So first let’s address just how much fun dating is to begin with. (Please note the sarcasm as this 36-year-old woman is really quite tired of it.) The reality is that it had been a ton of fun in my 20s, but now it just quickly goes from the anticipation of potentially meeting that special someone  to incredibly laborious and feeling like I’m at one job interview after another.

Nonetheless, I do have goals of finding my person and partner for life and have kids with said person. This means dating is a foregone conclusion. So after a short break from the game in the beginning of the pandemic when being near strangers became 100% forboden, here’s a little insight into what it’s like dating these days.

Leveling the Playing Field 

Let me preface this all by saying that I believe dating can be a challenge no matter where you live. Anyone who lives in a big city likes to say it’s harder for them because there’s more competition, whereas those who live in smaller cities say it’s incredibly hard because there’s simply less people. 

Then there is life in the South, where getting married young is the choice du jour for most and those of us who chose to pursue a career and other things before marriage are often left with slim pickings or waiting for the next divorce to come through. 

(And then of course we need to give that divorcée ample amount of time to recover their heart and head before we can start dating them. Learned that one the hard way!)

The Beginning of Pandemic 

Now let’s add a pandemic into that equation. In the beginning (i.e. March/April 2020) the CDC and government officials (well, some of them at least) told us to stay home and away from people who didn’t live within our household, so meeting strangers for a date became nixed entirely as an option. For someone who had been exhausted with the dating cycle, this advice came as a relief to be honest. (Me, I’m someone??‍♀️)

“It’s not just me who will be choosing not to date or frustrated by the process or feeling a lack of solid prospects/matches. It’s everybody!” I thought.  We all found ourselves in the same Singleton boat, which removed all the pressure and all the questioning.

It took dating completely off the table, giving me the welcome relief from the game and I threw myself into work (hard!) to the tune of 33% growth for my business by year’s end.  

Continuing through summer I had no problem not dating. Keep in mind, at this time we all thought that maybe by the fall things would have improved and we would be able to be around people again. (Oh those innocently ignorant thoughts of our early pandemic selves. #sigh)

The Struggle Got Real 

Then summer 2020 bled into fall and with winter on the horizon and, quite frankly, I got really tired of being alone. I had the opportunity throughout the summer to go to my dad’s house and be social with him at the pool where we could easily stay distant from each other and from other family members in town. Summertime in the south is really manageable to have socially distant gatherings. 

However, I still headed home alone. I still spent most of the week in my house alone working. I talked to people on zoom calls all day (both work-related and socially to stay in touch with friends) so I had a social element to my life, but that isn’t the same as being in the same room with them. I know others who have been single throughout this process will be able to identify with that.

Seeing people in person once a week is not the same as living with them or seeing them on a regular basis at an office, or other random interactions with those loose tie acquaintances and friendships that we took for granted before all of this started.

Wading Back Into the Dating Pond 

The reality of this loneliness, the unknown end to the pandemic, and my desire to not be 40 and single meant I had to figure out how to date again and do it safely. 

I will tell you upfront that I am a high-risk individual. I had two heart attacks at age 26 and while I have not had any issues for many years (in fact, I am a seven-time half marathoner!) I still fall into the high-risk bucket.  I remember all too keenly what it’s like to be in the ICU so my goal has always been to avoid returning there.

This means my approach to dating may be more cautious than others, but quite frankly, better safe than, well, dead as had been the case with many. I put my professional skills as a marketing consultant to work and took a more strategic approach to my dating prospects with some serious leave qualification upfront. 

Pre-pandemic I would do all the swiping, exchange a few chats just to make sure the connection hit on the intellectual level as well as the physical one (I love a pretty face just as  much as the next lady) and then either suggest we just meet up for drinks to continue the banter in person. 

(I always hoped they would have been an assertive gentleman and done that for me, but all too often I’d find they wanted a penpal and I am after something more than that.) 

My rationale behind this approach had been simple: 

There are so many people who are great writers or can be really witty behind a screen or have a great voice and then you meet them in person and there is zero chemistry between you. And let’s be real: if you don’t want his hand on yours, the hope for a  long-term, adult relationship is quite small. 

