Dating during a pandemic is. just. not. the. same. as. it. was. Period. They say if we all wore masks for a few months the transmission level would be so low the virus may even die out (Moffitt, “100% Face Mask Use Could Crush a Second or Third Wave of COVID-19”, SFGATE, June 12, 2020). Even a quick trip into the store will show you how many people JUST AREN’T WILLING to wear masks even knowing that. So…we are stuck with this situation and it affects all aspects of our lives, especially DATING. And it will likely get worse before it gets better. What to do? Consider risk management, who our choices affect, and perhaps we can embrace a more mature attitude toward developing relationships. Something that looks a lot more like…COURTING. Yep…the age old way to get to know someone without putting your hands on them. What a concept, right?
What if your risk tolerance and your date’s risk tolerance don’t match? OR the risk tolerance of the people they live with, work with, etc. may not align with yours, and naturally…the same might apply to the people YOU live with, work with and play with. Masks are great, but they only can do so much. They reduce the exposure level over time, so in other words, if you are interacting or inhabiting the same space (like a car) as someone who is sick you can double the time in which you will be able to do so safely, from roughly 10 minutes to 20 minutes (Source: Buettner, “COVID-19: Straight Answers from Top Epidemiologist Who Predicted the Pandemic”, Blue Zones, June 6, 2020). If you are outdoors and you are staying 6-12 feet apart, the risk is very low but it still exists. So what to do? Well, it is important to date with risk tolerance being one of the FIRST things you discuss.
Experts cannot tell us when things will be safe again or even what “safe” will look like. In the meantime, living through a PANDEMIC means really being MINDFUL of your own risk and the risk you bring to the table when you interact with others. How much risk you are willing to take together with your date must also take into account the health and well-being of the people in your household and your cohort household. If you all are practicing social distancing that reduces the risk to everyone significantly. If ONE person isn’t practicing social distancing, but they are only doing so with one other person who lives alone and practices distancing with everyone else, then the risk is higher, but not considerably so. If NO ONE practices social distancing in your household, you have a very high risk of potential exposure.
COVID-19 IS NOT going away. We have to learn NEW RULES about behaviour in order to reduce our risk. Just as we did after HIV developed. This virus IS life-threatening to all ages, regardless of underlying conditions and even more so to those with underlying conditions. We can at least respect the risk tolerance of the lowest level. If I’m comfortable without masks outdoors, I shouldn’t shame my date who prefers to wear a mask. AND if they asked me to wear one too, I would… to RESPECT their level of risk tolerance. I want my date relaxed and happy, not tense about whether I speak too “moistly”.
Courtship was the way relationships were developed for a long time. You weren’t allowed to touch at all, group or family activities were the only meetings acceptable and even a correspondence with someone had to be approved. Following WWI and during Prohibition, the scene REALLY shifted. Speakeasies allowed for the sexes to mingle freely. It really was the first wave of the sexual revolution. Skirt hemlines went up and dating one-on-one became popularized. It was an era full of discovery and passion…and a fair bit of drinking and drug use. And how did that impact our blossoming relationships when that happened? Some would argue we lost a sense of care, a required investment of time, taking a real interest in the person beyond their ability to arouse us in the moment and immediately excite our passions. With courting, a foundation developed over time where one could actually experience intense longing and desire without ever having touched.
Could you enjoy a date where you spent the entire time 6-12 feet apart? And if not, I challenge you to ask yourself, “Why not?” It was just about 100 years ago that people were expected to have many dates chaperoned in North America, and in fact, in many cultures or religions that expectation still exists. Courtship is back because COVID has arrived, and until we have a treatment or a working vaccine or herd immunity, we need to accept it. Could we, in fact, enjoy it a little? Isn’t there something romantic about having the desire but not the opportunity? Doesn’t it take away some of the pressure to have to perform sexually?
If you’re a romantic, then this enforced courtship ritual might just feel actually quite amazing, like a breath of fresh air. Envision yourself in a different era, relying on letters (ie. texts) to communicate and open up to your love interest. See the distance required as something that allows you to grow and share and become EMOTIONALLY INTIMATE before becoming physically so. A Demisexual’s dream! NOTE: To be Demisexual is to require an emotional connection to feel attracted sexually to someone.
If you’re not a romantic, but more of a physically expressive person, here is your moment to rise to the challenge and really GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE. Don’t fall into the trap of continually heaping on the GUILT, trying to get your date to hold hands, kiss or even hug. NONE of these are okay until safety has been established and consent is given. Instead, bring things that interest you into the discussion and ASK QUESTIONS. Express your interest by making them a playlist or sending them pictures that embody your feelings. Embrace the distance and recognize that it is allowing you to stop RELYING on physical intimacy to feel connected.
We USED TO be able to do this courting stuff…and we did it for a long time. We CAN DO IT again, we just need to EMBRACE the unknown, see courting as the OPPORTUNITY it is to shift our focus from “getting it on” with someone to really getting to know someone. I mean…what is the downside here? What would happen if a relationship took several months to develop before the first kiss even took place? Wouldn’t that kiss be preceded with such amazing anticipation that it would feel like a drink of water in the desert? We just need to be mindful about WHEN it’s safe to take that first sip.