Single But Can’t Mingle.

Single But Can't Mingle | dating during pandemic

I want to preface this post by saying that I know that handling this pandemic has been really, really hard for everyone. I can’t imagine what it would be like being a parent and having to homeschool their kid would be like. And I know so many couples that have broken up or gotten divorced. It sucks. It’s been a terrible year. For everyone. That being said, I write about what I know, and I personally, am coming at it from the perspective of a single woman.

Every time I do a Q&A on Instagram, this comes up. I had to actually say, “please stop asking me about dying alone” as some of the questions I get can be… a lot. I’m personally not worried about dying alone (there are so many different forms of community – romantic love, friendship, family, ETC) but I also get it. It’s a really lonely, isolating time. I did a poll on Instagram. I asked my single readers to chime in. Are you lonely? Do you feel like you’ve lost a year of your life? The answer to both questions was a resounding YES. I think it ended up being about 80% of my audience that said yes to both questions.

I put out a call for dating stories and received over 200 emails. To be honest, I’m still reading through and replying to them all. I want to read each one and send a personal response but it’s a lot. To be honest it was pretty heavy to read through them, some of the notes I got were cheerful and hopeful, but the majority of them were pretty sad, which left me feeling uneasy and upset. This is certainly not an easy time to be alone.

Single But Can’t Mingle

I understand the feeling of “having lost a year.” I understand the feeling of craving touch and not being hugged. March through June were utterly terrifying to me (honestly, I feel like I blacked those months out?) and it was really hard to be absolutely scared of everything (remember wiping every single package down?) and be alone. It would have been really nice to have had the support of a relationship. The loneliness is real, too… and that’s not even always romance-related. Besides wanting a partner, you can’t see your friends. Or your friends have left the city you’re living in. You’re not going into the office. You’re not traveling. As humans, we are social creatures. Even those of us who are introverts have learned that there is definitely such a thing as too much alone time.

In reading through your notes I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of how everyone (present company included) is feeling. I have compiled the main ideas and some of my favorite quotes, and I  hope this helps. You’re not alone!!!!

You’re too exhausted to date. And it doesn’t feel fun!

A lot of you mentioned feeling too tense (and sometimes judgy) to even think about dating. Man, this comment from a reader (I’m keeping everyone anon!) REALLY resonated. I feel this so much. With the heaviness of the year it is really hard to have superficial, chipper conversations with strangers. What even is flirting!? “I feel like there is nothing in my life that’s not stressful; at work it’s all disasters (COVID and others) and out of work it’s worrying about family, future, and the impacts that COVID has wrought. Add to that the issues surrounding social justice and politics that punctuated the year and it’s been exhausting. I feel like I don’t have the energy to engage even at the most superficial level with the people I know and love let alone strangers.

One reader said, “I feel as if the pandemic has sucked the intrigue, excitement, and possibility out of dating!” A lot of people mentioned this. Feeling like it isn’t fun, there’s no mystery. I agree with this so much.

Or, you’re dating, but it’s weird.

A lot of you mentioned doing FaceTime or Zoom dates to help weed people out. There is endless text messaging. Some of you like this, some of you don’t. Someone wrote me, “Is a month of texting the new courtship?” Others just said you are over all the texts and want to wait until you can just meet up in person.

You’re going for a lot of walks. You’re maybe not so sure what the other person looks like without the mask. (lol) One reader shared this and it made me laugh: they went for a walk and never took off their sunglasses or masks. Afterward, she thought they didn’t have chemistry so didn’t want to go out with him again. But at the same time she also thought… “Who can have chemistry without seeing the person’s face?!” 

You’re also going for more dinner dates as opposed to just drinks since bars aren’t open but outdoor dining is still an option. But before you spend a few hours at dinner, you’re doing video screenings via Zoom, Facetime, etc.

Someone else mentioned making the video screener a post-pandemic thing, too: this made me laugh! “The video date is the most USEFUL filter before bothering with a full outfit, face of makeup, hair done and uber, followed by entering a random bar nervously scanning for that man you have only seen a few photos of! Video dates are here to stay, even post pandemic. And I welcome the change!”

You’re dating, but you’re a great detective.

I loved this tip “On Hinge, one thing I always do now because of covid is pay attention to the dates on their instagram photos (if their Instagram is linked to their Hinge profile). That’s a great way to see if someone has been taking covid seriously. Been traveling a lot, attended a big wedding, going out to bars? It’s a no for me.

COVID has made exclusivity talks come up sooner.

