’ve always preferred every other way of meeting people over dating apps— Oh cool I literally just got a Tinder match while typing this. Ugh. Let’s check who it is. Well, she’s a really hot actor who only lives five miles away. My response is still ugh. I’ll probably message her.
Rachel Kincaid, Managing Editor
A wise woman (it was Drew) once said that quarantine is an endless two-day cycle where on day one, you are horny, and on day two, you are depressed; I’ve found that to be pretty true. I had people I was seeing before the pandemic started; we haven’t stopped seeing each other, although of course we have stopped SEEING each other, and it’s hard to figure out how to make that work, or what ‘making it work’ would even mean. How do you transition something that was previously about ~having fun~ out in the world and ~having sex~ in person into FaceTime while you’re both deeply depressed? It takes your thing to a really heavy and emotional place when all you do is check in about how depressed you both are, which sucks, but also not doing so feels forced and fake, and like you’re deliberately avoiding the elephant in the room and lightly gaslighting each other and yourselves. The mild dopamine rush of a Tinder match feels more urgent than ever, but how would you even begin actually getting to know someone right now? If you’re suddenly preoccupied with thoughts of an ex again, is that because that relationship is actually what flashes before your eyes at the end of the world, or because you want to return to the comfortingly familiar? Will I even remember how to have sex after this? Everyone is bone-crushingly horny, but the energy required to really do sexting justice feels inaccessible. You’re constantly rolling the dice on whether or not your moments of feeling horny as opposed to not even wanting to think about the fact of having a body line up with someone else’s. It would be sort of easy to let something peter out during this time, but at the same time there’s almost nothing else to do, so sure, why not answer that text, even though there’s a 50/50 chance this conversation will spiral into processing a ‘what are we’ conversation because everyone is already on the bleeding edge of emotional stability and wants reassurance.
If you’ve ever been with a partner through a death of a loved one or other grieving process, you know how sad and weird and oftentimes, frustrating and boring it is — there’s less holding someone while they sob than you think, and more waiting it out with them as they’re their worst and most vulnerable selves, glassy-eyed and irritable and sleeping 18 hours a day and never doing their dishes, a shadow of the brilliant, loving person you used to know and honestly not a great partner. That’s basically where we’re all at right now, and if you were just casually dating someone before this, you’re suddenly both thrust into seeing each other in a context that would normally be reserved for partners of many years. The choices are to try to maintain through this weird limbo space, which is sad and unsexy, or to call it quits on something that could have continued to be fun and hot and maybe something serious if it weren’t for a global crisis, which is also very sad. There aren’t a lot of good options right now, other than the one we always have to try to give patience and grace to each other and ourselves. At least I finally got DJ K.K. in Animal Crossing.
Malic White, Writer
I was recently single when people in my city began to self-quarantine. Stuck in a studio apartment — curious, alone, and probably ovulating — I decided to experiment with Tinder. I swiped right on someone I vaguely knew. When we matched, she asked me if I wanted to “grab a drink” on Zoom that night. I said yes, assuming I’d get a funny story out of my virtual date experience, and I did. The more surprising story is that we’re still dating.
Dating in the time of Covid-19 means we’ve been forced to talk about heavy topics right away — fear, illness, death, uncertainty. Through those conversations (and others that were decidedly more whimsical and flirty, I swear), I found that the person on the other end of the Zoom chat communicates beautifully, shares my values and brings a steady flicker of joy into my life in a time when I’m mostly confined at home in sweatpants.
I’m fully aware that I got unreasonably lucky. This isn’t something I was looking for, but it’s a fucked up time, so I’m choosing to embrace the kind of dating that’s possible now. I’m laughing more than I ever expected to laugh during social isolation, and sexting helps me feel more like myself in an unrecognizable world. Even when I’ve lost most of my work/my sense of identity and have accepted that a sense of doom is our collective new normal, it feels good to let someone in.
Ari , Writer
If you post an ad on Lex where you suggest 6 ft picnics or social distant walks, I will report you. Period. I think it’s irresponsible and selfish. This is my only thought about new dating realities.
Okay, also this whole situation is amplifying how difficult it is to move beyond small talk in virtual spaces and how most people (myself included) are very bad at getting things going, whatever that means. I miss clubs. And being touched. And being fucked. Okay I’m done for real.
