Is it okay to catch feelings during the midst of a pandemic? Or is it a waste of time? Photo by Dillon Payne
By Destiny Jackson, Opinion Editor
The state of the world right now is a lot of things. Crazy, dangerous, depressing, unimaginable, but most of all romantically blue balled. With most of the world slowly returning to “normalcy”, it’s a wonder where the rest of us in semi-lockdown states are storing all of our horny energy. I mean even science says we need human interaction in order to survive.
During the pandemic, yours truly has certainly faced her share of love challenges. After being single for nearly 3 years (21 in dog years), I was sort of coming around to putting myself out there to start dating again, you know, the way that you eventually come around to taking your trash bins back from off the street–reluctantly. I texted an ex, got sent an unsolicited dick pic by a guy friend, reactivated and then deactivated my OkCupid profile, and poorly flirted all-around before coming to terms with the fact that maybe I’m ugly or maybe it’s quarantine. Hell, I even contemplated trying Facebook’s newest venture: Facebook Dating.
But then, as if the ghost of other 27-year-old maidens from the past whispered in my ear, I stopped and asked myself … was having a crush or trying to date right now even worth it? Also, on that same day of my existential crisis; comedian and Instagram live stream queen Ziwe Fumudoh professed similar concerns.
As states across the country are tightening and untightening their restrictions and people are being starved for human contact, how is one expected to date during the pandemic when most things are shut down? And if we are putting dating on the back burner right now, is it ok to still have a crush on a potential quarantine bae? Or should we be circling back to the overlooked prospects in our social circles? Why? What for?
In her interview with Business Insider, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience and author of a pandemic mental health study at Brigham Young University, alluded to the increasing loneliness brought on by quarantine restrictions. In this loneliness, people start to feel uncomfortable which often leads people to seek out connections. And we all know from our sixth-grade sex education class that having a romantic interest in someone releases serotonin and dopamine, which is nerd speak for particles in your brain that aid with feeling both happiness and anxiety. The point here is that in this new reality most of us are looking for something fresh and exciting to keep us distracted from the hopelessness and fear outside our doorstep. And it’s that exact uncertainty and desire for comfortability that’s driving people to gather their courage during the quarantine. Below, The Bulletin spoke to three people who attempted to find love and purpose in the time of Coronavirus.
Before the pandemic, I was quite active on dating apps. However, once the lockdowns started getting real, I realized that trying to pick-up dates might be kind of pointless. Until I matched with my “Insta-crush” I was over the moon!
As soon as we started messaging,
We both felt comfortable expressing our interest in meeting up for a date, however it was impossible to ignore the growing concern for the pandemic. With businesses shutting down left and right, coupled with social distancing rules, we didn’t want to risk it. We still kept in frequent communication, almost every day, for about two months. Neither of us expected lockdown to last this long, but we made an effort to maintain the energy in our messages. Eventually, not being able to physically see each other caught up to us. Our conversations started to fade, which is understandable since we didn’t sign up for a long-distance relationship with someone who lives only a handful of miles away.
Not long after, we both agreed to hold off on messages until we could go on a proper date. Now, I’ve found myself in a “dating limbo.” I’ve deleted my dating apps and I’m not interested in talking to anyone new. I somehow managed to forge a promising connection with someone while in quarantine, and in a way I’m grateful to have that to look forward to.
In late February, I matched and started chatting with one guy quickly. We had one in-person date before the lockdowns started, and then I never heard from him again. Ghosted during a pandemic, lucky me, huh? In several matches after that, I spoke on the phone or via video chat, but eventually, I got frustrated by the lack of progress and conversation and stopped trying altogether. What was the point?
You’d think it would be a little easier for dating especially because there’s less effort involved in planning outings or dressing up. But there’s a lot we lose from the loss of physicality. In one of my last attempts, there was one man who was trying hard to stay engaged in our conversations. When we met virtually, I found that despite looking well-groomed and dressed in his profile photos, he was wearing sweatpants, while I gussied up as if it were a real date. To not have the same level of interest or presentation really disappointed me. We stopped speaking shortly after. Conversational engagement and honesty are now more important than ever.
It must be quite a culture shock for some of these guys to go from ‘u up?’ to being forced to write like an aristocratic gentleman in a Jane Austen novel.
Even having a crush right now seems bleak, especially if they’ve gone back home farther away from you. It’s hard to fully invest in a fantasy – there’s always a part that clues you in that it’s a creation of your own head rather than something real. And again, moving into an active relationship seems nearly impossible now. As optimistic as I tried to be at the start of this experiment and despite friends still trying to cheer me on, I’m not enthusiastic about any of it right now. It just feels like a big waste of energy, so I’ll just continue being content in single-dom, at least for now.
My girl-friends and I in the group chat have been sharing stories about our dating attempts since forever about hook-ups, one night stands, and short term relationships. When Covid-19 restrictions really started going in mid-March, I jumped off the apps–seeing as I didn’t want to risk getting sick by physically going on dates–some of my friends were still trying to keep normalcy, but were quick to notice the uptick in ghosting. Guys would message them full-on, and then after a week or two of having the same boring conversations ‘what r u doing today?’, ‘nothing much.’ and then disappear into cyberspace never to be heard from again. So when in mid-April, a guy friend of mine that I sort of dated back in December, started to message me again, I didn’t take it very seriously.
After about a month of dating and going through spurts of talking regularly in January, we agreed to just be friends even though we liked each other, he just wasn’t consistent enough for me. We talked for a bit after that, but then he ghosted. We hadn’t spoken for about three months when he texted out of the blue in April. I was surprised, but most of all frustrated. What the hell was the point of playing games in the middle of a world apocalypse? Out of deep annoyance, I asked him point-blank ‘what are we?’ because I refused to believe we could be anything more than friends. Eventually, he told me that it was the onset of the coronavirus outbreak that he reached out again. It took a few weeks of effort (and a lot of patience) doing things like talking on the phone, texting, and Zoom movie-night dates, for him to finally say “I want to be more than friends but I’m not sure what that looks like during lockdown.” And I appreciated that honesty.
I am more extroverted than he is, and we’ve both realized that we don’t know how long we will be in this situation. This makes us feel less alone in isolation, even though we are separated by a few cities. I am the only one in my friend group that has successfully ‘caught a man’ as we say in our chats, but I really do believe that this pandemic is a double-edged sword; both driving people crazy and bringing others together–even people you might have overlooked. I don’t know how long this will last if we even make it to the other side of a post-Covid society, but I feel like I trust him a lot more now because we can both talk each other down when we’re worried about the virus or the state of things, and we’re doing this together. To people who are struggling to put themselves back out into the dating world, I think even having something as minor as a crush can be a fun activity to get your mind off of things. It’s great to have that rush of excitement–and those butterflies in your stomach– when you have a crush on somebody? It’s nice to have a bright spot in your life, especially right more than ever.