Lifestyle, Relationships

Dating During COVID

“You’ll have to forgive me, this is my first time I have been out of my house since lockdown,” says Nick Jonas during the memorable SNL skit entitled, Post-COVID Dating. He and his love interest — Kate McKinnon — sit at a swanky New York bar, sipping drinks while fumbling their way through a cringeworthy yet hilarious conversation. 

Attempting to flirt, McKinnon’s character states, “There are mites in your pillows and if you sleep with your mouth open, they’ll go right in there and” then backtracks, realizing what she said isn’t an alluring come-on. In an equal foot-in-mouth fashion, Jonas tries the pickup line: “You have beautiful eyes, but they’d look better on my floor.” 

street art
Street art of two people kissing with their facemasks pulled down. With substantial rates of COVID-19 vaccination and lighter restrictions has come the excitement of in-person dating – but many people have felt their senses of socialization and flirting greatly diminish during quarantine. COURTESY OF CRAWFORD JOLLY VIA UNSPLASH

Although the skit greatly hyperbolizes post-vaccination dating through slapstick humor and zany banter, it captures the essence of what so many of us are facing: how do conservations in real life or relationships operate anymore? 

As we university students return to campus this fall semester, the prospect of forging romantic partnerships seems exhilarating after a year of isolation — or in my case, living in my parent’s basement. And while the idea to “get back out there” has appeal, the idea of going on a date face-to-face seems daunting, given how life behind a screen has become like a protective coat of arms. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, dating app usage has exploded. According to Fortune, there was a 700% increase of users on OkCupid from March to May 2020. Likewise, Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble experienced record-breaking surges in swipes and dates. Now with the vaccine rollout well underway, people across ages and demographics are more inclined to meet up with online connections — hence the “hot vax summer” trend that took social media by storm.

Despite the pent-up energy and demand, though, many people seem to feel that their ability to socialize and flirt has atrophied as a result of quarantine. According to The Washington Post article, “How to date” was one of the most Googled phrases in the DMV area as folks began to transition from unvaccinated to fully vaccinated. While there is no surefire way to brush off the proverbial cobwebs, many of the tools and “new norms” that developed because of the pandemic seem like good avenues to utilize while easing back into the world of dating, intimacy and human connection.

On many dating apps such as Hinge, there is an option to have a video chat. This function was originally created so that people could connect while sheltering in place during the height of the pandemic. However, now it provides a chance to get to know someone before committing to go on a full-fledged date in-person. 

With online dating, there is always the possibility of deception — someone could post pictures of Naomi Campbell in their profile and claim it is them. By video chatting, people can vet each other and see if there is natural chemistry that arises over the course of their conversation. If all goes well, people can then decide if they want to meet up offline.

In addition to the uptick in online dating services, walking dates became quite popular during 2020, since outdoor transmission rates of COVID-19 are low — below 0.1 percent. In a New York Times article, a 30-year-old woman named Courtney Steen discussed her experiences engaging in this trend, stating how daytime strolls around the park made her feel as if she were “being courted in the 1800s.” 

While walking trysts do seem like something out of a Jane Austen novel, this bygone activity seems as if it is here to stay. Casual strolls provide a relaxed atmosphere to soak up some vitamin D, get to know someone and see if there is underlying compatibility, instead of having a more intimate  — and intimidating — tête-à-tête at a restaurant or bar. 

It goes without saying that COVID altered the face of dating. As the world began to shelter-in-place, we were forced to look deeply within ourselves, probe at our values and priorities and find creative ways to seek intimacy. While many of those connections took different shapes and forms, we now have the ability to decide what aspects of pandemic dating we liked — and discard the rest. 

Jitters might be running high in returning to in-person learning and living this year. The SNL skit epitomizes the emotional undertow of this transition, with inevitable fumbles and slip-ups along the way. But this semester marks a new beginning to start anew, meet new people and spark new connections. 

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