As quarantine rules went down and higher standards came in, dating after a covid free year requires effort and energy at a time when it feels like we’ve never had less
So, I’m supposed to have something valuable to say about what dating is like in a post-pandemic world, am I? Bruh, I just about know which day of the week it is, and any day that isn’t entirely, exclusively, and absolutely exhausting feels like a bloody achievement. Which, ironically, seems like a pretty fitting metaphor for what post-pandemic dating life is like. I think I’ve made my point. #MicDrop
How did the pandemic really change us? Now that things are ‘normal’ again, is what we’re looking for and how we play the dating game particularly different? Unsexy as it may sound, the honest answer is I don’t know. None of us do, really. It’s too recent in our collective memory to fully understand the extent to which the shit-storm-dumpster-fire-cluster-uck-roller-coaster of the last two years has left its mark (there’s a ride you probably won’t see at Disneyland anytime soon). But oh well, I say that’s best left for another year’s worth of therapy to unpack. (Good Lord what a lucrative time to be a therapist, eh? All of us resuming life in a new year after prolonged isolation with a fresh truckload of trauma and a side of crushing uncertainty. Can you say cha chinggg?)
As to what we do know for sure, in the early days of post-lockdown freedom, people were out with a vengeance. It was harder to get a reservation on a Saturday night. Trading covid war stories became a conversational fixture. “Babe, you up?” gave way to “Babe, you vaccinated?”. As many of us re-emerged into singlehood in a post-pandemic world, wearier but none the wiser, the pressures of coupling up and settling down suddenly felt greater. It’s particularly strange for me because I just turned 30. The end of your 20s is always going to be a weird time of transition and impromptu day drinking. Throw in losing two years of being able to do life; of making mistakes and memories, dating or otherwise, and it becomes a tricky one to segregate. Where does the pandemic mindfuck end, and the my-20s-are-over mindfuck begin?
In this, the age of lethargy, what is clear is that we’re all incredibly tired. That persistent, deeper, more chronic kind of life-tired that even a good night’s sleep won’t wash away. Maybe it’s a turning 30 thing, but I’d like to think we’re all more intentional and choosier with our time. The phrase “you do you” has never been used more frequently or felt more relevant. People are prioritising themselves a lot more, and rightly so. But the flipside is there’s a lot more expectation attached to people we choose to give our energy and limited attention to.
Just as audiences these days seem to only be trekking to movie theatres if they know they’re going to be wowed, in dating, too, it seems like folks will only wager their effort for something they’re truly excited about. It’s probably healthy to some degree, but taken to its most extreme, it puts far a greater burden on that first date. If the ground doesn’t feel like it’s fundamentally shifted and lightning hasn’t struck, why bother with a second?
I haven’t done the app thing for more than a year, but friends tell me that there too, things feel heightened. There’s more pressure on that first text exchange to be exciting and that opening line to be clutter-breaking (I’m tired just thinking about it). Bring your A-game or go home. But keeping the conversation alive and kicking has also never felt more taxing.
Recently a friend, quite eloquently, put it like this: “the patience to wait for gratification or the tolerance to look past small annoyances is gone. We’re less inclined to give people a second chance, which isn’t always a good thing.”.
Evidently, the last few years have also meant that people are now looking for something more meaningful. According to Match’s 2021 Singles in America study, 53 percent of app daters are now in search of a relationship more than before the pandemic. Apparently, Covid made commitment sexy. But you want to know the real crushing psychological phenomenon that fancy white people studies should be researching but aren’t? It’s the scourge of the wedding backlog. Post lockdown, the marital floodgates reopened, and we’ve all had to trawl through a bunch of them. I’ve been to close to 10 in the last year, and I’m sure that’s on the lower side. And who doesn’t love the feeling of being out on the strictly-average-paneer-tikka-uelled wedding circuit and watching people’s reactions when you say you’re still single? I swear some folks look at you like it’s contagious. “Aww, it’ll be okay”. I know it will be, Suresh, but thank you for the condescending sympathy, you mouth-breather. Happy wedding to you too.
When you really think about it, it’s a pretty hilarious Catch-22, isn’t it? Dating in 2023 will require effort and energy at a time when it feels like we’ve never had less. But right now, I got a different problem. I need to go shopping. Got another wedding next week.