I am just a little bit nervous as I peer into the darkened bar. It’s not your usual bar – there’s no alcohol served here and it’s buzzing 24 hours a day. I check my phone, knowing I’m early as always. My partner squeezes my hand and wiggles their eyebrows.
We’re meeting up with another couple. A few days prior, I got a message request on Instagram. Sass and her girlfriend, Rubí, just moved into town from New York City. They were looking to meet new queer friends. Do you and your partner want to go out? the message read.
Yes! I typed back. Let’s do it.
I spotted Sass and Rubí sitting together at a corner table. They were even earlier than us! Already, I liked them.
"It was one of those experiences where you feel instantly connected to someone," Sass reflects now. "Not just because they reflect part of your own experience but because you know they're going to expand or open up your life in some way."
Sass and Rubí were both beautiful and femme, with easy laughs and a sharp sense of humour. We spent hours at the bar. I went home giddy and full of butterflies.
A month before lockdown, I moved to a new city for a new job. I was thrilled to finally move away from my hometown. The office was trendy, open concept and right above a cool coffee shop. Leading up to my first day, I imagined getting coffee with new, quirky coworkers or wandering down to the park on my lunch break, book in hand. That dream quickly dissipated when news of COVID floated into the office. I got a Slack message: Have you heard about this new virus?
The office was cleared out a week later.
For many, lockdown exposed the foundations of their relationships – cracking, strong, exhausted, loving. Divorce rates initially rose during the beginning of the pandemic but are dropping, likely due to financial stress and uncertainty. Now, when many people living in the Western world are fully vaccinated, there’s a new energy behind dating.
As a polyamorous queer woman, lockdown hit hard and kept hitting. For my glossy new job, I moved with two partners into a rental house. All three of us knew this was a risky decision. Moving in with one partner is a lot. But two?
Living together was the weirdest, longest date I’d ever been on. Except we couldn’t go out to dinner. Or the movies. Or anywhere, actually. Our dynamic felt almost like a double date but uneven, never quite sure of its footing. There were many moments of love, bonding and laughter but eventually, like many of my friends, I went through a quarantine break-up.
Again, I thought back on that golden double date with Sass and Rubí. Lockdown in a new city left me starving for the kind of connectivity dating offers, and that date with Sass and Rubí was lush. We'd spent hours talking about queerness, family, astrology, creative projects and everything in between. We'd lingered for hours over the table, leaning into conversation and a new, thrilling connection strong enough to last through three moves, a break-up and a global pandemic.
"As someone with social anxiety, double dates take the pressure off of a one-on-one encounter and give me room to figure out my feelings for someone," Sass tells me. "There are so many heteronormative dating expectations that I've had to sift through – such as the expectation of intimacy – and having a friend or a partner on a date reminds me that I can explore new connections at my own pace. It's also affirming – and titillating! – to have someone else witness the chemistry I have with a new lover or friend."
Double dating is the perfect way to reintegrate into society as we all relearn how to interact with others. You and your favourite wingman can spend time with your crushes. Partners can find new coupled friends. If you’re non-monogamous like me, it can be any mix. Sometimes my partners and I date for friends, other times for lovers. What a date really signifies is a commitment to set aside time for someone new, pay attention to who they are and invest in the possibility of a relationship. That relationship can be platonic, friendly, romantic, sexual, intimate or anything else. What truly makes a date 'count' is the consideration and time you give another person.
Now, finally vaccinated and still taking precautions, my partner and I are cooking for Sass and Rubí. I set out a bowl of watermelon, slice open bright mangoes. We haven’t seen our friends in half a year, maybe longer. I feel confident and ready. Our double date is double for a reason – after a year in deep isolation, our encounter is buoyed by a group dynamic, and the anxiety-inducing pressure of being social again is mitigated by a shared responsibility to create comfort and ease.
I hear the car pull up the driveway. I rush out to meet them.