Rachel Lewis, Writer
Everyone talking about their relationships is making me angry and annoyed, and I’m in one. I think if I see one more person going on and on about how their partner is their perfect magical savior (followed, promptly, by 10 photos on IG), or another person loudly subtweeting their partner on Twitter, I am going to be mad? I think I am just irritable in general (I haven’t gone to therapy in a month now because spending $150 to sit and talk to this lady on the phone seems absurd), but I’m really over it. Like yes dating is weird now and we’re all in hell but no, I still don’t want to watch your 25-slide IG Story about how cuuuuuute your new person is. Social media just seems especially attention-grabby right now and I just want to delete all :) of :) it :)
Abeni Jones, Contributor
I haven’t seen my girlfriend, who I’ve been dating for 2.5 years, in person in more than two months. Before sheltering in place was ordered, she was visiting her parents a couple states away. Because the Bay Area was a “hot spot,” and her parents’ suburb was not, she ended up staying there for about six weeks to ride everything out.
She is back, now, but we’re making sure to wait at least two weeks before we see each other. To be honest, I’m not sure exactly what seeing each other will entail. If we’ve both been self-isolated for weeks (me, for months – more accurately, years lol), and I put on my mask and gloves, go directly from my apartment to get in my car, drive to her apartment (in which she lives alone), get out of my car, and go directly into her apartment, interacting with nobody en route, is that that really very risky?
Going to see her carries much less risk of transmission than, say, going to the grocery store or going for a run, both of which are allowed. I just spent 20 minutes looking for a clear answer, and it’s not clear! I know that I’m not supposed to. But every article says “you have to manage your own level of acceptable risk.” The Bay Area just relaxed its social distancing guidelines. She’s desperate to spend time together. Living together for a couple weeks isn’t an option for reasons I won’t get into. I really don’t know what to do!
Update since I wrote the above: we’re going to stay apart, be safe, and suffer. We’ll make it through.
Laneia Jones, Executive Editor
Ummmm thanks I hate it!
I was Very Casually Dating a stupidly attractive Aries (which, I wanna say, as sun signs go, are more fun than they should be — like who gave Aries the right, truly?) whose enthusiasm for trying new restaurants and ordering expensive whisky cocktails and singing Haim in the car and BRUNCH was only barely eclipsed by her enthusiasm for fucking moi. We had good boundaries, good therapists, emotional intelligence, and we were both hellbent on staying in this sweet spot for as long as we could — absolutely no rushing into anything at all, no labels, no dependency, no expectations, no PLANS. We were so good at casually dating each other! UGH IT WAS SO FUN.
Then the lockdowns started, and suddenly all the things that used to be so chill and sexy and easy now required so much forethought and intention and work, and that was not our vibe okay!
Watching synchronized Netflix together just seemed like… how do I put this… like fast-forwarding to the boring, annoying, LBD part of a relationship — a scenario from which I’d recently been freed and to which I had no intention of returning. We tried FaceTime dates, but without body language (and each other’s bodies to do things with), the conversations trailed off into over-sharing and a kind of trauma bonding, and even the most well-lit FaceTime sex can’t carry the weight of conversations like that for very long. She started showing symptoms of COVID-19 and I flipped into caretaker mode, making sure she had a thermometer and Tylenol and fruit and like!? No! I didn’t want to do that, she didn’t want me to do that, but what else was there even to do I DON’T KNOW MARGO I’VE NEVER CASUALLY DATED IN A PANDEMIC BEFORE??!
Navigating our best intentions, our individual fears, how we react to illness and panic — things neither of us were ready to know about each other or share about ourselves — while still wanting to be totally independent of each other, was an immediate issue, and we were watching this chill little thing we’d built just sort of unravel right in front of us. We decided to hit pause before we fucked it up so much that we couldn’t even be friends. I was devastated, which also fucked me up because hello CASUAL. I was sad that we wouldn’t know how it could’ve gone without this. I was mad that we couldn’t figure out how to transition to a new normal while keeping those original dynamics. When I see other people talking about lockdown dates on Zoom I feel like a failure, like why can’t I do that?? I worry about my independence and if I’m really as resilient and self-reliant as I thought I was. I’m annoyed that I’m still capable of being upset about these kinds of things when people are losing their lives and the global economy falls off a cliff. And no matter how obviously true it is that this lockdown won’t last forever and that eventually we will all date again (somehow??), it super doesn’t FEEL that way. It’s fucking sad, that’s all. People I’ve been sad.