“Oh-em-gee, we just matched. What do I say to him?” Asked Lily.
“What do you mean, ‘what do you say to him?’ Wait for him to message you first,” said Skye.
“We matched on Honeycomb, not Flame, so I have to make the first move on this one, remember?” Said Lily.
Lily had her back to her iPad, lost in thought while Skye watched through her side of the FaceTime screen.
“That’s right, I don’t know how you keep track of all these dating apps. I can’t imagine dating online. Thank God for Noah.” Said Skye. Lily rolled her eyes.
Skye and Noah were high school sweethearts, and ended up getting married after graduating college back in 2017. They would never understand the struggles of modern online dating, Lily thought, much less dating in the era of ghosting.
Dating couldn’t couldn’t possibly get any worse.
Lily took a deep breath and a swig of her iced coffee and composed herself before sending a message to her latest connection.
Well, well, well, she typed, look who it is. She laughed at her own message but hesitated before sending it.
Ugh, no, he’s definitely not responding to that, she thought.
She closed out the Honeycomb app and opened up Chirp, her second favorite social media platform, and her most trusted source for updates on news and current events around the world.
She clicked on the trending tab and gasped at the headline in bold at the top of the screen.
“Gov. Greg Abbott tells Texans to stay home except for essential activity in April”
“Oh my gosh, Skye, did you see this?” Her voice was an octave higher than usual and Lily read her the update. Lily nearly spat out her coffee as the words sank in, wondering if dating could be considered essential.
COVID was very much a threat in the nation, state, and more recently the RGV, and so many things were suddenly changing.
Great, this is just what I needed, she thought. First, we’re asked to readjust and work from home, even with a curfew being enforced. How am I supposed to socialize?
Weeks after the mandatory shutdown, Lily noticed some new changes in the dating apps. There was now a set of questions in the ‘edit my profile section’ regarding the level of comfort when it came to actually going on a date in person.
The options listed by some of the apps included video-calling, socially distance with masks on, and socially distanced.
I guess that’s necessary, I suppose, she thought. She had had some close friends and family members become ill with the virus, but she didn’t want to put her life completely on hold if she could just take some extra precautions.
She thought about how comfortable she would be to meet in person while perusing her apps and eventually accepted a socially distanced lunch date with a verified connection, but only after making sure that neither had been exposed to the virus.
“Have you come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID in the past two weeks?” They asked each other, “Have you felt any symptoms that may signal you have contracted the virus?”
They decided to meet for sushi at one of her favorite local spots and were greeted with ‘masks required’ signs as they waited to get their temperature checked. They scanned QR codes to receive the online menu directly to their phones, avoiding any form of contact with a physical menu.
The restaurant was filled to 25% capacity, and everyone dining in looked just as uncertain to be there as she felt.
First dates are usually a little awkward, but with new anxieties about the virus and wanting to feel safe, it took a little extra time to break the ice. Thankfully, after a little bit of chit chat, their food arrived and they were able to take off their masks. Oh-em-gee, he’s soooo cute!, she squealed inwardly. The rest of the date went smoothly, and they talked and laughed as if it were a normal date.
They continued to talk for several weeks after that, venturing out to have outdoor picnics at the park, exploring local nature trails, and enjoying iced coffee as they went on walks. This is going great! I guess I have a life even when there’s a virus. Things were definitely looking up for Lily in the dating area. Or so she thought.
3 weeks in and she suddenly found no digital trace of her new man. Complete radio silence.
He’s totally ghosting me, she thought.
Days went by. Long hours. Zero pings. An imbalance in the messaging ratio as she continued to add texts to the messaging thread with no reply.
Dating looks and feels different with COVID, but some things never change, Lily thought, as she lay in her bed in the dark. Just before she lost all hope, her phone screen lit up with a ping.
His name loomed large in her notifications as she read his last text in its entirety: “I’m sorry I’ve been MIA. My life has been a bit crazy. I am dealing with a lot, and I need to take care of my mental health.”
Gutted. Then why try dating right now, idiot? She wanted to cry. But I guess that’s fair. This year hasn’t been easy to deal with. But, come on, dude! Thanks for nothing.
She texted her friend to chat about her newest update and answered a FaceTime from Skye to talk it out over their favorite pints of ice cream.
Even though online dating was already difficult to navigate and now a global pandemic put a damper in the system, thankfully friendships weren’t so easily damaged.
A banner notification from Chirp filled the top of her screen and the headline read:
“COVID-19 vaccination could start December 11th”.
Oooh a vaccine! Finally, she thought. I wonder how that could change dating options in the future.
Hopefully things will start to look a little brighter in Spring 2021.