12 October 2020
From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.
In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, a woman named Eve began wondering about her love life.
Eve was newly divorced and living with her two teenage daughters. She had also been going out with a man who lived near her home in Maryland, outside Washington, D.C. With stay-at-home orders being enforced, she wondered if the pandemic would affect that relationship. One phone call gave her the answer.
"And I got on the phone with him and his immediate response was, ‘I am not going to see anyone until COVID's over in person at all.' And I said, ‘Even like socially-distancing walks and things?' And he said, ‘Nope. None of it.'"
Eve liked him. But that was not going to work for her. So, she went back to an online dating service. She began romantically socializing, or dating, online.
"So, I started what I would call social distance dating. So, I started doing a lot of Zoom first dates. I think I went on 18 Zoom dates with different people (In what kind of time frame?) within like three or four weeks. There were days where I would go on like three Zoom first dates."
She is not alone. Person-to-person meetings online have increased during the pandemic. So has online dating. The company that owns the dating service that Eve used, Match Group, has reported higher earnings than expected during the pandemic, Reuters news agency reported.
Benefits of online dating
Online dates are safer and bring other value to dating. For example, during a Zoom date you can see a person inside their home, their domestic environment. Eve says this gave her a lot of information about her dates.
"And, it was really nice to get into inside someone's home, almost immediately, without going into their home. I could get a lot of information just from looking at the background of the Zoom call. That was an interesting thing that I wouldn't have done with face-to-face dating. I might not have found that out for a while."
Twenty-two-year-old Olivia lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She recently completed a college study program. Olivia told me that she talked to a young woman for five weeks before they agreed to meet. That, she says, would not have happened before COVID arrived.
"So, I feel like I need to be at sort of a higher level of trust with somebody to meet them in person than I normally would be. So, because of that, I've been talking to people for like a couple of weeks at a time before meeting them rather than maybe a couple of days or even a day. And because of that, you know, there have been a lot of really great conversations over text. So, that's been really nice."
Different comfort levels
Everyone with whom I spoke said there comes a point when you must answer the question: "How comfortable are you meeting in person during COVID?"
Melissa, a woman in her late 40s, lives north of Maryland in Pennsylvania. She was in the middle of a relationship when the pandemic hit. Like Eve, hers also ended. When she went back to using online dating services, Melissa found different levels of comfort about the coronavirus.
"A lot of people are very much like, ‘I'm not afraid of COVID. Let's go eat dinner. Let's not wear masks.' And that worries me. That's a little concerning. I have other people who have no intention of meeting in person for a long time."
More at risk
Dating requires a certain amount of trust. With COVID, there is more at risk – your health. You must trust what the person says about their lives and possible contacts with the virus.
Greg, a teacher in Baltimore, Maryland, finalized his divorce in March. So, he found himself dating again for the first time in 15 years during a pandemic.
To make dating even more difficult, he has a health condition that puts him in a high-risk group. So, for him, pandemic dating is a serious decision – something he calls "momentous."
"It's not like popping out for a cup of coffee. It's a fairly momentous decision. And there's a kind of seriousness that ... that makes people at least a little more reflective about ... about finding a genuine human connection."
Olivia is young and not in a high-risk group. But like many young people, she lives with her parents and must consider their well-being.
"I don't really want to go on a date, in-person date, with someone unless I'm already comfortable with them at this point. And, you know, I trust that they are doing what they say they are doing. And they are taking their own precautions COVID-wise."
New ways of being close, or intimate
Greg and Eve got lucky. They met each other. In the beginning, they could not physically meet. Later they could not see each other that often. So, they made creative ways to connect. They shared pictures, not of themselves, but of their daily lives, their homes, and trips they have taken.
Greg has also been sending Eve a note in the mail every day.
"And again, it's sort of another workaround for the fact that we're not physically with each other as much as we might be -- that I just love and that bring a new way of, again, a new way of being intimate with someone that might not have happened without COVID."
For him, COVID has increased the value of human connections.
"It seems to me actually a very good thing. What are you going to do in the next week? It better count. Right? I mean a pandemic heightens that question."
Outdoor dates have become more popular
Many people have moved their dates outdoors. Taking a long walk or sharing a meal outdoors have replaced the usual (and more expensive) indoor dates.
Like many recent college graduates, Olivia is unemployed. She says outdoor dates are not only safer they also cost a lot less.
"We've had to be a little creative with thinking of ideas for dates. I'm more comfortable, personally, being outside. So, that's ended up being less expensive overall. Can't really go to a restaurant or even a movie. So, that's been nice especially because we're all unemployed at the moment."
Once you meet in person, it is not long before some people raise the issue of physical contact. How do you feel about holding hands? Hugging? Kissing?
Melissa says it is all very strange.
"Yes! You need to put on like a big astronaut helmet. Keep your head safe and all of your nasal, mouth area secure. Very strange."
However, these talks can ease the nervousness that sometimes comes with physical contact. Olivia, who is new to dating, says the lack of physical contact makes her feel a little less nervous.
"We've had conversations about what we're comfortable with contact-wise in the days of COVID. If they're not comfortable with kissing, then that's something that I don't have to really think about."
With Eve, the physical side of the relationship with Greg moved very slowly, and she was very happy with that.
"Things did move more slowly with the guy I'm seeing now. And that was nice. I mean, our first kiss was really funny. It was through a mask!"
Whether it is a creative outdoor date or sending notes in the mail, people are finding ways to meet others and find meaningful connections during COVID. And it could turn into an interesting love story to share in the future.
"Falling in love during COVID? You can't beat that! (No. that's really good.)"
And that's the Health & Lifestyle report. I'm Anna Matteo.
Anna Matteo reported this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
response – n. something that is said or written as a reply to something
divorce – v. to legally end a marriage
comfort – n. a person or thing that makes someone feel less worried, upset, frightened, etc. : comfort – v. to ease the grief or trouble of : comfortable – adj. allowing you to be relaxed : causing no worries, difficulty, or uncertainty
intention – n. the thing that you plan to do or achieve : an aim or purpose
pop – v. to go, come, or appear suddenly or unexpectedly
reflective – adj. thinking carefully about something
genuine – adj. sincere and honest
precaution – n. something that is done to prevent possible harm or trouble from happening in the future
intimate – adj. having a very close relationship : very warm and friendly : involving sex or sexual relations
expensive – adj. costing a lot of money