Dating is awkward.
Now, add face masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing bubbles to the mix and it gets even weirder.
Quarantine may seem ill-timed for those seeking love and intimacy right now. Gone are the days where you could approach someone at a bar, exchange numbers with your cute lab partner or venture out on an impromptu Tinder date without having to think twice about catching a potentially-deadly virus with long-last effects.
But despite this, most people are actually still pretty interested in finding romantic partners. Bumble Canada, an online dating app where only women make the first move, saw a 56 per cent increase in video chats the week of March 27, when quarantine orders were at their peak — a rarely used feature prior to lockdown.
And that’s not the only dating app that’s been doing well. Match Group — a company that owns multiple dating services including Tinder, Hinge and Match.com — saw an increase in subscribers and downloads during the second quarter of this year, beating pre-COVID-19 records.
The lockdown has everyone feeling a little bit lonely and online dating is one way to mitigate it — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious. If you and your date aren’t taking the proper precautionary measures before meeting up, dating can be risky. Communicating in advance about safety precautions can reduce that risk.
Aiden Dufault, a third-year BMOS student, says dating has become more challenging as people have differing levels of comfort.
“It can be awkward suggesting things to do because everyone has different safety preferences,” explains Dufault. “Some people are comfortable with going out to restaurants and others just want to go on socially distanced walks, so you definitely have to be considerate and have a discussion with the other person before meeting.”
He explains most people were not stringent with personal protective equipment.
“Usually people on dates don’t wear masks, because they realize it’s just one other person they’re being exposed to,” mentions Dufault. “People are also a lot laxer about wearing PPE in small towns.”
He also said it can be awkward doing basic things, like going inside their house to use the bathroom.
“He ordered us sushi and set it up on the patio so we could social distance while we ate,” mentions Dufault. “But then I started feeling nauseous and going inside wasn’t an option, so I ended up getting sick outside. It was absolutely terrible. I was coming in from a few towns over and didn’t want to drive back, but I also didn’t want to have to ask to stay over and expose their family — it was shameful to say the least.”
Many people in the early stages of dating are choosing to get to know each other over video chat FaceTime first, to test the waters before taking the next step to meet in person. Not to mention, video chat may even just avoid that initial awkwardness of meeting at a public place or their date's home.
It’s also a good idea to have a conversation about any underlying health issues and, if you plan on being intimate, to both get tested. Zoe Kerhoulas, a fourth-year student, says she had to stop dating certain people due to their health conditions.
“I was seeing someone at the beginning of quarantine and had to stop because he was immunocompromised,” she says. “I work at a bar where there’s a decent amount of social interaction and didn’t want to put him at risk.”
Shortly after, she began dating her current boyfriend and says that the pandemic made her realize just how important in-person communication is.
“When you’re both trying to keep your family members and yourself safe, it makes it harder to communicate face-to-face,” said Kerhoulas. “Since my boyfriend and I both live with our parents, we had to be extra cautious — we both got tested and made sure we were discussing with our families regarding if we could see each other, and it definitely took a toll on our ability to communicate in person, especially at the beginning stages of a relationship.”
Kerhoulas' relationship has endured throughout the pandemic.
If you’re single, don’t get discouraged just yet — the coronavirus hasn’t stopped the search for soulmates. Your person is out there — just make sure that person is washing their hands.