It’s 7 p.m. You haven’t left the house in 30-something days. Wait — 40-something? 50? Is it the weekend? What is “the weekend”? Do weeks end? Why is it eternally 4 p.m.?
Once upon a time, back in the old days (2019), spring evenings promised any number of romantic outings with partners and strangers alike: Bars! Restaurants! Concerts! House parties! But in the throes of the pandemic, “date night” merely sounds like a faint echo from Saturdays past — way back when “Saturday” still meant something.
That does not mean, however, that you ought to rule out romance entirely. “Date nights still matter in quarantine, even if you’re seeing each other nonstop,” says certified relationship therapist Jean Fitzpatrick, LP. “Even while under the same roof, you’re moving in parallel and in your own separate worlds, working, doing chores, calling friends. That’s companionable. On a date, you focus on each other.” And if you’re not seeing each other nonstop, Fitzpatrick still believes that the one-on-one intimacy of a designated date night is valuable — even when it calls for “virtual drinks.”
So, in the hopes of a) salvaging your relationship with your partner, who has now watched you eat tuna salad in your underwear for 21 consecutive days, b) helping you feel close to someone you are required to keep 6 feet away from at all times, or c) assisting you in indulging your craving for some first-date flirtation, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to quarantine romance. No matter your relationship status, here’s a wealth of date-night ideas to make lockdown feel just a little more sexy.
If you’re single:
Play a game over FaceTime
Naturally, a video call is always available to you as an interim first-date option. Sure, it’s not as thrilling as paying $18 for a cocktail and screaming over the drone of a restaurant crowd, but it is a way of testing your face-to-face chemistry. That said, for plenty of us, the thought of attempting flirtation with a pseudo-stranger over FaceTime sounds like the social equivalent of medieval torture. That’s why we’d suggest a game. Rather than merely sitting and staring at each other, give some structure to your screen time: Try Codenames, a word game best played from separate rooms, give online Scattegories a shot, or download Houseparty and try any number of in-app trivia games.
Bring back snail mail
Texting over a prolonged period can be hard to keep up with — especially when both you and your romantic correspondent have absolutely nowhere to be. So, whether you met over a dating app, through a friend, or pre-quarantine, perhaps a slower form of communication will be more practical: the love letter. It doesn’t have to be a proclamation of undying affection, exactly, but rather, a more thoughtful, measured approach to rapport. You can go the snail mail route (receiving letters is inarguably a good time) or stick to email (Email! Is! Sexy!). Either way, consider halting your dwindling text message banter in favor of a more contemplative, long-form back-and-forth.
Curate playlists for one another
The mixtape is, in fact, not dead. You may not have a cassette player, but the days of curating a tracklist for your crush are still alive and well — so take advantage of all The Internet has to offer and make your quar-person a playlist. On the one hand, it’s romantic in a charming, old-school way. And on the other hand, sharing music is a great way to get to know someone or to stimulate conversation — without requiring that you both sit in awkward silence on opposite ends of a Zoom session.
If you’re quarantined separately from your partner:
Take an online cooking class
Whether or not you’ve already managed to anxiety-bake six varieties of sourdough bread, there’s still room to learn some new culinary skills. Once you’ve got a video chat cued up, you and your partner can tune in to a capital-T Trendy Instagram course, consult an old-school master, or check out any number of other cooking tutorials available online. Learning to cook something ambitious side by side (or screen by screen) will feel more active than your standard phone call, and then you can sit and enjoy your hard-earned meal together once your work is through.
Embark on some virtual travel
It may be some time before you and your partner can do something crazy like hop on a plane together. But for now — and for a fraction of the price (read: free) — you can travel all across the globe without having to breathe near other tourists. Via Google Arts & Culture, you can take yourselves on a stroll down a dimly lit Parisian boulevard or through the snowy peaks of the Swiss Alps. If you feel like hitting a more domestic location, enjoy the frequent opera streams from The Met or wander (virtually) inside the Guggenheim. While no, you won’t actually be together, and yes, you’ll still be in your apartment, at least you can share in relishing some new environs from the safety of your couch.
Binge with bae (from a distance)
One of the luxuries of committed partnership is the ability to do absolutely nothing together. And few things can be more comforting than sitting with your person and marathon-watching a beloved television show. While cuddling isn’t the same via FaceTime, you can be sure to synchronize your screenings and watch in tandem via videochat (or, keep an eye out for online plug-ins that help streamline this very process). Either way, you won’t fall behind on your go-to docu-series, and you can safely discuss plot points without sharing any spoilers.
If you’re quarantined with your partner:
Do it up for “movie night”
Okay, we know screening a movie doesn’t sound novel per se. But there’s a case to be made for creating an occasion of your requisite evening streaming hours. Make a no-phones rule, stock up on big-box movie theater candy, butter your own popcorn, and adjust the lighting before settling in for an actual feature film (we recommend the new hilarious yet romantic Netflix flick, The Lovebirds). Kick it up a notch and shake up some thematic drinks, depending on what you decide to screen.
You may very well be a skilled at-home mixologist. But there’s still nothing quite like having someone else prepare you a quality mixed drink. Hit up one of your local haunts and help keep them afloat by ordering one or two (or seven) to-go drinks. Opt for something you likely wouldn’t attempt at home, be it a spicy marg, a boulevardier, or some house-brand-bitter-topped egg-white concoction, then bring the goods back to your own place. You’ll be surprised how special venue-crafted drinks can make a date night feel after weeks of consuming your own creations.
Go for at-home black-tie
When was the last time you considered sliding into a going-out top — let alone a pair of outdoor pants? Yeah, same. Going about your normal modes of outfit curation hardly feels practical when you have few plans to exit the house. But whether or not it’s necessary, there’s still some pleasure in putting yourself together. For a break in all the lounge-pant monotony, consider a black-tie night. It’s a fun excuse to test your ability to, say, put on clothes and utilize the mountain of makeup that’s been laying dormant on your dresser for the last few months. You might be surprised how nice it feels to get dolled up — and to watch your partner do the same.