MSU massacre 911 calls offer emotional view of tragedy's first moments

How to date during coronavirus

Grace Dickinson
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Philadelphia – Ghosted, catfished … COVID-19’d? Like virtually every other part of life, the coronavirus has flipped the world of dating upside down.

Should we meet up in person? Where would we even go when everything is closed? What if this stranger goes in for a hello hug? Can you go on a date and stay the six feet away recommended by social distancing? How awkward would it be to just FaceTime instead?

They’re all new questions to consider. But when it comes to coronavirus dating, we’re in unchartered waters, baby. Doing what you need to stay safe is a top priority – which will likely mean taking steps not fathomed pre-COVID-19.

Where would we even go when everything is closed? What if this stranger goes in for a hello hug?

“The bar isn’t whether or not you’re having unprotected sex with multiple people anymore, the bar is touching multiple people, hugging, holding hands, whatever,” says Rachel, 36, who asked that her last name not be published.

Heading into date number two with a guy she met through Tinder, Rachel’s currently planning out how she’ll bring up the topic of exclusivity.

“I wouldn’t ever normally be like, ‘Hey, let’s be exclusive after one date,’ but I also don’t want him touching other people, so it becomes necessary,” she says.

It’s a conversation she expects to feel a little strange, but so, too, did the first date, albeit for rather different reasons. Scheduled before the coronavirus completely shut everything down, Rachel and her date met for a walk around South Philly.

“I wasn’t even going to touch this person, but it’s getting cold, and then we walk by my house, and I end up inviting him in for tea,” says Rachel of the first date. “That was definitely not in the plan.”

Planning: It’s a challenge most daters voice with coronavirus in town.

If you’re going to survive dating in it, it’s clear you’ll need to be ready to adjust. And that means a hiatus on in-person dates as we all try to abide by the rules of social distancing. Sitting, or even walking, six feet apart from someone with whom you’re on a first date is virtually impossible. You try holding an initial conversation with someone who’s more than two arms’ distance away. It’s far from personal.

Known as a master date-planner among his friends, Michael Kauffman, 28, has been thinking about what kind of creative suggestions he can craft. For now, most center around walking around Philadelphia.

“I think it’d be very easy to go up to Fairmount Park and have a picnic and be far enough away,” says Kauffman.

But again, even this comes with risk. Those who get to Kauffman’s picnic stage will be few and far between. As voiced by many current daters, Kauffman has slowed down his conversations across dating platforms. And those with whom he’s still chatting, he’s looking for cues about how seriously they’re taking the coronavirus.

“The last weekend (when places were still open), someone said they were going out to brunch with a bunch of friends, and I was like eww,” says Kauffman. “If someone seems very nonchalant about it, I don’t want to hang out because it feels riskier.”

Kauffman also plans to test out FaceTime dates. Ask him if he would’ve suggested that as an idea pre-coronavirus, and his answer is “no.” But again, unchartered waters. Ideas like this, originally often viewed as weird or awkward, are now all on the table – and encouraged. Dating platform OKCupid has started prompting its users with a questionnaire asking how people plan to continue to date during the coronavirus. “Messaging,” “phone calls,” and “video” are all available answers. Meeting up in person is not.

Just days ago, the world welcomed the launch of “Love is Quarantine,” a riff off of Netflix dating show Love is Blind, in which people look for love without ever seeing one another. For a chance to be matched up with those reigning from Philly to Singapore, add your contact info to a growing Google Sheet of 800-plus potential candidates. Participants share their experiences on the @LoveisQuarantine Instagram.

Between delayed internet streams and unflattering lighting issues, virtual happy hours, movie nights, and cooking dates might sound less than desirable. But aren’t all first date scenarios usually a little awkward? Leslie Davidson, 32, says she’s found video to be surprisingly useful.

“I feel like I don’t do enough prescreening, so I end up going on a lot of bad dates,” says Davidson, who went on her first FaceTime date last week. “I realize I could cut out a lot of time, wasted energy, and makeup by doing more first dates on the phone.”

Davidson’s not sure if she’ll keep experimenting with this when the coronavirus chaos lifts, but for now, she doesn’t plan to meet anyone in person.

“It’s just not worth it – I’m immunocompromised, and I’m a caretaker of my grandfather. He’s 83, and I’d like to see him sooner, rather than later,” says Davidson.

The “is it worth it?” feeling is one that’s encouraging some to step away from dating all together. Maybe video dating isn’t for you and meeting up is too much of a risk.

Last week, Alysha Bowen, 27, decided now was the time to delete all of her apps.

“I had already been thinking about taking a step back to focus on myself, and this helped me make that final choice, even if it’s just for a few months,” says Bowen.

For others, pandemic dating is speeding things up. Two months into a new relationship, Tovah Rosenthal, 27, says she and her partner went from a let’s-take-things-slow mentality to now essentially living together.

“I think I’d feel really lonely if I were dealing with this by myself,” says Rosenthal. “It’s almost like we’ve been given free rein to just go hide away in our house, when normally we might be thinking it’s a bad idea because it’s too soon, or that we should be spending more time with other people.”

As for all those who are still frustratingly single, there could be light at the end of the tunnel.

“Texting and waiting to meet up is already a standard part of online dating, and now there’s just more of that,” says Adam Schlesinger, 31, of South Philly. “I imagine there will be a lot of pent-up energy ready to be spent when this all dies down.”