I laughed and told her I would not. But there were challenges.
On dating apps, it was hard to prioritize strangers. I’d cancel plans on them. They’d cancel plans on me. We’d vow to try again when our schedules weren’t so frenetic. The messaging tended to be banal. Yes, I’m having a good day. How about you? No, I don’t hang out with LeBron James.
But now, with COVID-19 canceling everyone’s plans, we are all on our couches. We have time to talk and would like someone to talk to. It once felt like swiping right was followed by a rushed job interview, and now it has slowed to a steadier courtship. The irony, of course, is that we can’t really meet. But the possibility gives us something to anticipate, and that part is nice.
The conversations are heavier, because these are heavy times. Quarantines and job losses and concerns about our parents are not romantic topics, but real-life discussions feel more genuine. (Not that there’s anything wrong with breaking down “Tiger King,” you guys.)
Video dates are a decent substitution for drinks on a Seaport rooftop. And they don’t require an Uber. Sure, there are bags under your eyes these days, but there are bags under their eyes, too. It’s fine.
One app set up a video speed-dating session, then somehow connected me with people in New York and Michigan. I find it hard enough just to get to Cambridge, honestly. But it’s nice to look at a person rather than just their emojis. And you can even get a glimpse inside their apartment to see if it’s the kind of place where 17 cats might reside.
There have been a few connections with people in the medical field. It’s been so impressive to hear what they’re doing on the front lines, and they seem to appreciate sharing their scary world’s truths with someone new.
On Friday night I spoke on the phone with an anesthesiology resident who was on 24-hour call. She warned that she might have to go at any moment to assist with an intubation, and sure enough about 15 minutes later there was a pinging noise from a pager, and she rushed to go help save a life. It was much more impressive than a selfie.
The hiccup in all of this is that social distancing makes actual dating quite complicated. The apps, which were built to help people go on dates, have all sent messages to users asking them not to go on dates right now. Besides, everything cool is closed anyway. The only acceptable option is to go for a walk at a safe distance.
There are more pressing issues than this, of course, but that’s no reason to just hide under a blanket while politicians bark on television and grim statistics pile up. Eventually, we’ll leave our cocoons and glowing smartphones and squint as we reenter bars and beaches and museums. And hopefully when that day comes, these deeper connections will endure.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.