Social distancing, at least a variation of it, will be normality for the foreseeable future. While most of us are used to staying 2 metres apart whilst venturing down the egg aisle, or engaging in our unlimited daily exercise allowance, it doesn’t seem a comfortable way of living, or loving in particular, for a great deal of time. Friendships, largely, are unaffected by this distance (unless you wind up hands-on with your ‘friends’). Romantic relations, on the other hand, seem to be at risk of an abysmal fate. There are murmurs of 2 metres being simply an err on the side of caution, and 1 metre would suffice, though without the capacity for touch the fundamental human need for intimacy is certainly at stake.
Throughout the more restricted period of lockdown, popular dating apps such as Bumble and Tinder encouraged virtual dates – the prospect itself put me off. A first date is an opportunity for both attendees to ascertain their physical attraction to each other – I couldn’t feasibly see this said attraction being measured over a pixelated natter. The mere inability to use hand gestures, to embrace, or to simply see the prospective partner in the flesh, for me, makes me apprehensive about a virtual date. As someone who suffers from social anxiety myself, a variety of irrational worries cloud my mind – at what point does a virtual date end? How does one assess how much the other is drinking? A virtual date seems to be more anxiety-provoking than usual dates.
Alas, such dates are no longer necessary – dates, albeit outdoors and socially distanced, are COVID-19 acceptable. While I’ve heard of socially distanced dates exceeding with flying colours, others have resulted in regret and cringing. There are two driving forces to this predicament – no alcohol (due to pubs and bars being closed), and no intimacy (a kiss at the end of the date, for me, renders it a success). Instead, prospective lovers rely on the weather to, literally, provide the climate for a successful rendezvous. Given that indoor meet-ups are strictly prohibited, and in combination with the norm that inviting another to one’s house for a first date is uncouth, a picnic in the park it is.
Perhaps, the lockdown has forced the measure of attraction to be something much more conservative than in a pandemic free normality– the measurement of compatibility in personality alone. This shreds away an inch of the excitement from the date, the type of excitement experienced when a kiss is received at the goodbye. However, a prime opportunity is unveiled, one which offers compatibility in personality, a factor which is seen as contributing to the longevity of a relationship. Even though such a date seems out of the comfort zone, for me at least, it seems that now will be logical and emotional time to consider the quest for a significant other. The pressure of ascertaining physical attraction is a thing of the past – social distancing forces attraction based on personality compatibility alone. I’m choosing to view this as a silver lining among very dark clouds, and I think others should too.
By Lottie Westerling
Illustration: by Bethan Chinn