This pre-pandemic dating tactic helped me avoid that. I still ended up on some bad dates, but at least I didn’t waste as much time with the flirting and the texting and the witty banter only to later realize this was never going to happen because in person the chemistry didn’t exist.

Given the safety guidelines around the pandemic, I needed a new approach to dating now.  My high-risk status (and basic common sense to be honest) would not afford me the luxury to have such a relaxed approach to meeting someone in person. 

Quite plainly:

If you do not believe that masks are a necessary way to help protect ourselves and others in your everyday life and journeys out and about, then we would never be in person. 

Yes I became willing to take the risk of meeting someone and not wearing a mask on a date, but it needed to be a calculated risk. It can’t be a willy-nilly, “Coronavirus is just an extreme flu” kind of person that’s sitting across from the table from me. 

Sorry folks. I believe in science and that sh*t just isn’t true. This is serious, people have died, we all need to take precautions.

The Marketing Approach to Dating 

But how does one come up with the vetting questions to find out someone’s true perspective on this whole social distancing, mask wearing, pandemic situation without leading them towards the answer we want? 

Well, I came up with a few different options to ask to ferret out that information:  

  • What are your thoughts on the mask mandates? (Or more currently: the removal of them now.)

Goal: find out how necessary they find them and whether they have empathy for others who are high risk and NEED them 

  • What’s your experience been like through the pandemic?

Goal: determine what their social distancing practices are like or whether this is just another day for them because they aren’t high risk 

  • How has this affected your work and social life? 

This one also gives you an idea about the job they have and the amount of exposure and flexibility that comes with it. For anyone that is an essential worker or a first responder, it’s the tone of voice and the way they talk about their daily practices to stay safe that’s important. 

Now, assuming the answers I received had a healthy dose of empathy for the situation and understanding of how serious it is, and the date had been proposed, my next question would be quite blunt: 

What are your social distancing practices like?

I kid you not I had someone answer: “Pretty much nonexistent. I’m not around anyone at high risk and I’ve already had it.” (Insert dumbfounded face here) 

Needless to say, that gentleman and I did not get together for a date. Yes, I would like to date and get married, but I’m not going to do it at the risk of ending up back in the ICU.

Thankfully that gentleman is not the norm and I met a few who had all of the right answers that seemed to align with mine and so dates have happened. 

One man offered to go for a run with me, which immediately earned him extra points (remember: 7-time half marathoner over here.) 

Another one understood my request to sit outside at restaurants in the open air and happily accommodated. He also came up with great activities, like hiking with our dogs to stay safe, yet still together outside. 

Most people I ended up meeting had been quite accommodating during a time when being 100% clear about what I am comfortable with is still a moving target. 

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who does not take your concerns into account is not the right person for you.

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who does not take your concerns into account is not the right person for you. That being said, the burden is on you to convey what you are or are not comfortable with. We are no longer in a time where you can “just roll with it” as I have done to see where things go. You have to play this smart. 

Final Takeaways 

Dating is hard. Dating in a pandemic (even in a post-vaccine one) is a whole new level of weird. Bringing that to the forefront and just calling a spade a spade has been an easy icebreaker with people, and a quick way for me to identify who has a true understanding of this situation as well as empathy for others. 

I have dated people that do not have the same risk factors I do, so they are more social than I am, but they are fully aware of the fact that other people do have risks and are accommodating to that. They respect distance. They wear masks.

A positive aspect to dating in the pandemic is that it has immediately provided us a way to dig to the heart of an issue that can often take many months to find out in the pre-pandemic dating world:

         Does this person have compassion and empathy for others even when it may impact them? 

In this case “others“ is literally all of society, but it easily translates to you as the other or in this case me. Will the person I am with have empathy for my experience through life or my difficult day or my frustration with a friend even if they don’t feel the same way towards that issue? 

Right now the issue is the pandemic and how it affects our lives, but there are lots of little things that will happen between two people throughout their life together and a successful relationship requires having empathy for the other person even if you do not feel the same way they do. 

Yes, it’s been a challenge. Yes, there are tremendous amounts of loneliness and frustration that come with being single and attempting to date during this incredibly weird time, but there are also really good people out there and now we have a fast way to find out who they truly are beyond the pretty face.

And that’s not all bad. 

There are really good people out there and now we have a fast way to find out who they truly are beyond the pretty face.