He kissed me.
And just like that, I was exposed to the coronavirus.
It was a closed mouth kiss and only lasted a second. But it didn’t matter. In an instant, our first date went from a fun distraction and night out of the house to a source of stress and worry.
To be clear — I’m not the maskless stereotype you see on the news, going to brunches and bars, virus be damned. But I’m not elderly and vulnerable either. I’m 40 and single which is to say that I am hyperaware and respectful of the real dangers of the virus but also wanting so badly to get out and meet people to make the most of my waning youth and fertility. So, after months of puzzles, piano, and Netflix I decided it was time to get out and date.
Even before the pandemic eliminated the opportunity to meet someone in “real life” I had already transitioned to mostly online dating. After spending my twenties in L.A., I left to pursue graduate school in Chicago, and suddenly two years turned into 12, spent mostly in San Francisco and Portland. My dating low point included being told that my education and upbringing were deal-breakers right before he allowed my educated and employed self to pay for dinner.
I was excited to get back to the L.A. dating scene.
I met Michael on Bumble and agreed to meet up for a socially distanced date. This date would be my first date during the pandemic.
Taking precautions seriously, we chose a restaurant bar with outdoor seating overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We both wore our masks upon arrival. We talked about his beach volleyball team, my recent paddle board purchase, and the California destinations we were dying to visit when the pandemic finally relented. Two margaritas later, he walked me to my car. We stood in front of my car, awkwardly holding my keys in my hand. I took my mask off before leaning in for a hug.
That’s when, without notice or asking me, he kissed me instead.
I went home and assured myself there was nothing to worry about. Annoyed at the prospect of potentially exposing myself to the coronavirus? Yes. But probably it was no big deal. After all, what were the chances?
A few days later, after exchanging a couple of casual text messages, Michael confessed he had a slight fever.
“How are you feeling?” he inquired.
I instantly felt flushed. Was I light-headed? Did I have a tickle in the back of my throat? Or was I making it up? What felt like an annoyance a few days ago was now a full-fledged worry. What if Michael had the coronavirus and because he kissed me, I did too?
I ruminated on how my carefree night had turned so quickly into a cause for concern. I agonized over whether I should tell my family. I maniacally chuckled at the ludicrousness that a fully clothed, half-hearted kiss could be a fate worse than an unplanned pregnancy or STD — things I’d been trained to fear in my twenties and thirties. And the irony wasn’t lost on me that my desire to meet a man that knew how to pursue a woman had inadvertently put me in harm’s way.
I spent the subsequent days agonizing and analyzing every sneeze, cough, and sore muscle. I canceled the plans I had and waited. Reassurance wouldn’t come from Michael; he never did get tested — his doctor told him to just presume he was positive and quarantine.
Thankfully, after two long weeks with no symptoms, I emerged from my self-quarantine. I was relieved, to say the least.
I opened Bumble once again. A couple of swipes later, I started chatting with Andre. “Any new pandemic vices?” I asked. To which Andre replied, “No vices, but I did have Coronavirus a few weeks back.”
I swiped left.
Puzzles, piano, and Netflix were it for me.