I grew up with the fairy tale that I would meet my Prince, have a boy and a girl, play tennis and go on vacation to exotic islands to drink Pina Colada’s. Number one, I never grew up (who does?!) Number two, technology has halted any dreams of my ability to delay instant gratification, number three, 911 has made America forever unsafe. Number four, Covid 19 and the millions of variants out there have made every cough, sneeze and wheeze cause for trips to the drug store for a Covid test. I have swabbed my nose more times than I care to admit. Called my doctor asking her to see me an embarrassing number of times. And I have smelled horseradish every day for going on two years. One thing I have not done is worried about my biological clock ticking in the time of Covid. I have had my kids, put in my time, and taken at least 4 pregnancy tests that were positive. I cannot say that about my own kids (Or at least my daughter) or their friends, who worry about kissing through masks, who worry that meeting new partners may give them Covid or put them in the hospital or on a ventilator.
The effect on young people dating has drastically affected the love life of young people around the world. Young women entering the age when they start thinking of getting married and having a child with the proverbial white fence lifestyle, now worry who they will meet on dating apps and if they have had the vaccine and/or the booster shot. “Are you boostered?” has become as common as how are you and what’s the weather? One woman I spoke to said that she “went into her 30’s feeling sure of herself and the fun she would have dating. But that the pandemic and the possibility of meeting a partner has worn her down. “I feel my biological clock ticking and wonder how and when I will meet someone,” she said. The new normal has become a world that is often 6 feet apart, spaced with masks, and punctuated with hand sanitizer.
While Tinder and Hinge swiping has also become the new normal for dating, the almost abnormal “new normal” is the anxiety to feel safe while finding someone. Some of the young women I spoke to said whereas they used to meet for coffee or drinks, it is now more accepted (and politically correct) to ask your date for a walk. While the vaccine has mitigated some fears, the strains of new virus’s, especially in New York City, are reporting more and more cases at an alarming rate. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/12/the-media-variant-hits-new-york-city.html Another young woman I spoke to said that most of her friends and their family members have had Covid at least once. I asked her if she had Covid and she said “No, but I get tested at least every week.” The fear is real, and the risks of socializing and meeting friends is causing alienation, anxiety and depression for many.
A 2021 article in the New York Times highlighted the fact that those in the dating world are “taking it slow.” https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/31/well/live/dating-during-coronavirus-pandemic.html The article said that the Bumble dating app found that 30 percent of their users only wanted to date those who had had been vaccinated. Socially distanced meet ups are now the norm, while those who have previously had casual hookups are more reluctant to do so. As dating apps have taken over the dating world, the dating apps remain popular, but remain so with big caveats. Questions running through the minds of app users are: Who will they meet, where have they been, have they been careful? Have they been tested for Covid recently? Are they a Democrat or Republican? And do they believe in science? It’s one thing to take an emotional risk, an even a risk with someone you know but taking a risk with a stranger is literally risking your life.
The dating world has always been a world of both fun and stress, the serious business of having fun and looking for someone to perhaps spend the rest of your life with. The pandemic has clarified a few of the question marks of dating. People get right to the point, they often know what they are looking for in terms of values, moral, and politics. The pandemic has weeded out those that might have lingered. But the pandemic has also made single people hungry for renewed connection. Months of lock down and social distancing have renewed the desire to connect, while also increasing the anxiety to do so. Yet mostly, the pandemic has put social issues square in the forefront of dating. The 2021 New York Times article reports that Tinder users reported being more transparent about their values. They are reported that users are also more transparent about “personal boundaries,” as well as being more authentic. A report on the future of dating predicts that daters will continue to be more honest after the pandemic ends.
In a world where the pandemic has reconfigured the definition of work and location, virtual work has become more and more common. People living in PA for example, can work remotely in California, Miami, or Chicago. People are no longer bound by one location. Similarly, the pandemic has expanded the boundaries in location of dating as well. Virtual dates are now more common, and people are more willing to look for people to date that may require a long car ride or even a plane trip to meet. The New York Times article says that “virtual dating may be here to stay,” at least until people can meet in person.
If the pandemic has taught us anything about dating, it has reinforced the need for connection, authenticity, and honesty. It has taught us that politics matter with the right person, and that pandemic politics have really become a thing.