Dating is Freezing
“It was freezing.”
Nine months into COVID dating, this is now the first thing I hear when I ask about the dates I set up. On top of all the other hardships of dating in general, and dating during COVID in particular, now dating is freezing temperature-wise. Dating, however, has been freezing in other ways long before the weather turned.
Masks and Social Distancing. Every date, you must weigh the trade-off of seeing your date’s face against the risk of getting Coronavirus. You’re not quite seated six feet apart at that table for two. And there is nothing casual or natural about walking six feet apart: strangers walk in between you, one of you is off the sidewalk and into the street, and you essentially need to shout and strain to hear the conversation. It is very hard to create a connection with anyone, let alone attempt to decide if this stranger has marriage material potential without seeing his or her entire face. No one would ever choose to wear a mask on what should be a romantic encounter in normal times. Gone are the smiles, facial cues, flirtatious facial expressions and everything else you use to decode on a date.
There is no where to go. Literally. All date ideas begin with the word “outdoor,” you fill in the rest – cafe, walk, bar, rooftop etc. It gets dark so early now. And, worse than the cold, rain or snow, the wind. Not just because that makes it colder, but what it does to your hair! There are outdoor restaurants with heat lamps but they don’t make it that much warmer. You both feel bad spending money on a nice restaurant in this weather, him for treating and her for letting him treat. You still worry that even outdoors the next table is a little too close too. If you are on the more modern end of modern orthodoxy or not orthodox, you toy with the idea of doing a date in one of your apartments. But modern or not, that’s not really who you are and you do not want to compromise your values and risk giving off the wrong impression. It is just too soon for that at this stage of dating.
The rules are different. It is very hard to navigate the emotions of dating with social distancing. From sitting in a car together masked, to not having the hello and goodbye hug (for those of you who are not shomer negiah) – everything is so different and does not feel right. The “mask hug” is awkward and certainly does not give that little surge of oxytocin connecting the two of you that a pre-COVID date hug used to.
Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht (Man Plans, and G-d Laughs). Whether you just graduated college and were planning your move from you dorm to your first real apartment but the social scene is bleak and many are moving back home; or you finally finished grad school and were going to interview for jobs but everything is on hold; or you moved into a new apartment with new roommates, but are afraid to get out and socialize; or you had a great job and finally a new lease on your very own one-bed apartment and you just lost your job; or maybe you were finally ready for a serious relationship but COVID has put everything on hold. 2020 was supposed to be the year you were going to focus on finding “the one” and now it’s nearly 2021, and nothing is as you envisioned.
A positive test. You venture out despite all the aforementioned and date. That first date goes to a second, a third, fourth and just as you’re getting cautiously optimistic you learn you were directly exposed to someone who tested positive. You must test and quarantine for two weeks, you need to tell your date who was already beyond nervous about COVID that he or she needs to test too. There is no better way to say it – Buzzkill! The strain that puts on the spark and excitement of your new relationship, only four dates in, barely far enough along past the point of being strangers, crushes it.
Everyone else is moving forward. Everywhere you look, friends, relatives, or just strangers on social media seem to be thriving in life and dating.. Why do they seem to move through COVID unaffected, with their biggest problem seeming to be planning their Instagram picture-perfect social distanced gorgeous outdoor wedding. NIne months into COVID, dating feels entirely out of control. Deep down you know, and tell your friends going through the same struggle, the same thing I tell you, the right one will come, at the right time, everything is going to fall into place, but you don’t entirely believe it. And all those picture perfect weddings – remember, you are only seeing one moment in time.
There are positives. Suprisingly, in fact, Covid, in its way, has had some positives for dating. How you date, who you date, and who to let go of dating.
You’ve delighted in the creative date ideas: drive-in theatres, crafts and art projects, bon-fires, picnics with board games, long drives to scenic walks, or even just grocery shopping together (yes on a 3rd date) and enjoy the respite from nonstop 1st date drinks. And on those long car-rides or walks you’ve had the opportunity to delve into deep conversations, conversations you would never get to so early on in dating when you’re ordinarily distracted with bars, restaurants and the usual city buzz of dating. You’ve actually been able to create some deep connections right away.
You feel more ready too. In a recent OU Magazine interview Marc Goldman founder and CEO of SawYouAtSinai noted that it is the social distancing, the lack of the usual social life, that have led many to reprioritize finding a spouse.
Your friends, they’ve all scattered and socially distanced from you. Without them around you realize what you really want is the one to quarantine with not your friends, that one deep, meaningful, romantic relationship.
Perhaps you’ve opened yourself up to others you might not have considered dating before (and vice versa). Afterall, in COVID, it is often just phone calls to start. Some of you felt vulnerable and reached back out to an ex to try again. Others felt bold and confident and decided to explore dating a close platonic friend (you know the one you promised each other would marry if you weren’t married by a certain age – is there really such a thing as a platonic relationship?) And some of you decided to date that person you know is interested in you and checks off all of your boxes, but whom you have shied away from, fearing a lack of chemistry. Others have dated someone missing one of the criteria that seemed so important, that suddenly doesn’t seem as crucial anymore. Perhaps you have tried and found either incredible relationships or closure on exes, or discovered the ability to let go of a fictional crutch or backup plan that’s actually been holding you back from being able to meet and accept “the one.”
And secretly, you relish the opportunity, the additional time you have to stay shomer and just focus on the emotional, mental and non-physical connection.
Or you may have dodged a bullet. You’ve had time to think about what matters most to you and identify who you should take the time to get to know and build connections with and, importantly, who you should not.
So nine months into, undoubtedly the worst year of many of our lives, masked up and bundled up in layers, like a Norwegian, resilient, you persist, schedule another outdoor date tentatively – because of the freezing cold winter weather, of course – and focus on the conversation and hope for this to be the one with the very warm and cozy relationship.