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Dating in the Time of Quarantine

This limitation also provides a lot of opportunity. Will you take advantage of it?


In plucking away at my new book, I decided to share this section of a chapter as a sneak peek since it seems much more relevant now than it will in a few months. Enjoy and stay tuned for my upcoming book on dating, title TBD!

It’s now the second week of quarantine in Covidland. Or the third week, I’m not sure. The most accurate tweet I saw recently read something like,

It’s Tuesday today. Or as we now call it, “day.”

Time passes slowly like coffee pressed through a perforated film. Days rise and fall with slow monotony and every day seems the same as the last. Weekends and weekdays are now a thing of the past, as are coffee dates, parties and eating out.

It has been the most difficult season of dating in my life as well. I have five great roommates, and they have helped to keep me sane, but they most definitely do not provide the same feminine reassurance women do.

I’m a firm believer that men need women and women need men, and that’s just the way it works. To pretend otherwise is just foolish.

I’ll be honest, I miss women.

And it’s for this reason I haven’t deleted my dating apps yet. They still seem to tie me to the world beyond my one-story ranch’s four walls, even if I can’t embark on a first date with a new potential match. It seems that I’m not alone: The women on the apps have been more active than I’ve ever experienced before.

Remove the ability to go out, meet up, and have fun, and many people will unsurprisingly turn to their human-connection-applications and strike up conversations. We’re hungry for it.

“So tell me more about you,” one girl recently messaged.

“I’m not sure where to begin!” I replied. “I always love having these talks in person.” It’s true. I’m the type of dater who reserves any sort of deep, personal conversations for the face-to-face time. The apps merely provide the introduction and a space for a few jokes and one-liners before the personal contact follows.

But now that’s not possible, and I’ve been finding myself having more in-depth conversations via text and phone calls with women I’ve never met than ever before. Makes sense, right? Just like you go long enough without food and you’re bound to get hungry enough to much on snacks from the vending machines rather than waiting for the 6oz. sirloin from Outback. And that’s what we’ve been doing; we’ve been munching on the appetizers (apps for short…get it?) rather than patiently waiting out the quarantine and reconnecting then.

When the lockdown was first announced, I didn’t make any modifications to my behavior where dating was concerned. I assumed it would be two weeks, three tops, and I could then rally with the few matches I had been chatting with. Three weeks later, the end date has been pushed back another month and there is slim chance of an end any time soon.

You can only splash around in the shallow end so long before getting bored and leaving the pool.

My interest in dating waxes and wanes with the toilet paper roll. Some days I attack my chats like I’ll be getting married the day quarantine is lifted. Other days I passively let the chats stack up and delete them all after dinner.

Being cut off from other humans has made it incredibly easy to treat these images on the screen more like 1’s and 0’s than actual humans. After all, beyond a certain point, isn’t that what we are really interacting with — their data? Sure, there is another human being on the other side of the screen responding to your questions and jokes, but you’re basing your attraction to them on the handful of photos they’ve curated and a slew of memes and gifs.

This is dating circa April, 2020.

It’s been this way as long as social media and dating apps have slithered their wispy tentacles through the connectedness of our society. We review one another’s data prior to ever making eye contact or inhaling their human scent.

(Yes, scent matters. A year or two ago I found myself on a date with this beautiful fitness instructor. We had decided to meet up for tacos, and while we waited in line chatting, I noticed that her breath was a bit rank.

No big deal, I thought. It’s been a long day and she just needs to eat something and it’ll pass.

We sat across from one another eating and, from across the table, I sensed that it most certainly did not pass. I could still smell her breath from across the table, during and after an entire dinner.

You may call me shallow for this — maybe she just had a stressful day or forgot to brush — but it was bad. It was reminiscent of the breath of professional video gamers who chug Monster energy drinks, never brush their teeth or exercise, and have those yellow piles of build-up at the root of their teeth. Graphic? Yes. But bad breath turned out to be a dealbreaker for me despite our mutual attraction and playful banter.

