Dating During the Coronavirus

Navigating the coronoavirus has added all kinds of complications for singles looking for love

by Alexa Peters

Dating has never been easy, and especially not in Seattle. With a reputation for icy, unfriendly people and nine months of gloomy skies and rain, it’s no wonder Seattle was named “America’s Worst City to Find Love” two years in a row by the Great Love Debate podcast. And, until a few weeks ago, it seemed unlikely that dating in Seattle could get any worse. Then came social-distancing in the age of COVID-19.

As singles in Seattle—and beyond—attempt to curb the spread of the virus by waiting it out in their homes, many have pressed pause on their hunt for a mate or even gotten back with an ex. Others have tried to keep dating current and potential partners through safer, creative means.

Emily Stoner, a single Seattleite, had to cancel an OkCupid date when she discovered her co-worker tested positive for the virus. Now self-quarantined in her Capitol Hill apartment, Stoner says she is embracing introversion and intentionality using this time to focusing on herself, her family, and her friends—from a safe distance, of course. As for continuing to date online, she’s put that on hold.

“I feel like everyone has their one chosen person to violate quarantine with…it’s not a time to be meeting new people,” she said.

Interestingly, when it comes to that “one chosen person,” many singles have gotten back with an ex—sometimes with a heavy dose of sarcasm and humor.

“I’m not taking any chances of finding nobody else. Kidding—only sort of,” said Seattle’s Katie Cooper.

At least, these singles say, they have some idea where their partner’s been and a sense of solace in familiar company during an uncertain time.

“I may have inadvertently made a connection with someone from my past,” said a Seattle-based single man who asked to remain anonymous. “The other night we cuddled together just to have a slight relaxation from the current day-to-day. Nothing sexual, just laid together watching The League.  It was nice, and when I was leaving she gave me a kiss. Being out of a job, getting ready to move, even the thoughts of the virus kind of drifted out of my stress zones.”

For older single adults, like 65-year-old South Seattle native Doug Creson, trying to meet with anyone—new or previously-known—is just not an option right now, due to the health risk involved for his demographic. (According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the median age of the first 425 people infected with the virus was 59.)

“Meeting someone new will be next to impossible. Meeting up with someone I already know is a remote chance,” said Creson. “It is like when HIV first arrived. We educated ourselves about how the virus was transmitted. Got tested. Played it safe.”

Likewise, for single Seattleite Taryn Haughlie, she feels too vulnerable psychologically to consider dating or connecting with others, especially because her social group—a Facebook group for single friends in Snohomish County called Snohomies Singles—has had to cancel their usual weekly, in-person events.

“It’s been a blow to my mental health [not being able to go out and socialize]. Me personally, I haven’t really seen much point in going on dating apps at all since this whole social distancing thing started, because who knows when I’ll get to go out again?” said Hauglie.

Still, while many singles lay low, there’s another contingency that finds dating—in whatever form it has to take—to be a really important diversion right now.

Seattle’s Andrea Brown says she’s pro-dating apps and other technology because they can help people date safely during the virus and stave off feelings loneliness and isolation during social distancing.

“Talk on the phone. Video chat. Get to know someone. We don’t live in the middle ages, so why cut ourselves off from the only way we have to build new relationships just because we can’t immediately jump into the sack?” said Brown.

Toronto-based Gabby Laake (speaking under a pseudonym) agrees, and says she only just started using the online dating app Hinge because she knew she wouldn’t be able to connect with people out in the world.  Laake has found chatting on Hinge to be a “fun distraction” that gives her hope for dates in the future. (In fact, many online dating apps are seeing a marked uptick in users right now, according to a recent story in Forbes.)

Seattle’s Heather Dickenson says she stays in contact with her boyfriend of five months over the video share app Marco Polo—and it’s fun. It allows them to be silly, creative, supportive of each other, and to a degree, physically intimate.

“Some videos are just little updates, some are stupid dancing, some are just thoughts we’re having. We’ll send funny nudes,” she said. “I think we’re both figuring out how to be light-hearted in these strange times, and are so grateful for the technology that we do have. Sometimes just watching your partner dance to Sexy Boy by Air is enough to brighten your whole day.”

New Yorker Siobhan Heaney has also had positive experiences virtually dating since the outbreak began, just three dates into a budding new relationship. When her love interest asked to make their fourth date a virtual one, she was very open-minded and excited at the chance to continue seeing him.

“He invited me to have dinner and drinks with him on FaceTime. It was really, really, super charming. We chatted, just like you would at any bar, we discussed what we were having and agreed it was nice to be able to have different kinds of food,” Heaney said. “Then, we attended a live stream of a comedy show. He really, really, went for it.”

Though many daters using video chat note that the technology has some bugs, Heaney marveled at how she and her partner achieved this date successfully using multiple devices. Heaney said it had the vibe of a real date, and for her, even physical intimacy over video is not out of the question.

“I’m someone who has historically traveled a lot for work, so it isn’t something that’s super foreign to me. Every dynamic is different, but I can definitely see something going on there,” she said.

Image: The dating daze of COVID-19 by Lisa Cooper

Seattle-based matchmaking companies are also pivoting to virtual dating during the outbreak. T’Chani Hill, owner of ItzaDate Group, which also oversees the 12,000 member-strong “Seattle Singles” private groups on Facebook and Meet-up, says she has developed a Virtual Speed Dating service with the Canadian Company FirstDate for singles looking to connect during the pandemic.

“Our speed dating is set-up to video date, so you get a chance to meet several singles as you would in a live environment without the exposure. And if you do match with someone you have the chance to chat and plan that first real date in the future,” said Hill.

Seattle area singles interested in the service can join Seattle Singles on Facebook for updates on the new service’s official launch, which Hill hopes will happen as soon as possible.

“Dating during the coronavirus pandemic has provided challenges for both singles and singles events. With many restaurants, event cancellations and venues being closed while people shelter in place, there is very little chance of meeting other singles, “ said Hill. “I can’t wait to see how this helps folks stay connected.”