It’s hard to know exactly what the long-term effects of COVID-19 will be on…well, everything.
But we do know one thing: behaviour will change.
Even after lockdown ends, until people feel 100% safe, risk-free, and back to “normal”, that uneasy feeling will affect every decision about where we go and about how to spend our time. One article in the WSJ this week even talks about how New Yorkers are fleeing the city.
And cities, of course, are where a lot of the casual dating happens.
So what now?
Will we still meet up with total strangers for drinks, conversations, and gulp…actual touching this summer? It’s hard to imagine it being quite business as usual. Even if casual dating returns in some form, it won’t be the same.
I’m sure for some people, the end of lockdown will create a “snap-back” effect, causing them to dive headfirst with abandon into pubs, clubs, and casual sex, having felt like a caged animal for the last couple of months.
But for the rest of us? Not so much.
I tried to ask myself: If lockdown were over, would I go on a date tomorrow?
If lockdown were over, would I want to quickly sleep with a stranger I had only spoken to on Tinder/Bumble/etc.?
What about after 2 dates? 3? 4?
It gets tricky. It gets even trickier if you have vulnerable people in your life already that you want to keep seeing and spending time with. How do you balance having a dating life vs. keeping the people around you safe?
These are questions we’ll all have to face when the choice is in our own hands.
Let’s get to the point: what does this all mean for single people?
Have they missed the boat and now have to consign themselves to a life alone, quarantined, in a dystopian future where all our connections are relegated to windows on our phones, taunting us, always there but always out of physical reach?
I doubt it.
These are red-blooded humans we’re talking about. So a future of voluntary celibacy seems unlikely. Like life, sex will find a way. But it might not be the way it was from 2010-2019.
That delirious decade may come in retrospect to epitomise the apex of casual dating. A heady time when one could meet within hours, with no immunity checks or corona-safe socially-distanced dates before getting intimate – when one could hop from a bar after introductory cocktails with lots of casual kissing, without even needing to wash their hands afterwards.
I’m not saying we’ll never go back to how things were. But it may be a bumpy road to get there.
As we should expect, there will be a bunch of people who don’t care. If you’re young and foolhardy, you may decide to take your chances, rather than risk an extended pause, or mere slowdown, to a previously rampant sex life.
But what about those who don’t feel…you know…like they want to contract coronavirus anytime soon?
For those people there will need to be more courtship. We will look for greater certainty – about a clean bill of health, about what we want, and frankly, about whether this person is worth risking our health for.
That has consequences.
And we’ve lived in a world for a long time that glorifies dating without consequences. There has been freedom in this. There have also been tears. The experiment of dating apps has been a mixed bag to say the least, even if it has led to plenty of weddings and long-term partnerships.
Everything seems like a higher stakes game.
Do I know where my prospective date is going every day? Do they have a high-risk job? Are they touching other infected people in between our dates?
Yes, people will get less and less scared. But knowing that a date could lead to an infection (not that kind) will make a lot of people think twice about whether constant partner-hopping is worth the trouble. It may make relationship-phobic players reconsider whether they would prefer to hunker down and give monogamy another spin now that it’s premium has risen in a less safe world.
Casual hook-ups have always come with risks: Who is this person? What do they really want? Are they going to call afterwards? Are they going to go nuts if I decide not to call afterwards?
Now there is an new risk on the table.
The game has changed. And now it has more rules. But will as many people want to play?
So I want to know, what are your answers to these two questions:
(1) If lockdown ends tomorrow, would you be willing to go on an in-person date with a stranger you met on a dating app?
(2) Has the quarantine situation increased your desire for a long-term relationship/monogamous courtship?
(3) If the answer to (1) is no, when would you be willing to return to going on casual dates in person again?