#onlinedating | Love in the time of COVID-19 | Local-Perspectives | Opinion | #bumble | #tinder | #pof

You think you’ll be happy when you get to go out for a real, live dine-in meal at your favourite restaurant? For Nova Scotians dating during COVID-19, the June 5 relaxing of social distancing rules represents a friggin’ romantic revolution.

“There was this one person? We went on three walks together. And, you know, on the third walk, we were just like: wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go inside?”

My anonymous source — essential service worker and dating for two years now after leaving a multi-decade relationship — isn’t swiping right for hookups. He’s looking for love.

“I’m shy,” he says, about the anonymity request. But not so shy that he hasn’t been actively looking for a mate during a global pandemic.

In the before times, he explains — on a walk with me, but the non-romantic kind — he would match online with someone, see if they got along through virtual chats and then move to an in-person meet-up in, maybe, two weeks.

During COVID-19, that “basic screening” period is several weeks longer, the move to actually meeting pushed later and the shift to foregoing social distancing far more complex, given the risk.

“I really want to have a sense that this person is a good potential mate before I would even consider breaking the rules.”

Being 48 and relatively new to online dating means navigating a world of discovery.

“A big part,” he explains, “is not really knowing what the hell you’re doing.”

But there are clues to finding the lay of the land, even COVID-related ones.

Some online-daters are using their profiles to disclose from the get-go where they stand on the current public health rules. Think: I’m a fun-loving five-foot-three Aquarian and beagle-owner who loves mild cheddar and social distancing.

And my source — for the record: no dog, mild cheddar agnostic — says this quirk of the times is a useful tool.

“How people operate in dating through the pandemic is a sign of their character,” he says.

He concedes that he would “break the rules if the right person came along,” but he has maintained two metres on dates since the pandemic hit. He believes, though, that others are, um, “bubbling.”

They certainly are in the Netherlands, where a recently changed policy encourages singles to find a mutually exclusive seksbuddy (yeah, you got it with the phonetics: sex buddy), and in Denmark where Danish Health Authority director general Søren Brostrøm publicly quashed any notion that sex, even with strangers, wasn’t a good idea during COVID-19.

“Of course you can have sex in this situation,” he said at a press conference April 20. “As with any other human contact, there is a risk of infection. But of course one must be able to have sex.” 

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang, by contrast, is operating on a don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach to coupling. No reporters have questioned him about random Tinder hookups, nor basic dating, and he hasn’t mentioned either during the province’s regular COVID-19 updates. 

For his part, my online dating informant calls himself “community-minded,” and aligns more with the Dutch model than the Danish.

“If someone’s sleeping around, that’s reckless,” he says. “But for single people who find a connection online and then (later) through social-distance dating, I think they should be allowed to get closer.

“For mental health,” he says. “For happiness.”

Lezlie Lowe is a freelance writer in Halifax. Follow her on Twitter @lezlielowe


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