Online Dating In the Age of COVID-19 May Just Bring Back Romance

Whether you’ve been separated from your loved ones, found yourself plunged into self-quarantine with the someone you just met on Bumble, are single and navigating a whole new world of virtual dating, or are ready to call in the divorce lawyers after finding yourself in far too close proximity to your partner, the rapid spread of COVID-19 has reshaped our relationships drastically. So what is it really like to Love In the Time of Coronavirus?

If you’ve ever seen the film Becoming Jane, then you remember the steamy courtship scene when James McAvoy steps in to dance with Anne Hathaway. I was a sophomore in high school when this movie came out, and although I had experienced the true deliciousness of David Bowie in The Labyrinth and Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing by this point, it was the romance between Jane Austen (Hathaway) and Thomas Lefroy (McAvoy) that made me clutch my chest and hold my breath. I mean, wow. I’m not old-fashioned by any means, but there was something about the way Austen and Lefroy’s romance blossomed and burned—slowly, delicately, with soulful glances, brushes of the hand and the steady exchange of words—that made me think, even at the age of sixteen, “I want that someday.”

Well, I haven’t found it, and maybe you haven’t either, but this isn’t because our standards are too high, no matter what Stephen with a ‘ph’ from Tinder thinks. Dating is different now. In the age of social media and online dating, when anyone and anything is at our fingertips, a gal is lucky to get a “How’s it going?” before a pic of some guy’s eggplant emoji. These are dark times. Where’s the romance? Where’s the space to take time to actually get to know a person before you meet them at 11 p.m. at a bar? Where’s James McAvoy in period costume?

A year and a half ago when I re-entered the dating app scene after a monumental break up that had me, how do you say, shooketh, I found myself constantly wondering what the rush was to meet in person after establishing a match. On a regular basis, I would send a message that said something like, “I prefer to get to know people a little better before meeting them.” Sometimes that request was met with respect and continued conversation, and other times, it was left unanswered, which showed me that we wanted different things. That, or the person just sincerely didn’t want to talk to me and wanted to meet in person to have a staring contest instead (I’d win, by the way).

I’m sure none of us who binged Love is Blind a few weeks ago, before the world took the horrific onset of coronavirus seriously, thought that we too would soon be isolated in pods and having to rely on communication behind closed doors to get to know a person, but here we are. In the current climate of social distancing, we really shouldn’t be meeting Bumble matches for in-person dates. It’s just not the time. In the words of Ms. Austen—which really should be all of our mottos for the time being as we ride out this pandemic—“Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort. Nobody can be more devoted to home than I am.”

I get how crucial in-person chemistry is to how a relationship will pan out. However, it’s intriguing to me how many men I’ve come across who, in two messages or less, are willing to put on pants, leave their homes, get into their cars, and drive to a place to meet a total stranger without knowing a single thing about them. Don’t you want to know what I’m looking for, Tyler? Don’t you want to know what my job is, or if I have goals, or my thoughts on climate change?!

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