Is your dating life on hold until further notice?

Published August 18, 2020, 10:15 PM

by AA Patawaran

How the single and unattached are devising new strategies to score a date in the pandemic

MASK-SOCHISM Tulipan print advertisement by Y&R

Ok, the bar is empty. No, it is closed. No more dancing at clubs at 2 a.m. when, thanks to just the right amount of tequila, you are way more confident and way less inhibited. No more squeezing into the crowd and then—serendipity!—elbows touch and sparks fly. 


What you miss the most is the catch-my-eye game. In a roomful of people, in the din of the crowd, the eyes speak the loudest. If you’ve played the game long enough, you can tell if the person breaks eye contact unconsciously because your presence hasn’t registered yet or because there’s no room for you at the moment. It could also be a signal that advances are not welcome. But at 2 a.m., the night is young and you can keep your hopes up. There’s more eye-catching to do later.

The possibility of rejection is what makes it a fun game, especially when it progresses from eyes looking away (either out of a sense of awkwardness or embarrassment—Hey, you looking at me?—or to play hard to get) to a glance and a half (it takes a lot of practice to notice this, how they break eye contact, but linger a split-second longer) to a gaze (or a creep stare if the eyes belong to someone unwanted or undesirable) to a smile, the more subtle, the better, like a slight, almost imperceptible movement of the lips. Never fun when it’s such a giveaway, but when that smile appears, get your move on. Tread carefully, lest you break the spell.

But that scene is a memory, unavailable until further notice. What to do? How to flirt in a Zoom Room-ful of people?

LOVE WALL “Lovers” wall painting by  the street artist Pobel in Bryne, Norway


There’s always Tinder and BTW, on March 29 this year, Tinder recorded three billion swipes in one day around the world. That’s three billion souls like you looking for physical connection. But no luck trading spits at a time like this, not even whispering sweetnothings, in case the virus finds its way into your system through your ear. The more we know about this party-pooping virus, the less we know about it, so who knows? AAMOF, as a possible result, Tinder messages are now 30 percent longer than ever before. If you can’t have sex, maybe you can have sexy conversation. Better be safe than sick—or dead.

But that’s the upside. Now you are forced to get to know somebody before you hit the sack or before you share droplets. At no other point in the history of post-AIDS sex is the question “Are we safe?” more lifesaving. Even the F buddies on your speed dial are suspect, unless they live next door and you are aware of their day-to-day activities.

What do you get when you kiss a guy? You get enough germs to catch pneumonia…

—Dionne Warwick

Supposing you and a potential date get past the virtual meets. By this time, after all the late-night videochats, the cocktail hours on Messenger, and the exchange of “Show Me Yours, If I Show You Mine” snaps, do you think you are ready to date in the flesh? But where? Your place or theirs?

You should come prepared, like with a Covid-19 negative result certificate, and expect no less from the other person. From now on, from the get-go, before the first kiss, before the first cuddle, even before the first hello without muffling it beneath a mask or a face shield, honesty is more than the best policy. It is a matter of life and death or intubation.


Still, it is technically against the rules to go on dates under MECQ. Under these many restrictions, knowing that if they get lifted at all, it will be an economic decision, not a health resolution, it is still irresponsible to meet people outside your immediate world or even outside your household. The Covid-19 negative result certificate isn’t as foolproof as a condom, not that condoms are even failproof, so beware.

In this Covid-ravaged world, there is no safe zone for sex for the single unattached except the Internet, where there is much you can do. Maybe sex or anything related to sex isn’t the best thing to pursue right now. Maybe it’s time to show some vulnerability on the dating apps. Expose some of your tender, sensitive sides, and not necessarily in the form of body parts. Share a love for the multi-layered sentences of Nabokov or the misunderstood genius of Caravaggio or the nuggets of wisdom on relationships in the Netflix Spanish series Elite. Or just be funny or witty or a knight in shining armor for students desperate for laptops or medical frontliners in need of PPE. That’s how to flirt now, the more human, the more likely the connect. Enrich that online relationship beyond physical attraction, which cannot be consummated right now without the risk of being rushed to the ICU in a post-coital daze. 

So when all this is over—and this, too, shall pass—and you can get physical without having to claim an express ticket to heaven or hell in the following days, the first in-person date will be nothing short of magical, something for the books, nuanced and intimate, or at least with some personal details declared like “Did you experience a sore throat lately?”

But what if all you want is sex, casual and uncomplicated, non-intimate, and no strings attached? No such thing in a world having gone through a crisis as cataclysmic as Covid-19. We’re all in different levels of lonely and in that first post-Covidbodily contact you can’t be so blase as though you have just snagged another stranger in a crowded bar.

But it’s up to you where to take it from there. And if you decide to take it a notch higher to a relationship, then the dating scene, pandemic or not, becomes off-limits anyway, unless you mutually decide on an open relationship.


Until a vaccine or herd immunity wipes out Covid-19 like the small pox, dating won’t be the same again. Meanwhile, you’re devising new strategies on the hunt. Among them are the benefits of sexting, including the opportunity to describe in detail what gives you pleasure. Mystery used to be sexy, but now you have no choice but to divulge necessary information like who do you live with, when was the last time you were on a plane, and do you keep your mask on in the car? Because social distancing will have become a way of life for many of us before this crisis is over, outside of cross-platform instant messaging and voice IP services, you’re beginning to see prospects again in outmoded forms of getting-to-know-you rituals like a walk in the park or down the street (six feet apart) and house visits (don’t stand so close to me) or, when the bars reopen, a drink together but outside (and on seats apart) because it’s safer. And even there you have to acquire a new skill set to know how far or how soon you should proceed. You can’t let the heat of the moment dictate when it is time to move closer or to grab a hand or to cup a jaw or to ruffle hair because, just like you are, your date, on top of worrying whether or not you are the right person, is worried that you might be carrying the virus.

Kisses Love GIF by Barbara Pozzi - Find & Share on GIPHY

What about sex with a mask? Because there is no evidence that the coronavirus may be sexually transmitted,although it has been found in semen, most authorities find it unfair to tell people to abstain from sex. In the UK, leading HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust suggests you avoid kissing, to wear a face mask or any face covering during intercourse, and to choose “positions that aren’t face-to-face during sex.” Of course, you know the drill—wash your hands before and after the act. Better yet, take a thorough shower. Dirty sex is going to be off the table for a while.

Also, keep Dior or Paco Rabanne on the dresser. For now, there is nothing more reassuring than the scent of alcohol or Lysol on skin desperately seeking touch.