You’re single. It’s 2020. Just when New Yorkers thought trying to find a mate couldn’t get any more difficult!
You go on a date with someone who fights with the hostess about wearing a mask and you want to disappear into thin air from embarrassment. Then, the next night, your date wears a mask and sunglasses the entire time and you have no idea what they even look like. Suddenly the thought of being alone again through another lockdown doesn’t seem so bad.
There is a spectrum of people with different ideas and values around dating in a pandemic. It’s probable that your dating non-negotiables haven’t changed and traveling to another borough for a date is still never going to happen. That’s fine, but it’s time to decide what your COVID-specific non-negotiables are. Just as you specify in your Hinge profile that cats are off the table, you may also decide what you won’t compromise on related to COVID. No mask, no date? Put it in your profile.
If the profile assertion is not your style, you can still use the pandemic as a topic for conversation, mentioning some of the stories you’ve heard or experienced to gauge the person's values on a particular topic. For example, you could say something like “can you believe people are meeting with large groups in the park?!” or “last weekend I met up with 20 friends in the park and it was awesome!” This allows your potential date to understand your values without having to discuss them awkwardly.
Let’s not forget that we’re still New Yorkers. We don’t take things personally! Just as someone's opinions about subway etiquette have nothing to do with you, neither do their opinions about social distancing. If someone is offended by your COVID boundaries, they’re probably not the mate for you. Chances are, they’ll probably be offended by other boundaries in the future, so why not cut to the chase?
If a Zoom first date is just too 2020 for you, you can be nostalgic and compromise with a phone call. Zoom fatigue can be rough these days, and many people who are still working from home will appreciate the rest from a computer screen. Usually, one can tell if the date is even worth going on within the first few minutes of the call, and the bonus is that there's no shower necessary and you can stay in your sweatpants.
As you may have experienced firsthand, many pre-pandemic issues still exist. Ghosting after dates still happens (and is just as distasteful) and the endless texting back-and-forth on the app can go on just as long before meeting. COVID has made it more difficult to actually go on a date, but as far as boundaries and feelings are concerned, the same rules apply.
What if you get through the pre-date and first date obstacle course and meet someone and have a good time? It’s only 10 pm and it seems too early to end the fun, but the city that never sleeps has turned into a city with a bedtime.
There has been an adjustment in the dating process due to lack of date options. How many walks in the park can we go on? The “new normal” is to get the boot from a restaurant as soon as you sign your check, so does that mean you slow down and both head home? Or speed up and decide to watch a movie at someone's place?
Many New Yorkers have found themselves moving quite quickly through the beginning few dates in this pandemic. It’s no surprise that, after being alone in a tiny apartment for months on end, people are ready to get back out there and have a good time. Although, taking things too quickly can provide a false sense of security in a difficult time.
It is important to assess your pre-pandemic dating boundaries before jumping into unknown territory, and pandemic dating is definitely unknown territory!
This time has definitely been a reflective period, and many of us are looking at life a bit differently now. Have you simplified your wants and needs? Or have they grown more extensively?
Assessing where you are and what has changed for you personally and emotionally can help reduce any anxiety around navigating what dating means for you today.
If you’re feeling like date #2 is feeling more like the usual date #6 or 7, it may be time to assess the reasons why. What is different in your life now that texting 24/7 used to be a huge turn off but is now suddenly totally acceptable? It is possible that it’s because you found “the one.” Even if that's the case, assess what is different about this person and this dating experience than others. Assessing what's different in you or in them will help you gain a better understanding of why your dating process may be moving at a different speed.
There’s no secret that, when the colder months are approaching, people dig a little deeper into getting more serious. A steady Netflix and chill partner is much more coveted in the winter.
Returning to COVID non-negotiables, maybe traveling to another borough was out of the question before COVID and now, traveling to another neighborhood may be too far! When everyone is concerned about a second lockdown, people may be scaling back to neighborhood dates only so they don’t need to use public transportation to see a new love interest.
The lifelong question is always: what are people's motives? Well, we don’t know people's motives and we're not going to know. The best thing you can do is be 100% sure of what your motives are. If you are sure of what you want, you won’t have trouble asserting that because, whether we’re in a pandemic or not, you can’t say the wrong thing to the right person.
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Jana DuFort is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a certified fitness instructor, and a personal trainer. In her work, she blends the mental with the physical to provide her clients with the tools they need to stay healthy. Jana helps individuals, couples, and families accomplish their goals, build meaningful relationships, and lead happier lives.