Seeking Romance 2.0: Love In The Time of COVID-19
Naomi Accardi's Sex and the City inspired take on dating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a child of the ’90s, I grew up day-dreaming of the glamorous lifestyle depicted in the cult-favorite show: Sex & The City. I watched every episode, including both films, and constantly tried to identify with Candace Bushnell’s four leading ladies. I paid close attention to see who I was most like and didn’t pay much attention to what brought them together. Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha had incredible careers, an outstanding network, and dreamy wardrobes. However, each time a new episode aired, the need to find a man overshadowed their personal achievements. The quest to find the perfect Prince Charming and live happily ever after was always first. In my opinion, not enough focus was put on Carrie’s questionable but fabulous clothing choices. Who could forget when she left Big’s apartment wearing only his white shirt and an Hermes belt?

Analyzing their behavior now, 15 years later, I realize that they used common coping mechanisms to fill the “void” caused by a lack of companionship. Numerous toxic relationships, perpetuated by each protagonist in connection to their significant other, were all simple hiccups on the journey to finding the perfect soulmate. Carrie often used her column to express her concerns about romance.  How would Carrie write about dating during COVID-19?

All of her articles recurrently ended with an open question. She left readers (and us watchers) to wonder about her flight of fancy and craving for more emotional disasters. Was that anxious interlude a simple directing technique designed to keep the audience on edge? What if it wasn’t? Are Bradshaw’s dilemmas on display in a strategic manner? Unfortunately, that question stands unanswered as a new predicament aroused by the current scenario emerges: how would the Sex & The City heroines act or react to finding romance during the COVID-19 pandemic in the overly digitalized world we live in? As always, Instagram provided a solution in the form of a meme; a frame depicting Sarah Jessica Parker in the iconic questioning moment, wondering if the heart had been quarantined too. 

COVID-19, a new flu-like disease, abruptly forced itself into our everyday life. Accompanied not only by staggering infection rates and death tolls but by an egocentric synonym, the term “social distancing.” Digital policing became supreme civic duty as people (myself included) took to their Instagram stories to educate friends and family about the risks of gathering and socializing during this challenging time. But what did social distancing and self-isolating mean for the world of romance? How would love and flirting work now if we can’t touch, kiss, or meet people on the streets, bars, and restaurants? What is dating like during the coronavirus?

Sure, this would be a great time to bond with our long-term partners. Or attempt to rekindle a diluted relationship barely kept together by hypocritical weekend getaways and five-star meals shared on a forced date night. But what has happened to all of those people stuck in the “what are we?” twilight zone? And what about all of the people that are single and ready to mingle? I started evaluating my own self-isolation as a 28-year-old single woman, living alone, in one of the most affected countries in the world, Italy. Personally, I’m happy to take this slowed time for introspection and self-awareness, but as I conversed with friends relying on 2020 for a romantic rebuttal, I couldn’t help but wonder … how can one find romance during a pandemic? I began interrogating my acquaintances and their feelings. I took to Instagram to survey as many volunteers as possible.

What I found was quite interesting as it seems some sort of romantic renaissance was occurring. As the answers started flowing into my inbox, I noticed a similar pattern in most of the stories. Some of my associates were planning virtual dates over Zoom, Skype, HouseParty, and FaceTime. Some were finding romance and comfort in very basic actions we often take for granted, like running errands together. Social distancing might have halted most physical interaction, but it also made space for more in-depth, spiritual, and emotional connections. Most of the people I spoke to were eager to share their newly found romanticism. They mostly had a positive view of the dramatic and drastic conditions we are forced to face. Many of these stories may restore faith in that maybe yes, love always wins.

ede

Charlotte (a fictional name I’ve given to fit the purpose) was an occasional user of the app Tinder. After matching with an interesting guy the day before the lockdown, she decided to stop swiping left and focus her time and energy into getting to know the person. Matching at the beginning of the strict lockdown undoubtedly helped ignite the spark of their fling as neither of them thought that after a month, they would yet to have met. The forced anticipation helped keep the fire burning day after day, like a Hollywood rom-com waiting to unfold. Charlotte and her internet beau started defeating distance by experimenting with all of the opportunities technology have to offer to feel more connected to a distant lover. How was Charlotte pursuing romance and dating during the coronavirus? By sharing music, texting throughout the day, and video chatting.

“We created a collaborative playlist on Spotify to share songs between the two of us, so when we’re not texting, one can add a new song for the other to listen to!” she wrote me in our correspondence. Kind of like those prison stories where inmates fall in love with another inmate. Netflix Party, a new business born to seize the moment, also offers a new tool to deepen relationships by providing a platform to experience the same moment while apart. I had no idea this existed, but Charlotte made me actually want to download it. She painted a lovely picture of her virtual love affair. “We use it(Netflix Party) but try to stay silent, only smiling, laughing, and being there.”