Or, you just end it sooner. Mostly because you are feeling weird about kissing. Kissing strangers once felt like no big deal but  now it feels to use one reader’s words, “wrong and germy.” Kissing on the first date is rare, and many people are getting tested before kissing.

Another reader wrote, “Something else for me is that I’m firmer now on only dating one person at a time. I don’t want to be kissing multiple people in a week! Just one. And I tell them that I’m not seeing anyone else not as a forced exclusivity talk, but a public health talk.” I couldn’t agree more with this. It’s strange times.

It’s also empowered us a bit, making it easier to figure out shared values.

I loved this note from a reader: “Dating during this time has also made me feel more empowered to speak my mind, because when it comes to safety, you have to be clear and honest. In the past, when a guy would say something on a dating app or during a date that bothered me, I was rarely brave enough to speak up about it. But now, I find that I’m much bolder, and I love it. When one of my Hinge matches mentioned his 10-person friend group’s regular football viewing parties, I simply said, “Is that safe?” And that opened up an illuminating conversation that helped me quickly see we weren’t right for each other. Ditto when another match casually mentioned going to house parties recently. And ditto when another match mentioned he just flew back from “10 weeks of partying in Costa Rica.” (I mean, dude, seriously?!)

This has translated to other areas of my dating life. I recently went on an amazing first date with a journalist and came home to Google him, only to find lots of pieces he had written that expressed pretty problematic views on religion, politics, and just plain basic human decency. I actually called him to clarify my understanding of what he had written, got a better sense of his character, and then felt comfortable telling him we weren’t a match. In the past, I never would have been brave enough to do that. I’m grateful this year has forced me to learn how to communicate in such a direct way.

You are leaning on your friends.

One thing that constantly came up was the idea of leaning on your friends. I know that if I didn’t have Becca and Alex (two of my best friends) living in the same apartment building, this pandemic would have been even harder. I really leaned on my friends this year and am so grateful that I have them.

You are using this time to work on yourself. 

I loved this quote from one reader. She has just gone through a breakup and isn’t ready to date again and wrote: “I’ve dubbed this the year of me. I’m not ready to date again, so I’ve been channeling all my energy into myself. I’ve gotten really into Pilates and working out (a first for me!), watching TV, catching up with old friends, going for long walks, trying out take out since I can’t physically go to restaurants. Trying to learn new things and listening to podcasts/reading articles.”

Also this one: “I ask myself, “How do I want to show up in the world once this is over?” and spend my time becoming that person so I’m ready once the world is ready for me.” LOVE this mentality.

One reader had some really great advice for combatting loneliness. I couldn’t have said it better myself. “To combat the loneliness, try to change your mindset. This could be the only time (hopefully no more pandemics) where you have unlimited alone time. Instead of thinking about it as a year lost, think about it as a year where you really learned about yourself. You could meet someone immediately when it’s safer so take advantage. Try to work on yourself, work on a long term goal or set some long term goals for yourself, or just simply relax! Spend time with loved ones safely, if possible. It’s not going to last forever so just enjoy it while you can. While I can’t wait to travel and everything else, I’m trying to enjoy this time as best as I can while daydreaming about future trips.”

There was a LOT of talk on working on yourself so that you’ll be able to be a better partner when the pandemic is over. I really loved that.

How about you? Are you dating right now? How’s it going? How are you feeling? Sound off in the comments section.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment


  1. Kristen:

    Good morning, Grace. Thank you for this post and hosting this conversation.

    I’m reading the book Date-onomics per GGE and your mention. What. An. Eye opener.

    We are the same age and I’ve grown up believing that whenever I’ve not been in a relationship somehow this is “my fault” … grew up with an unhealthy focus on the importance of romantic relationships vs my own self worth. I’ve shifted a lot of this mindset over the last years and this book is further cementing the reality of today and the power women have… in the best way. I’ve never felt more positive and hopeful about my own life and success because of ME. Also with full belief that a relationship that I want will come at the right time.

    Did the book impact you positively? Thanks for all you’re doing to support your readers during this time.

    3.26.21 Reply
    • I felt so vindicated after reading Date-onomics. Like, I knew it wasn’t me, it was nice to see data supporting it!

      3.26.21 Reply
      • Kristen:

        Absolutely. My thoughts exactly. Give me all the data!

        3.26.21 Reply
  2. Jess:

    Great post! I’ve been feeling and experiencing so much of this last year and it’s good to know I’m not alone.

