Not to be horny on the main, but I’m thirsty for a hot girl summer of hookups and hedonism. Sadly, my slutty plans are thwarted by the new STD in town: Covid-19. While the virus is spreading faster than fresher flu in Bar101, the loneliness induced by lockdown is seducing singles with the prospect of searching for a potential partner against all apocalyptic odds. Lust and love in the midst of a global pandemic has fundamentally changed the domain of dating, replacing wining/dining/69-ing with masked walks and socially-distanced picnics. As the cuckolds of the country for over the past few months, Aucklanders are desperate to run a red under the traffic light system.
Since breaking up with the alert levels and entering into a new chapter of our love lives with our vaccine passes, we find that our approaches to the heart (and other body parts) have been forever altered by our post-pandemic experiences. After being quarantined inside, we are understandably apprehensive about risking our health and safety, so we tend to be cautious when initiating contact with strangers even if we are DOWN BAD. As we begin to spread our legs, per the advice from Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, we also navigate new dating norms. In the Delta era, there is a very delicate balancing act between desire and disease, so the onus is on us to ensure that we respect the need for collective responsibility in ceasing the spread of the virus.
Back in the pre-pandemic days, avoiding red flags was difficult enough without the risk of contracting a deadly disease. While the Earth’s climate heats up, our love lives have cooled off as our options oscillate between the temptations of Tinder and casino-esque chances of finding someone in real life. These tumultuous times have magnified the blight of isolation, anxiety, and depression that afflict most students. Dating is scary. Dating while studying full-time and working to pay rent is scarier. Dating with the constant concern of catching coronavirus is terrifying. Yet as loneliness seeps in, people are keen to get back into dating and deal with the dilemma between the heightened hygiene and horrific horniness.
The 107-day dry spell is bad enough without the overwhelming awareness that you are alone and nobody loves you. Scrolling through Instagram and unfollowing cute couples who have chosen to co-habitat together is only a temporary coping mechanism, hence why many of us found ourselves hooked to dating apps, swiping our lives away in capitalist cyberspace. Honestly, dangling the carrot of potential romantic partnership in front of lonely individuals is so cruel. In our hyper-individualised neoliberal society, dating apps already prey on the vulnerable and isolated. The more spare time you have, the more this commodified reality gains power by subsuming the potential for genuine connection into an ego-fuelled boredom-driven swipe-fest. Understandably, the emotional toll of being physically isolated from friends, family, and opportunities for intimacy, drove us to search for alternatives in the virtual world. Yet flirting with the concept of romance online is no substitute for a real tangible relationship. Users reported engaging in endless talking stages, which rarely translates into real-life romances. Even for promising matches, online conversations usually fizzled out before the pairs could have the chance to meet in-person. Thus, internet daters become disillusioned with the dynamic of loss and gain offered by Tinder. While every notification of a ‘like’ grants us with a fleeting sense of satisfaction and momentarily fulfils our yearning for mutual attraction, lockdown prevents us from progressing past a good virtual first impression. Subsequently, most singles deleted their profiles and succumbed to their status of singledom, because the cycle of heartbreak got too depressing.
On the other hand, some found success in online match-making. Spending hours alone in your room overthinking your life can create the conditions for real introspection. Newcomers to the dating scene felt empowered to explore the realm of romance, because there are no expectations of sex as lockdown alleviates the pressure to partake in casual hookup culture. This slow search for companionship enabled users to test the waters over a prolonged period and take control of their love lives. Since there is no compulsion to rush into a relationship, many took advantage of the online dating process to identify red flags of potential partners. A clear litmus test is asking your matches about their controversial opinions, especially concerning coronavirus. Whether a person still takes precautions against the pandemic speaks volumes about their personality and ability to be considerate of others. Ultimately, swipers are no longer swiping with reckless abandon, as lonely individuals are more selective and intentional with their virtual investment in others.
In the digital age, dating apps function to facilitate the sexting to one-night stand pipeline, but the practice of seeing multiple sexual partners should be reconsidered in the context of the public health. Not to mention, being alive in the midst of a global pandemic has plagued us with existential dread and fear of our own mortality. For those dating in the Delta era, when/where/what of meeting up in-person is always a source of stress. Being vaxxed up is just as important as being wrapped up. The core themes for dating were reassuringly: consent, conversation, and comfortability. Openly asking about where people feel safe to meet, when to be masked, and how intimate they want to be is ever more crucial today. Fortunately, simps cannot be symptomatic. If you have symptoms, get tested and stay at home!
Beyond following the framework of the traffic light system, there are also unspoken rules. There is nothing sexier than someone taking safety precautions. My kink is watching a date wear a mask, use sanitiser, scan in using the Covid-19 transfer app, and verify their vax pass. To ease these worries, daters have experimented with video-chatting prior to the anticipated embodied encounter, but this has become unpopular due to the awkwardness of these calls. Before meeting in-person, there is also usually a discussion about physical boundaries. Whether masking is mandatory for the entire duration of the date? Is hugging appropriate? As for the million dollar question: is it safe to have sex with a stranger? Obviously, consent is the guiding principle and everybody is dating at different paces, so establishing a dialogue is critical. Our approaches to lust and love are ever-changing in a society that has shred all semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, but we can do our due diligence by ensuring that we respect Government health recommendations. If you want to have a one-night-stand, save the dirty talk until after you have a transparent conversation with your partner.
Lockdown has the potential to make or break existing relationships, which means if you fell on the broken side, your bubble was filled with ice cream and melted dreams. This is made all the worse by your hot friends soft-launching their situationships on social media every third week. Hence why the majority of vaccinated singles are jumping at the chance to mingle again under the traffic light system, in order to make up for lost time. Interestingly, in the dichotomy between ‘DTF’ and DESPERATE to search for serious connection, many reported the growing inclination to seek something more long-term. Apparently, social isolation has “reinforced the value of relationships and having a co-partner in life rather than hooking up at a surface level.” Being alone inspired spiritual awakenings for those who dabbled in dating; “I learnt that there are so many more aspects to people and potential relationships. I learnt that I shouldn’t settle out of fear of not being loved.” This reassessment of priorities represented how the pandemic promoted people to reflect on what they want for themselves, in order to achieve self-actualisation. Only when we are vulnerable and honest with ourselves, do we discover what we actually want.
To cultivate love in our lives as loving beings, we must open ourselves to the opportunities in the world and cherish our human connection to our communities. Love is everywhere and the loneliness induced by lockdown isolation convinced lonely individuals to reject their previously conceived cynical perspectives towards romance. Dating for the sake of dating is SO last season, as people are now searching for the right relationship with the right partner. This translates to actively seeking lasting commitment with compatible matches rather than contributing to the prevalence of casual sex. These organic and meaningful connections can be far more rewarding than the vicious rotation of hookups, breakups, and fuckups. Ultimately, relationships are always a risk, with or without the threat of coronavirus. Yet if we choose to open our hearts to our lovers and embrace the whirlwind of emotions, we can replenish the reservoirs of romance.