“Hello, lovely.” About 10 texts later of playful back and forth banter, he asked: “Would you like to go on a social distancing walk?” He assured me that we could maintain a good 6 feet of distance throughout the nature trail. For a second date, I normally expect at least 10 feet of separation, but I was willing to comprise this time. 😂
I hadn’t heard from him in 4 weeks, just before the world decided to close for business, figuring he either lost interest, put me on ice to turn on the burners with other potential dates, or was hooked to a ventilator fighting for his life, incapable of texting me. Luckily, it wasn’t the latter.
Normally, when I would prepare for a date, I would go through a mental checklist:
- Legs, arms, and bikini line shaved? Check!
- Hair colored and styled? Check!
- Pedicure, manicure, and makeup? Check!
- Matching lace bra and panties? Check!
- Menstrual cycle not until next week? Check!
- Trojans not expired? Check!
Given there is a global pandemic that could potentially kill millions worldwide, obviously, I had to update my checklist:
- Pants to cover my hairy legs? Check!
- Did I remember to wash my bra and panties? Check!
- Winter cap to cover my roots and mangy curls? Check!
- Do I even know what 6 feet of separation looks like? Double Check!
Dating in the time of corona, in a nutshell, describes my dating life during my early college years. Luckily, the first generation iPhone hadn’t been released so there are probably only two photos that capture that period of my life. I’m still amazed that my eyebrows were ever that bushy, and not even my Latina curves could bring sexy back to pleated jeans.
Now, full disclosure, I never dated in college. I grew up on a dairy farm. My parents were conservative Catholic, scared-out-of-their-fucking-Fox News-minds immigrants, who sheltered their daughter her entire life to safeguard her virginity. Unlike many Americans in the late 90s who sent their children off to college and only heard back from them during school breaks, I had to live at home and drive daily 1.5 hours roundtrip to attend class and make it in time for dinner. I did, however, go on one “accidental” date. Adam was in guitar ensemble with me and invited me to a Friday night piano recital at the music building. I had no clue it was a date. I caught on once I saw him hover his left hand over my right knee during the entire one-hour recital. He hovered there, slightly trembling after 30 minutes, as if a force field around my knee prevented him from dropping his palm onto my knee cap. I was dying for him to touch my knee, only so that I could make it clear to him that I was NOT interested. This logic made sense at the time. After the recital ended, in my most shyest hesitant voice, I had to make it ambiguously clear that I wasn’t interested in him. He stormed off to his car. When I left the parking lot of the music building, he started to tailgate me aggressively. I feared for my safety and drove cautiously, trying to lose him at various street lights. After I drove a few blocks, white-knuckled and prepared to break or swerve, he sped past my pickup truck, cut me off, and drove off into the city lights. I was relieved to exit the city and take the long country drive home, watching the city lights in my rearview mirror dwindle to nothing. When I got home, I didn’t say a word to my parents. If I ever wanted to stay out again after sundown, I knew then that whatever horrific act that could happen to me had to be my problem, my silence.
In 2020, a new threat surfaces and hundreds of millions of single people around the world have to figure out how to date in the time of corona. Love guru and sex advice columnist Dan Savage, who once discouraged people from engaging in long drawn out text exchanges on Tinder or Bumble before that first date, now encourages his readers and listeners to court via text like World War II pen pals. Some recommend finding a corona buddy, someone you can trust to receive physical touch and emotional care. This may work for lifelong friends or close confidantes; however, this is far more complicated between two individuals who hardly know each other. Where the standard protocol in the past was to ask for STD test results and a glass of red wine to get into the mood, I am compelled to ask the most intimate of questions, such as, “Do you sing the ENTIRE birthday song while washing your hands?” And the sex? How do we even make that work when respiratory droplets naturally expel from our bodies, especially at the moment we peak together. Masked sex sounds like the most logical solution in this case. I guess it would be better than nothing, but 90% of what makes sex so pleasurable, and possibly worth dying for, is what happens behind that mask.