Dating in the COVID Era
There is a kind of sexual urgency in the air since human touch became a scarcity. The prospect of a complete lockdown will see single people cooped up with nothing but Netflix and toys purchased from the kind of store you wouldn’t window shop with your grandparents. I can feel it. A glance at the traffic lights; a silent head turn in the carpark of the post office that asks: “will this person be my quarantine buddy?”. And there are of course, dating apps.
I went on a Bumble date last night with someone who has done research in public health. Let’s call him Fred. I guess he should have known better, and so should have I. I have always wondered about things like babies being born during a war, or people getting married in prison. And I wouldn’t compare the ferocity of COVID to life in an armed conflict zone, but the anxiety in the air is tangible. There is a kind of “now or never” pressure involved with dating that has added a fresh dimension to internet swiping.
I have never been on a date from a dating app before. I have always been far too afraid. I have chatted with people and even organised dates, but every time it has come to the crux I have called in sick. That phrase has a whole new meaning now that “sick” might be code for being personally responsible for the collapse of the free market economy and the fall of humanity itself through irresponsible bodily contact. But COVID made me think that if I didn’t act now I would likely be locked in my own house until September with no one to flirt with but my faded curtains and my ever-emptying refrigerator.
So, Fred and I chatted. We didn’t technically match on Bumble; my housemate saw his profile and couldn’t believe how similar his bio was to mine. So, she stopped swiping for a whole day to wait to get home from work to show me and figure out how to share his profile with me. She ended up matching with him, explained the situation and he sent his number to her for her to forward. Our messages kicked off strong. For a whole afternoon and night, we exchanged banter about overthrowing the capitalist system and made plans to meet the following day.
Dating during the non-COVID time was simple. Meet for a coffee if you want to just chat and see if you get along. Meet at a bar for a drink if you need social lubrication and this might take things a little further. Have an escape plan. Swipe on Tinder late on a Friday night and invite a stranger to your house to itch a scratch. Standard practise of bored youth. But now, things have to be more creative. There are no coffee shops, there are no bars, there is no inviting strangers over to bring their COVID with them. So, things have to get a little more innovative.
Fred and I exchanged ideas of how to meet. Shall we go see if there’s any pasta left in isle six at the supermarket? Get haircuts? How about meet on the highway and drive next to each other at 110km an hour? I suggested going to the post office to put stamps on things but eventually we settled on going to the beach and bringing a bottle of wine and hoping for the best.
I was nervous. It was windy. We met on a platform overlooking the ocean and the Pinot Noir caught in the breeze as Fred shakily poured it into the clay cups I’d brought. So far, so awkward. We walked along the beach until we found a spot out of the wind. We talked about the things we’d talked about over text. He mentioned his ex in the present tense and I talked about myself too much. But then the wine kicked in and the sun dropped below the hills and Fred interrupted the conversation to ask if he could kiss me. I was quiet. The pinot and the chat were good enough to make me want to. What if he had COVID? What if I had COVID? There was a pause and we resumed the conversation.
After three hours on the beach and the realisation that my sandals had been stolen (if anyone has a replacement please send) we walked back to the carpark. We chatted for a minute by the car and then it happened. He broke the 1.5m rule and suddenly we were kissing on the mouth. I panicked for a moment. Was someone’s grandma going to die because of me? I looked at him and told him I felt so naughty. We kissed once more and then I said we should see each other again tomorrow and I fled the scene, riding on the high of an illegal kiss and the first human contact I’d had since February. Suddenly I felt like I understood. I am the type of person who would get married in prison. In fact, I think most people probably are.
I didn’t see Fred the next day. The guilt pinned me to my bed at home and then he told me he still lived with his ex and suddenly I realised that I had finished Bumble. “You’ve gone through all the bees in your area,” Bumble tells you with enthusiasm. It was a whirlwind illegal date and I have since been informed that there is feminist porn.