Tension and anxiety surely creep up when thinking about moving the relationship to real-life after this is over. But why not enjoy the moment and feel like a frivolous teenager again? The impossibility to meet in person also serves positive purposes, such as helping distinguish if the person is genuinely into you and if there are shared interests and hobbies. Not to mention the immediate disposal of users logged in out of pure boredom or for fleeting sexual encounters. In addition, coronavirus has sparked the creativity of many urging to find alternative ways to connect with a potential new partner. We can use freelance photographer Jeremy Cohen and his infamous quest to finding the “roof girl” as an example. He asked her out on a first date via FaceTime by coordinating with her roommate and then meeting up for their first date, a walk safely caged by a blow-up balloon.

The next experience was told to me by Carrie (another fictional name) and her new crush. She first saw him while checking out at the grocery store. She made a point to hunt him down and find him, right then and there, after an extensive investigation, of course. With Tinder’s distance settings, she finally broke the ice with the mystery grocery-store-man.  The couple is currently navigating the government rules by setting weekly food shopping dates where they slowly get to know each other at a safe distance. This new way of dating excites Carrie as she finds the norm boring. “It feels just as exciting as dating anyone else for the first time. But with more longing and anticipation involved.” It’s something none of us have ever had to deal with before. I feel that it will be a more memorable story even if it doesn’t work out in the end.”

Intimacy assumes a different connotation. It is not based exclusively on sexual desire. Tension seems to be a persistent element in new unions and a crucial gravitating force; rather, it proliferates via spiritual vibration. Is this why I’m missing a Samantha in my story adaptation, despite the plethora of sexting tutorials flooding social and online media? The present environment doesn’t allow for carnal passion, opening space for thoughtful exchange, mutual grief, concern, and a stratified feeling. A less than luxurious, highly accessible encounter in any other moment of life. Another less than satisfying aspect of dating during this time. 

dating during the coronavirus

What’s happening with dating apps during COVID-19? A source working at one of the most popular dating apps, Bumble, informed me of how romance is different. They gave me an interesting overview of how things have changed logistically. Behind the scenes, the business had to adapt to meet new standards in a drastically fast-paced manner. Access to “Shelter in Place” friendly features was granted to users in no time.  The app even unlocked a “travel mode” plug-in, allowing individuals on the lookout for love to adjust their location to anywhere in the world. This added a layer of Saudade for those who have run through their city’s candidates and are looking for a fix. Virtual dates have been strongly suggested with video calling technology, which was embedded in the software to try and ease the dating process, as well as to eliminate catfishing.

Given rising new registration and messaging stats as of late, it seems like the dating world rushed to apps like Bumble. The need for romantic companionship during times of uncertainty proves that human interaction, even if digital, is a driving force in everyday life. That’s dating during the coronavirus. The relation between confinement and the upward curve in online-love is an indicator of people complying to self-isolation. It’s a relieving fact if we want to look at a future where we can actually meet our new crush in-person.

Moments of introspection and self re-evaluation prepare the ground for the blossoming of new partnerships. Unsettling conditions also set out to reshuffle the roots of existing relationships. This can make it even more difficult for long-distance commitments to flourish and stay healthy. The uncertainty is the most concerning part for most, as the light at the end of the tunnel seems out of reach. The variety of different apps don’t provide a shield for heartbreak or the emotional distress we are currently going through. On the other side of the spectrum, some people are facing the fact that maybe they’re just not that into their significant other after analyzing their feelings while apart. Like in the case of Miranda, who confessed to me that she doesn’t miss her boyfriend that much. Before the pandemic, she suffered when they had to part ways due to living in different cities.

Now that she has no choice but to stay home, she feels a strong indifference towards the relationship and little-to-no nostalgia. Her emotional detachment might be purely driven by the bizarre circumstances altering our current reality, however, after taking time to analyze her subconscious response to the crisis, Miranda advances a theory of intellectual absorption or denial as a safeguard for anguish. “I can’t deny my pessimistic side is suggesting we are moving towards the end of our relationship”, she acknowledges transparently. An epiphany of this kind can also be considered a vital step in love. In hard times some thrive, and some lose. Finally, the pandemic has proved that love finds its way in turbulent waters. Dating apps might replace the introductory friend or social spaces, but relationships and emotions are flourishing. Even if out of boredom or from a need for companionship.

We might be quarantined, but our hearts are totally free to wander.