    3.26.21 Reply
  3. Carly:


    Thanks for this post! I have been feeling all the things you wrote about and it is so nice to know others are feeling the same way. Love your community!

    3.26.21 Reply
  4. Jessica Camerata:

    Could not agree more with all of this. And I think they nailed it with the fact it’s sucking the fun and life out of dating (although it usually isn’t either of those at times prepandemic too). There’s no flirting, there’s ABSOLUTELY NOTHING happening in my life right now. I have nothing to talk about but politics and Covid it seems. And my one tennis lesson I took.

    I can’t even imagine going on a date right now in person. I dread having to go to a bar. I’ve also learned this year that my body fucking hates alcohol and I can’t figure out how to fix it. So I don’t even want to drink anymore. Every date was centered around a drink. Time for a cultural shift for sure and that is terrifying to me.

    Such a great post, loved all this info and I’m so glad I’m not alone here.

    xo Jessica
    an indigo day

    3.26.21 Reply
  5. I can’t relate since I’m in a relationship, but hang in there, Grace! Things will get better! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    3.26.21 Reply
  6. Molly:

    I feel this SO hard. Even if I wanted to go on a date I feel so physically BLAH – not even in a body image way although the pandemic hasn’t helped that either. It’s more that I’ve been living in workout clothes and sweats and the thought of getting dressed for a date is so daunting when it used to be fun.

    ANDDDD there’s no flirting. There’s not even a night getting drinks with girlfriends wondering if the table of guys two over from you are checking you out. There’s no intrigue, no drama!

    I’m trying to combat all of this by getting my hair done for the first time in 1/2 a year and using some of my stimulus check to buy new clothes (the rest is going to savings and local restaurants!). Hoping a little beauty and retail therapy will a long way!

    3.26.21 Reply
  7. Sarah:

    Thank you so much for this! As the only single friend left, I feel like I’ve been a drain on my coupled-up friends. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this.

    3.26.21 Reply
  8. Elizabeth:

    Thanks so much for this post, Grace! It is such a comfort to hear people with similar philosophies on dating right now. Throughout the pandemic, it seemed so frivolous to date. I thought, I am only seeing 1-2 friends, why would i compromise their safety and my own for some random person? At the same time, I have had friends take their relationships to the next level, and I think its human nature to wonder if you are doing something wrong. As there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, I am excited to get back out there, and take some of these notes shared with me. Thanks again!

    3.26.21 Reply
  9. Marianne Buonopane:

    Great piece, Grace! I’m in my last year of college and thought this would be the year I was ready to date again (I left an awful relationship 2 years ago). It just hasn’t felt right, and while it’s been lonely, I feel validated by all the “working on myself” sentiments! During this this time I’ve gotten clear about the friendships, the habits, and the thoughts that are no longer serving me! I also did a complete 180 and changed career paths, and I think if I had been consumed with dating, these things wouldn’t have happened! Here’s to a brighter second half of 2021! Love this community!

    3.26.21 Reply
  10. Lisa:

    You did such a great job on this post, Grace! I feel like this would be such a great feature on a magazine – you’ve got great journalistic skills 🙂

    As someone who’s in their mid-30s and single, it does sometimes feel like the lost dating year. I did do online dating earlier during the pandemic (went for walking dates, etc) and did not really enjoy it! So I took a break from dating, and I actually loved it. I had more time and energy to spend on myself + pup, study for esthiology school, build my business, and work on my dreams. No dating distractions!

    But with that being said, I realize I do want to date again, there is never going to be a “perfect” time to do so, so I’m looking forward to seeing how dating unfolds in 2021! 🙂


    3.26.21 Reply
  11. Shannon:

    I definitely am sharing all these same feelings on dating, the feeling absolutely blah all the time, not having enough fun activities to go do, nothing interesting to talk about, nothing about it being fun…although I’m also pretty content being single and don’t mind being alone, so I’m not terribly torn up about the situation. Oh, and I also really am not interested in getting COVID from a random dude, so there is that too.

    The biggest issue for me is that, lets be honest, none of us are at out best right now. And a lot of single people are pretty (understandably) desperately lonely. Which, for me, doesn’t equal being in the best mindset for emotionally healthy dating. If/when I date, I want to date someone who thinks I’m really great, not someone who is just really lonely and texting me for months on end is better than nothing. I’ll happily wait until a little more normalcy returns and people are a little happier, more themselves, and the universe has a bit more to offer.

