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.