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Dating during a pandemic: How to be single in the age of corona

I was supposed to have a first date Thursday night.

I’m 32 and single and my last real relationship was a few years ago. I’ve been on an off dating apps during that time, but anyone who is single in NYC and over 30 knows that process is its own kind of absurd hell.

A few weeks ago, I decided to restart the apps and put some effort into meeting someone. And I was actually excited about a first date with an adult man who had a real job and totally appropriate messages; he had even already seen my Twitter feed. Instead, I spent Thursday night disinfecting myself, my dog, and my clothes, and settled into social isolation at my mom’s house on Long Island.

If the situation weren’t so serious, I might be able to laugh this off as a cosmic plot to keep me single forever. The universe is just being the worst wingman right now.

Some are taking refuge in the apps, which are of course compatible with socially distancing. But being a veteran of online dating, I’ve developed some “best practices” so as not to waste my time. One of the first lessons I learned was how important it is to meet someone quickly once you’ve had enough messages to feel comfortable. When you spend too much time messaging without meeting, you can build up expectations, only to meet and see there is zero chemistry. Alternatively, it can be difficult to develop the rapport through messages when you haven’t met first.

I’ve had multiple long distance relationships and I think you can learn a lot about someone through that kind of communication. But in those cases, I had always met the person, kissed them, spent quality time with them, before keeping a relationship going at a distance.

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That’s going to be harder now. Who knows when we’ll next feel safe enough to meet someone in person. We’re just at the start of the coronavirus’s outbreak in the U.S., with all signs pointing to it getting much, much worse before it gets better.

That doesn’t stop the need for human relationship, especially in a case like mine, where I’d put it on hold for so long.

One of the reasons I’ve dated less the past few years is that I couldn’t stand the Brooklyn revolutionaries explaining the importance of voting Bernie Sanders, or how my liberation would come through ethical non monogamy if I would only throw off the patriarchal yokes of monogamy. During the 2016 election, I actually left a guy in a bar because he was convinced that Bernie would fix everything in our country, despite not being able to name a single policy beyond the slogans. I can handle a difference of opinion about our primary candidate, but the ignorant mansplaining was too much (I may have made a dramatic flounce as I walked out).

In any event, caring less about dating helped me to focus more on writing my dissertation and building my political activism. I couldn’t bear to date another guy like my boyfriend in my early 20s, who cringed when I dared to correct one of his friends or show I actually had knowledge on a subject.

But one can’t put off dating forever. I’ve told you how old I am so I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I’m particularly aware of my next birthday and what that could mean for my dating life and biological clock. I was recently at a dinner with friends where somehow I was the only single person with three married couples. The last time I was in a wedding, I showed up to buy dresses hungover and having just kicked a guy out of bed, only to meet a group of women all talking about the condos they were buying and when they were getting pregnant. It felt too clichéd to be real.

I’m an empowered feminist and I know it’s fine to be single and I don’t need a man, but I also want a partner, and someone to take turns waking up in the middle of the night to change diapers.

So, three weeks ago, with these concerns in mind and my dissertation finally in the hands of my committee, I decided to devote this spring to dating more, and hopefully dusting off the flirting skills I had in my 20s.

Yet here I am, isolating myself in my mother’s eastern Long Island home. The last thing on my mind is the desire to kiss someone new or even sit closely over drinks at a bar.

With my rules barring longterm online dating, in person dates off limits, and the end of the world feeling closer every day, the temptation to reach out to an ex is particularly strong while in social isolation. We’re all looking for some intimacy and connection, and reaching out to an ex provides such an easier fix than trying to build a new relationship without the possibility of meeting anytime soon. Plus, we have the perfect excuse right now to text that guy who’s just a little bit bad for us: We know he can’t talk us into meeting and we’re so bored. And there’s no harm in just checking in to make sure he has enough toilet paper and hand sanitizer, right?

I’m not going to tell you not to. In the grand scheme of things, putting off dating a few more weeks (or months) is nothing in comparison to flattening the curve and stopping the spread of coronavirus. I’m staying with my 68 year-old mother and practicing social distancing because my mother’s health and the safety of society is my main priority right now.

But, if it’s not too much to ask, could the universe make sure a few eligible bachelors are acting responsibly and waiting to go on a date with me when this is all over? I’d be very grateful!

Mia Brett is a PhD candidate in American Legal History and a cofounder of the All Women’s Progress Think Tank. She lives in Brooklyn with her dog Tchotchke. Follow her on Twitter @QueenMab87.


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