ating during the time of plagues, masks, and dating apps
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, it feels like the world of dating has turned into an excessive swiping game. Right, left, right, and it doesn’t end. Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, OkCupid, and more have been dominating the heart for much, much too long. 30% of U.S. adults say they have used a dating site or app, and almost half of online users had met or know someone who had met a romantic partner via a dating website or app. Your credentials are on display for everyone to see -- and it can sometimes be overwhelming. Snapchat, Instagram, and text messages have been the main source of communication while navigating our new virtual world.
There aren’t any steadfast rules to dating. Hookup culture has created a toxic environment where people want to play games, and go back and forth without trying to create a concrete relationship. When in your 20’s, people want to continue this cycle. Especially in college. Truthfully, no one who participates in hookup culture actually enjoys it. Not really. The pandemic created a disconnect from this culture, almost forcing people to actually talk, or go on virtual dates. It almost felt comforting to talk with some random stranger during such uncertainty.
When talking to someone new, moving too slow can make people lose interest. However, going too fast can sometimes be a bad thing and can lead to codependency later in the relationship. Being too available too soon can seem as though you are putting your life on hold for them, which isn’t healthy. Having a balance of boundaries, truthfulness, and proper communication is what makes for a good foundation to a relationship. There isn’t a rulebook though, and I encourage people to try and go with the flow.
Queering the dating sphere
Dating as a queer non-binary person poses it’s own personal challenges. Being bisexual adds a whole other layer to it. Top this gay ice cream sundae off with some sprinkles of mental illness, and you’re left with a masterpiece (but actually, not). I think it’s important to discuss the differences in dating as a queer person versus a straight neurotypical person. My views are limited, since I’m a primarily femme-presenting white person, but I hope its illuminating in some sense.
To lay down some ground work, non-binary isn’t a “third gender,” nor is it some odd classification. It’s an identity embraced by some people who do not identify exclusively as a man or a woman, somewhere in between or as falling completely outside of these categories. Non-binary can also be used as an umbrella term for identities such as agender, bigender, genderqueer, or gender fluid.
Bisexual is defined as someone who can be attracted to more than one gender. Studies suggest that bisexual people make up about 50% of the LGBTQ+ community. I want to debunk some myths: being bisexual doesn't mean that someone can’t have an attraction for one gender more than the other, and neither does it render them invalid. If being bisexual is what label you prefer, go for it. Some people tend not to label themselves at all. You don’t need a label to feel valid in your identity, despite what people assume about sexuality. For me, that’s the label that seems to fit me best, but it’s not my entire identity. There are a lot of dating apps designed specifically with queer people in mind, such as HER, LGBTQutie, Hinge, Thurst, and now Bumble.
Now that people are vaccinated, (or they should be), it’s easier to go on in-person dates again. I would still recommend going somewhere that isn’t primarily indoors, and checking in with your date about their whereabouts if you go (i.e. if they went to a huge unmasked party). A lot of places still have mask mandates, and you should still tread carefully and only do what you’re comfortable with. If you’re looking to go on a date with someone from an app or by some coincidence, someone you’ve met in person, here are some tips for the second time around.
If you feel like the first date went well, text in a few days
Unless you’re a lesbian, otherwise the date never ended. But jokes aside, if you really vibed with the person you hung out with, don’t be shy. It’s not the end of the world if you text first, or reach out about something random later. If you don’t know how to spark up a conversation, make up something to talk about. Maybe you want to share about your day, discuss a new movie you just watched, send over a song you discovered. Or you can challenge them by asking an extremely personal question, like ‘what’s your favorite color?’ Either way, make up something if you wanna see them again.
Don’t always make the first move
I slightly retract what I just said about being shy and decree that you shouldn’t always text first. If you text first a lot and they respond a day later without any kind of interest, or with more dryness than the Sahara desert, stop texting first. It’s not like you need constant contact, but basic interest is kind of the bare minimum, especially when getting to know someone. Of course, there could be a legitimate reason for people to ghost you, however, relationships shouldn't be one-sided and communication is key. For instance, when texting women on apps, sometimes all they do is compliment your outfit, say you look cute, and then never text you again. It’s likely due to shyness, or maybe just flat out disinterest.
If someone that you’ve been seriously dating suddenly gets cold feet though, it’s only natural for you to wonder what happened. There has to be mutual attraction and interest for anything to work, including friendships. If someone isn’t putting in equal effort, then I’d say to drop them. It sounds harsh, but there are always more options that will treat you better, trust me. (I should really take my own advice.)
Don’t settle, and have high expectations
I’ve often been told that I’m “too picky” and that I should “settle for what I can get.” If you’re looking for a long-term partner, I think it’s only reasonable to hold people to a high (and realistic) standard. I’m not saying to be stuck up, but try and find people who actually share interests with you. After the first date, reflect on how it felt to be in that person’s presence. Did you have meaningful conversations? Do you have things in common? Were they easy to talk to? Did they make you feel comfortable? How did the date end? Do you genuinely want to hang out with them again? These are generally the questions I ask myself. Don’t overanalyze, but try and focus on what you want rather than pleasing the other person.
Have a backup plan
Before going on any kind of date, it’s a rule of thumb for me to let someone else know where I’m going. If this is someone you’ve only met once, tell your friends or family the location/address and time so that they can have your back if needed. A good thing to also do is use “Find my Friends” on your iPhone, which can actively share your location with those you give permission to. Keep in mind that this only works with other iPhone users, but it can be handy in case of an emergency.
Plan an outfit that you feel comfortable in
Once you’ve secured a date, I think it’s fun to make plans for what to wear. We’ve all seen the typical coming-of-age movies where the girl doesn’t know what to wear, and she’s throwing her mountains of clothing all around her room. Although sometimes that might still happen anyway, planning on what to wear can still be a good time. Consult your friends and pick out something that you might have not worn in awhile, or simply wear what you want without judgement. Check the weather the morning of the date to make sure it doesn’t rain, snow, etc. You can never be too prepared.
Remember that a relationship isn’t your entire life
You’re a person outside of your relationship. It shouldn’t be the only thing that you focus on, or commit yourself to. Sometimes, it can feel like the end of the world when a partnership doesn’t work out, but trust me, you’ll get through it. People get so caught up in needing another person to feel whole, or complete. You can thrive fine just on your own, and having another person in your life can be nice, but only when it’s healthy. Remember your worth, keep your head up, and remind yourself who you are.
As you get more experience going out on dates, these things will start to become second nature to you. If someone like me with social anxiety can do it, I know you can. Dating as an adult can be fun, and you should do what feels good. Don’t judge yourself, do something exciting, adventurous, or unique. Visit a place in your city or town that you’ve never been to before. Or, maybe revisit an old favorite with new eyes. The possibilities are endless, and if you can find someone with a similar spirit, you’ve probably won the Bachelor.