The moral of this story?
Brush your teeth and floss.
Please, for the love of John Stamos, brush and floss.)

Where was I? Oh yes, online data.

It’s easy to present yourself as beautiful and adventurous online. Tweak the angle, the lighting, and digitally remove a zit or two and before you know it, anyone today can be an Instagram model. That’s exactly why it’s so important to meet in person.

Not only could one of you be wasting the others’ time, or both of your time, but people get their hopes up. People get hurt. It’s far better to meet up and experience the person in a way you never will by chatting digitally.

Which takes us back to Covidland.

Here is a foreign land where you can’t meet in person; you can only chat and FaceTime and Zoom call. You can only see the flashes of ones and zeroes on your plethora of screens without having that oh so important personal contact.

Are we in The Matrix, Black Mirror or Her?
Choose your own dystopian adventure.

So how do we intentional daters make the most of this sticky predicament we find ourselves in? A few thoughts.

You can easily waste your quarantine.

One way to look at this season is as restrictive and bad. It is certainly restrictive, but it doesn’t need to be bad. Many of us — myself often included — are fighting the temptation to just flick on Netflix and wait out the end of this lockdown.

That strategy, though easy and enticing, will ultimately turn out to be a waste of two or more months which could have been spent growing, learning, and honing new skills.

Think of life like a down-escalator: You are either actively climbing up or moving down. And if you’re standing still (i.e. binging Netflix and waiting out the quarantine), you’re really sliding backward.

You will leave the season less sharp and 15 pounds heavier, not having learned or grown. None of us want that for ourselves, so how can we reframe this period in a way that will produce the best version of ourselves come summer freedom?

Become who you’d want to date.

Ask yourself who you would want to date once the restrictions are lifted.

Would you want to date someone who squandered their quarantine on the couch, or someone who taught themselves guitar, the art of pour overs, and sock puppets? Would you be more interested in someone who bloomed a whole garden during the outbreak, or someone who completed Netflix?

This time is easily one of the oddest to navigate in our collective history (to say the least) but that doesn’t mean we can’t emerge from it stronger, smarter, and more interesting than before.

In a time unlike any other, you can seize this opportunity to grow and become the best possible post-quarantine version of yourself. Personally, there have been many habits which I’ve already overcome thanks to this limitation. It’s been a strange time, but I’ve reduced my spending on coffee from about $120 to $25 a month. Same with eating out and other compulsive spending habits.

Instead, I’ve had to work for my food and coffee, learning to craft them myself rather than empty my bank account into tip jars so other people can do it for me.

I’ve gotten better at being alone, and I’ve had to practice patience day in and day out with my roommates (Makes marriage seem easy — you only have to live with one other person!).

I’ve written and drawn and painted, as well as worked hard around the house to get it in prime condition for a full summer.

In other words, as long as I can maintain this process of forced activity and productivity, I feel like I’ll be better-suited to date a woman after all this passes.

As cliche as it is, become the type of person you’d want to date; it’s like this season is serving that opportunity up to you on a silver platter.

Will you take it or pass?


2 comments on “Dating in the Time of Quarantine

  1. “I’m a firm believer that men need women and women need men, and that’s just the way it works. To pretend otherwise is just foolish.”

    I can echo the same feeling, especially during this period, where the loss of the presence of women is felt keenly, and I’m talking about friends.

    P.S. This is the first dating article I’ve come across since the pandemic, didn’t expect to see one. Good stuff. 😁

  2. Nicolle - Ethan's favorite therapist ;)

    Ethan we should talk. It’s been a while. Anyway, I get what you’re saying. But this is also a collective trauma especially for brown and black people more than white people. Trauma renders you fragmented and disrupted. Please check out the Allender Center podcast on the global pandemic. Learning underwater basketweaving is great but please recognize that there is more going on for people than just staying indoors. This is literally traumatic and heaping guilt onto people for just trying to friggin survive this isn’t helping. I’m glad it’s a relatively benign quarantine for you but for many who are losing their jobs, houses and loved ones, it is not.

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