Vaccine First, Spitting in Your Mouth Second: How I’m Building Vaccine Transparency Into My Dating Life

This essay is part of a series from Autostraddle writers about how they’re approaching dating and relationships at our current stage in the pandemic – read the rest here!

As soon as the weather started turning even more in Chicago, so much came flooding back to me. Kicking it in the park again, hanging out in my “backyard” with my neighbors, reading outside the coffee shop on someone’s stoop who lives next door to it, and of course – dating.

I’ve been doing a bit of pandi dating here and there, but I’ll admit it doesn’t feel the same — for all kinds of reasons but mainly the trust thing. I want to believe folks when they say they have been tested and have been inside, but like – you can’t just take them at their word, and I lowkey feel the same as this vax rolls out. It’s going to go back to adding that extra layer of communication that I love: receipts.

I’m ready to hit the streets, I might even be ready to go to a lil’ outdoor dining moment (MAYBE). But even if we’re just gonna be on an hours-long date at the lake, I need to know that you’ve either been vaxxed or are trying hard to get it – and I’m probably gonna wanna see your card. Just like you don’t mind exchanging screenshots of recent testing, it’s gonna work that way too. I’m not necessarily anxious about what dating would look like because, well, I’m great at dating. My dating priorities haven’t changed; they just got some things added.

I’m excited to see just how undersexed and horny folks are going to be now that it’s been a whole year of this. It’s already changed the digital dating world so much, and I’m hopeful that it will translate into people wanting to hop off the apps after a few messages and meet IRL — but that is not a possibility if they aren’t taking vaccination seriously.

Way before we even get to the date, we will def have already talked about vaccines — not just have you got it or are you trying to, but how you feel about it in general. I feel like the dating apps will jump on the train of adding vaccine-related prompts and buttons to add to profiles so that it can be easier to get the conversations started, which I appreciate, but even that will only take you so far; you still should talk about it a bit more.

I understand some folks have reservations about it and I have no interest in changing their minds — do you — but if you’re trying to do me, then you can’t really be on that wave. I think it’s going to require patience and will really let folks see if they are actually interested in someone. Because, say they haven’t gotten it yet, but are trying so fucking hard to and you really like them, will you wait it out? or what if they are only on shot one, will you kick it but still keep your distance until shot two?

There are so many factors around the vaccine that I think will encourage better dating habits for us. Communication is one of the main ones. I think folks will also learn that communication doesn’t have to be this wildly scary and long thing when you need to talk about something important; it can be a quick convo and you can move on.

It can go a lil’ something like this:

Shelli: “You are incredibly hot and dope and I am absolutely trying to kick it with you and soon asl – how do you feel about the vaxxy vax, you get it yet?”

Possible answers that I will accept that will move you closer to painting my toes in the park or drinking copious amounts of prosecco followed by me sitting on your face.

  1. “SAME – and yes, I am def trying to – it’s been hard to get an appointment though but I’ll keep you updated! Until then – what’s your fav prosecco so I can prepare?”
  2. “I got my second shot a few weeks ago actually! So maybe in like a week or two, we can chill at the lake?”
  3. “I got my first shot!! Second shot coming soon and then I’m all yours to step on.”
  4. “I’m lowkey nervous about getting it, what made you do it if you don’t mind me asking?”

I just want folks to be safe and do all they can to help us keep moving forward to get to some semblance of normalcy in so many aspects of our lives and that includes dating because — don’t you miss spitting in someone’s mouth on a random Wednesday night?

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Shelli Nicole

Shelli Nicole is a Detroit-raised, Chicago-based writer. Her work has appeared in Bustle, HelloGiggles & Marie Claire. She is terrified of mermaids and teenagers equally.

Shelli has written 258 articles for us.


  1. This just made me grin. I love your confidence – I don’t exactly relate to it but I do like reading about it.

    And as a fellow Chicagoan, the struggle to get a vaccine right now is so real.

    Looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

  2. I just want to say here that the reality at the moment is that a vaccine is not enough – there are a number of variants running rampant at the moment that are vaccine-resistant, including one that is both deadlier and more easily transmissible. Also, infection rates are still so high, especially in the US. This is still a very dangerous situation, especially so for those who are vulnerable, and it is made more dangerous by things like going out to restaurants (even outside) etc. I understand that people want to get back to their lives, but so many people are being put at huge risk by behaviour like this.

    • I encourage everyone to do their research as you have, form their own opinions and move as they so choose & remember that no one has to kick it with folks they don’t agree with or exhaust themselves trying to change someone’s mind.

      Thanks for reading tho!

  3. See, this was my summer plan after dutifully doing all the right things (masking, distancing, testing, canceling outdoor hangs for any symptoms even if not COVID, getting vaxxed) but now I gotta deal with the awkwardness of trying to check if someone else is fully vaccinated while being unable to do so myself as one of the one in a million “terrible COVID vaccine reaction” people (doing fine now, but if I hadn’t gotten care I could have died)

    Trying desperately to get fully vaxxed (despite what happened, COVID is still much worse) but CDC ain’t providing guidance and doctors seem hesitant to let a young healthy person who had a serious reaction try again…

    I get that we’re a small group and the CDC has bigger fish to fry but “you’re on your own figure it out” is not the way

    Anyway all this “are you vaxxed or not” stuff on dating apps is basically guaranteed to be miserable for people who want to get vaxxed but can’t for actual medical reasons (or immunosuppressed people whose bodies may not generate enough antibodies even if vaxxed) but I get it. Just hope ppl know we’re more at risk than they are and probably taking more precautions than fully vaccinated people are. I’ll show my partial vaccine card + hospital records as receipts I guess 🥲

    • Firstly MAD GLAD YOU’RE DOING BETTER! Secondly, I agree that the communication on dating apps when it comes to this is going to be one heck of a battle for a wild amount of folks – but I’m sending vibes that if you do use the apps that you’ll be able to connect with people who will be able not only be able to understand your sitch but can communicate well enough to vibe to a point where y’all find something that works for both/all of you.

  4. ^ what Jackie said. I’ve stayed off this site for MONTHS because of the ableist bullshit, I check back in and it’s the same old same old. I’ve seen countless posts with lazy assumptions that those of us who *aren’t* ( CAN’T BE) vaxxed can’t be bothered, don’t care about others etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. People are being supportive about Heather because she’s ”one of yours” in a way they NEVER were to ‘ordinary’ readers like me and despite even that, the plethora of articles like this is still continuing. And I’m FAR MORE at risk from others whether they’re vaxxed or not then I EVER will be from them as I have spent 13 months and counting almost ENTIRELY alone. I was stupid enough to check back in and see if any of the promises about tackling the ableism on this site had been implemented, let alone upheld, but clearly not. I knew I was right not to trust any of you.

    • Hey Rachel, just wanted to send you love and appreciation for this. What a hard situation to be in! I really hope that you’re able to get CDC guidance/ support from docs soon.

      (And for what it’s worth, I bet I’m not the only one who’s down for dating with folks who can’t get vaccinated for health reasons. Or who just haven’t been able to get vaccinated cause there’s still not enough vaccines to go around! So different from jerky Republicans who don’t care about other people’s lives and health!)

  5. it’s excruciating to live in a time where decisions are so consequential and we may not know what the right thing to do is/was for years. that feeling of vulnerability makes it easy to get mad when confronted by something different from what you understand or experience. with that in mind, it can only help to try not to react with anger or yell at someone who is creating content with the intention of transparency and discussion and without any intention to hurt anyone else.

    love and hope to everybody.

    • You think disabled people don’t have a right to be angry at the bullshit ableism on this site? At the LIES they told about how the ”team” were going to work on their ableism? Fuck this site. Fuck their lies, their ableism, and their pretending to be a ”community”. Fuck them for making me and others like me even MORE isolated.

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