    3.26.21 Reply
    • Jessica:

      I agree, Shannon. I’d also prefer to take my time getting back into to dating to find more genuine connections. But it’s still challenging. Like others have said, I miss being seen out in the world (without a mask) and interacting with others in day to day life. Looking forward to possibility and glad we aren’t alone in this!

      3.26.21 Reply
  12. Thank you for sharing this Grace. So much of what I have felt in the past year is reflected here, and it is comforting to hear others are are right there with me. I haven’t dated at all over the past year (I broke up with someone in February 2020, wild timing). Partly due to the pandemic, being just out of a relationship, and because I knew my goal was to move out of state as soon as I could (it took much longer than I hoped, but it was for the best). Why bother dating with online pandemic dating when I didn’t plan on sticking around? I move in a month and will finally re-enter the dating world, and as much as I really want to find someone, I’m not looking forward to dating again. I hope I can harness some of the confidence that these women have shared when I do!

    3.26.21 Reply
  13. Valerie:

    I had been happily single for 10 years prior to the pandemic starting. I traveled all the time, was super active outdoors & had plenty of friends. I wasn’t really much for dating or intentionally looking for a partner. But this past year has really clarified for me that I actually do want someone & am starting to look at dating as fun instead of an annoying chore.

    Also I am vaccinated & recently made out with an old friend (also vaccinated) and it felt great to do something that used to be totally normal without worrying if it was too risky!!

    3.26.21 Reply
  14. Wendy:

    It’s a tricky situation, it is difficult to state, bc strangers in a pandemic are scary! The pandemic has made me simultaneously grateful for living alone and lonely. While I’ve seen some friends safely, and go into the office once a week, it’s also the lack of random interactions with strangers and chance encounters that is also difficult.

    3.26.21 Reply
  15. Kate:

    Ugh this was a perfectly timed post. I had a whole year to “work on me” but what does that even mean in a pandemic?! I was so much more fulfilled and objectively interesting when I was busy. Last week, I went on my first date since the pandemic began (just a walk). He could have been perfect (he wasn’t) but it was doomed from the start. I had absolutely nothing interesting to add to a conversation. It’s like I became a grandma overnight! In a whole year I have seen one friend and I only really leave the house to walk the dog and get food, what is there to talk about lol I have no clue how to bounce back from this past year.

    3.27.21 Reply
  16. I cannot even imagine trying to date during the pandemic, but I also wouldn’t want to put my life on hold!

    Danielle |

    3.27.21 Reply
  17. I got divorced & moved out literally two weeks before the nationwide shutdown. I am actually grateful that I was able to redirect my priorities and not fritter away time and energy dating – but now that I am dipping my toe back into it I CANNOT stop thinking and laughing about this quote -> Whoopi Goldberg On Marriage: “I Don’t Want Somebody In My House”
    HELP. Hahah! (Though also, at the age of 32, various friends during this last year have: 2 engagements, 3 new houses, 1 marriage, 4 second babies, 1 first baby. So that has been bittersweet to witness when I feel like I am treading water in a ‘divorce apartment’)

    3.28.21 Reply
  18. Kelsey:

    I really appreciate this post! I’ve been single-ish for about 5 years now and I have been attempting to do some online dating on and off throughout the pandemic. It’s definitely been tough! I agree that the messaging period has extended really long. Typically I’m the type of online dater that will want to meet up ASAP. Messaging back and forth does nothing for me, but I found myself extending the time I spend messaging a person due to COVID safety reasons. Now I try to move to a Zoom date as soon as possible as a way to screen out non-contenders without weeks of texting. I’ve met up with one guy in-person since the start of the pandemic. He was nice, but things escalated really quickly with him treating me as his GF almost right off the bat (which may result from the pandemic, or maybe it was just the guy). It was too much for me and I ended things after 2 weeks.
    I think ultimately what I learned is that dating, especially online dating in a pandemic, requires a lot of emotional/mental labor. I’m finishing up my last year of law school, I’m working part-time, I’m looking for a post-grad job, and I’m preparing for the Bar exam. Plus I’m just dealing with life in a pandemic! I really do not have the emotional bandwidth right now to date and that’s totally okay with me! I’m putting dating attempts on hold until I have the time and energy to really dedicate to doing right.

    3.29.21 Reply
  19. Kenzie:

    Thanks for this post Grace! I am also single and not very interested in online dating right now because it is too much extra screen time for me. It is nice to read this post and know I am the only one with all of these conflicting feelings.

    3.30.21 Reply