Love in a Pandemic

caution-symbol-safety-sign-500x500A friend asked me the other day what they should do now that everything was locked down, there was no gathering places, no places to meet in public, no ‘date’ night specials. How were they going to proceed to meet new potential mates and get to know their options.

With caution?

Yes, that was my first response. Yes, it was a teensy, tiny bit snarky. Honestly, though, I didn’t understand the issue. We have a pandemic going on in the world and it is here, right here in these United States and you are worried about whether or not you can keep your social life going? Is this a bit shallow?

Then I thought about it from my friend’s perspective. She, like me, feels the weight of years though not quite as many years, she feels them just as I feel them. She like me has been divorced for more than five years and like me, she has formed a few what felt like to her committed relationships, they did not go the distance or as planned. She like me is looking down what feels like a short road and wondering if she is going to be alone for the rest of the journey.

Pandemic be damned then full speed ahead, her prince may be out there and he might frogprincebe just as lonely in his isolation as she is.

We are similar in so many ways yet different in one very important personality quirk, one key that will allow us to weather this storm with our sanity intact. She and I are polar opposites in our need for regular human interaction. Don’t mistake me, I enjoy my friends and family simply in smaller and more controlled doses. I also enjoy a dinner out now and then, I just simply don’t need it. My friend, on the other hand, she still loves nightspots, dancing, concerts and anything else that gets her out and about. Me? I love the theater and willingly take myself on dates, I have zero need for company. My friend? She would not be caught dead anywhere alone and feels downgraded if I invite her to come with me.

Needless to say, we are very different creatures.

I spend days, sometimes even weeks without ever talking to a single soul unless it is work-related. My friend can’t go more than a few hours without social interaction, she feels unloved, unappreciated and unfulfilled. She needs human touch, human validation, human voices to know she exists in the world. She is an extrovert, I love her dearly but she makes me a bit crazy at times. I realized during this conversation, her extroversion goes beyond her comfort in crowds and her extreme touchy-feely-huggy with everyone she meets. Her extroversion is her spirit and soul, it is how she feeds her joyfulness every single day and she is joyful. This compulsory isolation is removing from her a necessary part of her life, her ability to reach out and touch, emotionally and physically other human beings.

She wasn’t just asking about how to continue her dating life, how to continue her search for her prince charming. She was asking how to live.

So I had to get serious with my friend, I don’t want to lose her to depression. I also don’t want to lose her because she does something stupid, desperation can cause any of us to make stupid choices. There are no simple choices right now, yes our prince may well be out there but if we haven’t found them yet there is no simple answer to dating during a pandemic, social distancing is the only answer we have and maybe it is a blessing we weren’t looking for but a blessing nonetheless. Time to get back to some good old fashioned courtship routines; talking, no touching, sitting far apart, walks in the park. I know, it all sounds so sterile and it is, but why risk dying if you don’t have to.

Old LettersTalk on the phone, after you have established some level of feel-good and trust. Write long emails to each other, learn to use your words. There was a time when letter writing was a valued transaction between courting pairs when letters were saved as proof of intentions. My grandmother had letters from my grandfather from before and during their marriage, how she was able to read them is beyond me but she was and she married him. Use Chat and Video Chat, again learn to use your words. The point is get to know your potential date mate as a human being before your very first date, figure out if this is a person you actually want to spend time with, find out if you can have a conversation.

Love in a pandemic, where fear rules us and isolation is the decree of the day will be hard. When you are not naturally inclined toward seclusion this will be even more difficult. My friend is already feeling the pressure of being alone, without the validation of social interaction to lift her spirit she is afraid. I understand her anxiety. I have a different level of distress, even though my natural tendency to isolate and this allows me to get through days without interaction I am afraid too and I will talk about that at some other time.

How will we get through this?

I can only think this isn’t forever and we will come out the other side differently. We will learn different skills and different ways to build relationships and interact with each other. Our expectations will be different and perhaps we will set a new standard for those prince’s who wish to join us on our journey. Women of a certain age want to partner, we don’t want to live our lives alone. In this, my friend and I are very much alike. Now we look down this tunnel of how do we find that elusive man who will see us for all we are, all we have to offer and begin to build a very different portrait, one that is more honest more true to life, of them and ourselves. Possibly that portrait will be more true to life.

At least that is my hope.

%d bloggers like this: