Dating is hard. Dating during COVID-19 is excruciating. Maybe you feel like you’re living through a Groundhog Day of tired Bumble banter; or you’re dying for a meetup, but your quarantine crush is too nervous for a socially distanced walk; or even though you've never crossed paths with your Grindr match IRL, you feel like you're falling in love.
Because there’s not much else to do in quarantine, dating can also feel all-consuming. There were more swipes and initial reactions on Tinder on March 29 than any other day in the app’s history (over 3 billion). More messages, too; 16% more on Bumble globally the last week of April compared to the first week of lockdown. Single folks are also talking on the phone way more: Bumble now offers a virtual dating badge for your profile if you’re up for a face-to-face convo, while Grindr launched Circles, which allows 20 users in the same country to group chat.
How many love connections that come out of these virtual connections remains to be seen. In the meantime, here's what nine women had to say about dating during the pandemic.
“I've been single for a year. I didn’t really feel ready to date again until the new year and then COVID happened. My worst interaction? I messaged this guy for over a month. He revealed a lot; I revealed a lot, THEN we talked on the phone and it was just... all wrong. *Shiver.* I'd waited too long to make that critical transition from text to voice.
"The next time I matched with a guy, I messaged with him for half an hour, suggested a call, phoned him that night, and set up a dog-walk date for this coming weekend. It can be scary, uncomfortable, and also inconvenient to actually pick up the phone, but I highly recommend it. FaceTime is even better. (Photos lie.) Maybe start with a phone call and then decide if they merit washing your hair for the camera." — Marta
“I met a guy on a dating app before the pandemic. We met in person on the day a state of emergency was declared where I live. A week later we were in lockdown. We’ve had a FaceTime date every Saturday night. He surprised me with Portuguese tarts on the day I was supposed to leave for vacation to Portugal with my mom.
"For us, this pandemic has allowed us to focus on really discovering each other, rather than just being physical and superficial. We feel more connected even though we aren’t able to 'date.' We talk openly about how we see things, how our perspectives have shifted. We kissed, once, on our second date, when we weren’t in lockdown yet. Eventually, we met up for a socially distanced walk and for some cheese and wine one meter apart in a park. We did not kiss. I was very nervous about coronavirus. We both see this being long-term. We are at a good place where we want to invest in a relationship without rushing it.” — Veronique
"I met the 'pigeon' man on Tinder. I thought he was funny and interesting. He seemed curious about the world and I like that quality in a partner. He told me he'd recently returned from a tour overseas, so at minimum, I thought he might have some unique stories to tell. We chatted back and forth, and it was rather amusing.
"It all started with a photo of pigeons in the park. I asked him if he was the bird man (not my best joke). I did not know that I would be equally repulsed yet amused by the answers that came next... This quickly evolved into days of useless pigeon trivia and accompanying photos. I eventually agreed to meet him. The socially distancing meeting lasted about 15 minutes and I received an education in pigeon-mating rituals. I will never be the same." — Sue
"I had matched with Jonathan before the pandemic when I decided to give him a second chance. Truthfully, it felt strange to be going on a date during the pandemic. But I agonized over putting my personal life on hold entirely. On our first date, conversation flowed naturally as we walked laps around a park. We planned a second date at his place. We lounged lazily on his dark green couch, drinking champagne in the middle of the day. Suddenly, it was midnight.
"We fell into an easy rhythm of spending time at each other’s apartments three times a week. We solemnly pledged not to interact with anyone else, forming a little isolation unit. Then, around the one-month mark, Jonathan asked if we could pause while he took some time to seek clarity [on our future]. I hadn’t even hinted at commitment and he was already wringing his hands nervously. His overthinking was so consuming that he couldn’t even bring himself to spend Saturday night with me watching a true-crime doc while we devoured medium-spicy Thai food when his only alternative was to sit at home alone? I firmly told Jonathan that we should just leave it." — Sarah
"In February, I matched with a guy on Hinge who lived in New York. We quickly fell into a rhythm of weekly FaceTime chats and phone calls, talking for hours about our quirky geographical differences and my future travel plans to visit him.
"As the weeks dragged on, our conversation started to lose its sizzle. NY guy had a looser definition of social-distancing, which exposed our difference in values. The FaceTiming and phone calls lost their excitement, as we struggled to find details to share about our days, and the calls were usually cut short when another friend would call him up to play video games. His text messages turned platonic.
"Finally, by the end of April I had had enough 'pen pal' energy from him and asked him about his true feelings. He explained that he had lost the attraction but still enjoyed our chats as friends. Ultimately, I decided to cut things off. I wish I had a funny story to share about the time I flew to New York to meet a Hinge match, but unfortunately, things don't always pan out as planned." — Noa
“I've tried online dating before and I always hated it. I think I’ve deleted it like 85 times. I brought it back again during the pandemic because I thought maybe this was the perfect time. No. One guy I matched with was trying to promote his clothing brand. Another guy, right off the bat, was like, 'Are you into cuddling? Are you a good kisser?' — just the cheesiest lines you could ever imagine. So that was a delete. I kept swiping and then I found that I got a bit creeped out and depressed because I was like, Is this all there is? I had to get off because it wasn't good for my head. It made me more sad and anxious.
"It’s really hard to meet people and now in the pandemic [it’s even more tough]. I’ve been off the apps for 10 days. I’m not using it as a distraction anymore. I’m more focused on myself. I do think there are some quality people on there, but those people are maybe not taking it as seriously as I am." — Kay
"I'm not a fan of online dating so I went to Instagram to spark up some convos with people I’ve met in the past who I had a little 'something-something' with.
"I DMed a guy from my university, who is now in a very successful band. One night we connected and we ended up spending five hours on a video chat. I went to bed thinking I found myself such a decent guy. I thought wrong. The next week went by and there were no calls, just texting — until he told me about a plan he had to come to my city to pick up some stuff at his apartment. He wanted me to stay over. I mentioned I could meet him for a social-distance hang. He responded that we might as well just FaceTime. SO, HE JUST WANTED TO GET IT IN. Sad Sara.
"Next up was a DJ; the red flag should have been that he was a DJ, but when he asked to virtual chat with me one Friday night I thought, Why not? Right when he got on the call, he was flustered (as if I surprised him). After about 15 minutes, he finally asked about me. But when I began to speak he wasn’t even paying attention! Just because it’s virtual doesn’t mean I CAN'T SEE YOU.
"Lastly, I had an interesting chat with a boy who I went on one date with three years ago. The date was terrible... He has wandering eyes, but he asked me out again, this time post-coronavirus. After a lot of back and forth, I became a bitch and said, 'What do you have to offer my life?' I told him to give me a detailed response and he said, 'This is what I have to offer you.' And sent me a dick pic!
"That is how dating in quarantine has been for me. It’s nice in a way because everything is fast-tracked. With the musician, we had one really good conversation, but that made us realize how our lives don’t mesh. With the DJ I realized I did not like the decisions he was making breaking quarantine. And DP boy can continue to practice a better angle for those images without his weird facial expressions. And hopefully with a woman's consent next time. EW. I CAN STILL SEE IT." — Sara
"I met this guy on Hinge. We talked frequently for about a month. I kinda liked him and the conversations were pretty effortless. It all changed one day when we were texting and I unexpectedly caught 'the ick' (turned off completely; it's a feeling of minor disgust that comes over you that cannot be reversed). He was texting me way too much and he acted like he knew me really well when we hadn’t even met in person. Once you catch 'the ick' it’s irreversible. Nothing they say or do will make you attracted to them anymore, and everything they do will start to bug you.
"I talked to two more guys after that, but I was already exhausted from dating apps by that point. I just stopped responding and deleted the app to get some space. A couple girls I know have created pretty serious relationships during the pandemic. They skipped the small talk that usually lasts for a few days or weeks on dating apps and went straight to walking dates, which transitioned to isolating together and actually led to them being in exclusive relationships." — Alex
"Christopher and I met on Hinge towards the beginning of the pandemic. He was funny and took the initiative to set the date and make a dinner reservation. And yes, I hear how sad that sounds — a guy who makes a plan stands out these days. Our third date was March 13 and lasted all weekend. At the end of that weekend, we talked about our choices: separate for the duration of the pandemic and see what became of this fledgling relationship, or self-isolate together and get to know one another at the same time. This talk crystallized our feelings for each other and forced us to say so out loud.
"Up until about a week ago we were living in my downtown loft. It's totally open-plan except the bathroom — which leaves very little privacy! Turns out the lack of privacy was no big deal compared to the crushing anxiety of living during a pandemic lockdown. I tried to create routines that would give us reassuring regular-life touch points, while also still providing space.
"I honestly don't know what will happen with us long-term. It's impossible to apply the experience of isolation dating to any kind of a 'regular' relationship. We don't know each other's non-pandemic life routines, or how much time we a) have available for each other or b) how much of that time we want to give to the other once we can start doing other activities. We are going backwards in order to move forward. We see each other less (he's been spending a few nights at his place); we're not plugged into each other's every move like we were for the first few months. And that's a good thing! We're taking it day by day and hoping for the best." — Lauren