Seeking Romance 2.0: Love In The Time of COVID-19
Naomi Accardi's Sex and the City inspired take on dating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a child of the ’90s, I grew up day-dreaming of the glamorous lifestyle depicted in the cult-favorite show: Sex & The City. I watched every episode, including both films, and constantly tried to identify with Candace Bushnell’s four leading ladies. I paid close attention to see who I was most like and didn’t pay much attention to what brought them together. Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha had incredible careers, an outstanding network, and dreamy wardrobes. However, each time a new episode aired, the need to find a man overshadowed their personal achievements. The quest to find the perfect Prince Charming and live happily ever after was always first. In my opinion, not enough focus was put on Carrie’s questionable but fabulous clothing choices. Who could forget when she left Big’s apartment wearing only his white shirt and an Hermes belt?

Analyzing their behavior now, 15 years later, I realize that they used common coping mechanisms to fill the “void” caused by a lack of companionship. Numerous toxic relationships, perpetuated by each protagonist in connection to their significant other, were all simple hiccups on the journey to finding the perfect soulmate. Carrie often used her column to express her concerns about romance.  How would Carrie write about dating during COVID-19?

All of her articles recurrently ended with an open question. She left readers (and us watchers) to wonder about her flight of fancy and craving for more emotional disasters. Was that anxious interlude a simple directing technique designed to keep the audience on edge? What if it wasn’t? Are Bradshaw’s dilemmas on display in a strategic manner? Unfortunately, that question stands unanswered as a new predicament aroused by the current scenario emerges: how would the Sex & The City heroines act or react to finding romance during the COVID-19 pandemic in the overly digitalized world we live in? As always, Instagram provided a solution in the form of a meme; a frame depicting Sarah Jessica Parker in the iconic questioning moment, wondering if the heart had been quarantined too. 

COVID-19, a new flu-like disease, abruptly forced itself into our everyday life. Accompanied not only by staggering infection rates and death tolls but by an egocentric synonym, the term “social distancing.” Digital policing became supreme civic duty as people (myself included) took to their Instagram stories to educate friends and family about the risks of gathering and socializing during this challenging time. But what did social distancing and self-isolating mean for the world of romance? How would love and flirting work now if we can’t touch, kiss, or meet people on the streets, bars, and restaurants? What is dating like during the coronavirus?

Sure, this would be a great time to bond with our long-term partners. Or attempt to rekindle a diluted relationship barely kept together by hypocritical weekend getaways and five-star meals shared on a forced date night. But what has happened to all of those people stuck in the “what are we?” twilight zone? And what about all of the people that are single and ready to mingle? I started evaluating my own self-isolation as a 28-year-old single woman, living alone, in one of the most affected countries in the world, Italy. Personally, I’m happy to take this slowed time for introspection and self-awareness, but as I conversed with friends relying on 2020 for a romantic rebuttal, I couldn’t help but wonder … how can one find romance during a pandemic? I began interrogating my acquaintances and their feelings. I took to Instagram to survey as many volunteers as possible.

What I found was quite interesting as it seems some sort of romantic renaissance was occurring. As the answers started flowing into my inbox, I noticed a similar pattern in most of the stories. Some of my associates were planning virtual dates over Zoom, Skype, HouseParty, and FaceTime. Some were finding romance and comfort in very basic actions we often take for granted, like running errands together. Social distancing might have halted most physical interaction, but it also made space for more in-depth, spiritual, and emotional connections. Most of the people I spoke to were eager to share their newly found romanticism. They mostly had a positive view of the dramatic and drastic conditions we are forced to face. Many of these stories may restore faith in that maybe yes, love always wins.

ede

Charlotte (a fictional name I’ve given to fit the purpose) was an occasional user of the app Tinder. After matching with an interesting guy the day before the lockdown, she decided to stop swiping left and focus her time and energy into getting to know the person. Matching at the beginning of the strict lockdown undoubtedly helped ignite the spark of their fling as neither of them thought that after a month, they would yet to have met. The forced anticipation helped keep the fire burning day after day, like a Hollywood rom-com waiting to unfold. Charlotte and her internet beau started defeating distance by experimenting with all of the opportunities technology have to offer to feel more connected to a distant lover. How was Charlotte pursuing romance and dating during the coronavirus? By sharing music, texting throughout the day, and video chatting.

“We created a collaborative playlist on Spotify to share songs between the two of us, so when we’re not texting, one can add a new song for the other to listen to!” she wrote me in our correspondence. Kind of like those prison stories where inmates fall in love with another inmate. Netflix Party, a new business born to seize the moment, also offers a new tool to deepen relationships by providing a platform to experience the same moment while apart. I had no idea this existed, but Charlotte made me actually want to download it. She painted a lovely picture of her virtual love affair. “We use it(Netflix Party) but try to stay silent, only smiling, laughing, and being there.”

