Love in the Time of Coronavirus - part 1

by Kaylene Potts
15 May 2020

Like most single people nowadays, I rely heavily on dating apps to meet guys. So naturally when Coronavirus started, I wondered how that would change. Just to set the scene, I’m by no means a regular or serial dater. In fact, the last first date I had before all of this was in early 2019. I decided in March that I’d get back on the proverbial dating horse. Nothing had changed much in the dating app world – usually for every 10 matches you see about 1 person going on to message their match. And even then (mostly through my own fault) I tend to reply to about 1 in 10 messages. By the time the end of March came I noticed a steady rise in the amount of activity on dating apps, including the time I spent on there as well. I’d seen a few articles that talked about a surge in online dating activity. I wondered – is this purely boredom on the part of people being stuck in doors with very limited social activity and would they eventually go on to ignore their apps once normal life resumed? Or could this actually result in a spike in new relationships being formed in a totally new way?

Just before the official lockdown I was supposed to have a date with someone – we’ll call him Mr X. However, we never got the opportunity. We continued to message for a bit and I did wonder whether this would fizzle without physical human interaction like most activity on dating apps. A few days into lockdown we decided to have our first virtual date on FaceTime. Like any normal date, I was a bit nervous and anxious. However, there were definitely a few upsides to a virtual date – I wouldn’t have to make too much of an effort in what I wore or looked like and didn’t even have to leave my bedroom! The first date lasted a couple of hours – it was pleasant but also intense. Without the distraction of shared human surroundings, you’re forced to really pay attention to everything that person is saying and make sure you come across as engaged and attentive. Following the first virtual date, Mr X sent me a polite message saying he’d had a nice time and we should “do it again soon”. It was then a week before I heard from him again so decided to check he hadn’t been taken down by Coronavirus. After a couple of messages back and forth it turns out he thought I wasn’t interested and decided he wouldn’t bother dating during the lockdown. However, I explained that wasn’t the case and we went on to have our second virtual date. This was probably the best second date I’d ever had virtual or not. We spent almost 6 hours on FaceTime (helped by more than a few glasses of wine) and genuinely had a really fun time. We even agreed that to keep up the momentum we should have one virtual date a week as long as we were both enjoying the experience. Each virtual date got better and better and we started to really get to know each other in a way that you perhaps don’t as quickly when the physical is involved. Fast forward and we’ve now had 7 virtual dates and will be meeting this weekend in a park (at a 2m social distance of course). I don’t know how things will go or whether they will work out long term but certainly Mr X has played a pivotal role during lockdown for me. As someone who lives in a shared flat with a person they don’t consider a friend, plus said person has moved their boyfriend into the flat, I’ve found my living situation challenging at the best of times. This virtual dating experience has brought me respite and been a source of hope and joy during what for a lot of people is a difficult time. Whatever happens between Mr X and I, I’ll always be thankful to him for this.

This takes me to the end of my virtual dating musings and to reference the title of this article, based on the well-known novel by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love in the Time of Cholera. The parallels between love blossoming during the Spanish Influenza through a series of letters and potential relationships forming during COVID-19 through video calls is one that shows no matter how hard things get, there’s always something to be hopeful about.

Read part 2 of the story