Tension and anxiety surely creep up when thinking about moving the relationship to real-life after this is over. But why not enjoy the moment and feel like a frivolous teenager again? The impossibility to meet in person also serves positive purposes, such as helping distinguish if the person is genuinely into you and if there are shared interests and hobbies. Not to mention the immediate disposal of users logged in out of pure boredom or for fleeting sexual encounters. In addition, coronavirus has sparked the creativity of many urging to find alternative ways to connect with a potential new partner. We can use freelance photographer Jeremy Cohen and his infamous quest to finding the “roof girl” as an example. He asked her out on a first date via FaceTime by coordinating with her roommate and then meeting up for their first date, a walk safely caged by a blow-up balloon.

The next experience was told to me by Carrie (another fictional name) and her new crush. She first saw him while checking out at the grocery store. She made a point to hunt him down and find him, right then and there, after an extensive investigation, of course. With Tinder’s distance settings, she finally broke the ice with the mystery grocery-store-man.  The couple is currently navigating the government rules by setting weekly food shopping dates where they slowly get to know each other at a safe distance. This new way of dating excites Carrie as she finds the norm boring. “It feels just as exciting as dating anyone else for the first time. But with more longing and anticipation involved.” It’s something none of us have ever had to deal with before. I feel that it will be a more memorable story even if it doesn’t work out in the end.”

Intimacy assumes a different connotation. It is not based exclusively on sexual desire. Tension seems to be a persistent element in new unions and a crucial gravitating force; rather, it proliferates via spiritual vibration. Is this why I’m missing a Samantha in my story adaptation, despite the plethora of sexting tutorials flooding social and online media? The present environment doesn’t allow for carnal passion, opening space for thoughtful exchange, mutual grief, concern, and a stratified feeling. A less than luxurious, highly accessible encounter in any other moment of life. Another less than satisfying aspect of dating during this time. 

dating during the coronavirus

What’s happening with dating apps during COVID-19? A source working at one of the most popular dating apps, Bumble, informed me of how romance is different. They gave me an interesting overview of how things have changed logistically. Behind the scenes, the business had to adapt to meet new standards in a drastically fast-paced manner. Access to “Shelter in Place” friendly features was granted to users in no time.  The app even unlocked a “travel mode” plug-in, allowing individuals on the lookout for love to adjust their location to anywhere in the world. This added a layer of Saudade for those who have run through their city’s candidates and are looking for a fix. Virtual dates have been strongly suggested with video calling technology, which was embedded in the software to try and ease the dating process, as well as to eliminate catfishing.

Given rising new registration and messaging stats as of late, it seems like the dating world rushed to apps like Bumble. The need for romantic companionship during times of uncertainty proves that human interaction, even if digital, is a driving force in everyday life. That’s dating during the coronavirus. The relation between confinement and the upward curve in online-love is an indicator of people complying to self-isolation. It’s a relieving fact if we want to look at a future where we can actually meet our new crush in-person.

Moments of introspection and self re-evaluation prepare the ground for the blossoming of new partnerships. Unsettling conditions also set out to reshuffle the roots of existing relationships. This can make it even more difficult for long-distance commitments to flourish and stay healthy. The uncertainty is the most concerning part for most, as the light at the end of the tunnel seems out of reach. The variety of different apps don’t provide a shield for heartbreak or the emotional distress we are currently going through. On the other side of the spectrum, some people are facing the fact that maybe they’re just not that into their significant other after analyzing their feelings while apart. Like in the case of Miranda, who confessed to me that she doesn’t miss her boyfriend that much. Before the pandemic, she suffered when they had to part ways due to living in different cities.

Now that she has no choice but to stay home, she feels a strong indifference towards the relationship and little-to-no nostalgia. Her emotional detachment might be purely driven by the bizarre circumstances altering our current reality, however, after taking time to analyze her subconscious response to the crisis, Miranda advances a theory of intellectual absorption or denial as a safeguard for anguish. “I can’t deny my pessimistic side is suggesting we are moving towards the end of our relationship”, she acknowledges transparently. An epiphany of this kind can also be considered a vital step in love. In hard times some thrive, and some lose. Finally, the pandemic has proved that love finds its way in turbulent waters. Dating apps might replace the introductory friend or social spaces, but relationships and emotions are flourishing. Even if out of boredom or from a need for companionship.

We might be quarantined, but our hearts are totally free to wander.

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