The single life

Two women kissing with a rose head between their lips.
Two hands with red nail varnish on them twisted around each other.

Amelia Abraham explores the challenges of dating apps and sexting during a pandemic

By Amelia Abraham   Images by Harley Weir (Art Partner)  Sunday 3 May, 2020  Short read

Dating: a veritable quagmire at the best of times. Now throw self-isolation into the mix. And mind-numbing boredom. And, for good measure, the cumulative horniness of weeks with no physical contact. Then there’s the threat of drunk messages inspired by all those ‘quarantinis’ we’re drinking, because we need the buzz to keep us going through the vast nothingness (‘champagne and a positive attitude’, according to one friend). I’m going to be honest with you about my current situation: I am so sex-starved, I perceive each and every Amazon delivery guy who drops a parcel from a safe social distance to be an Adonis – and I’m not even straight. 
Lockdown – and the weird new mixture of emotions it brings – arrived at a strange time for me romantically. Having recently come out of a three-year relationship, I had only just moved into my own place and stopped emitting a low hum of sadness and desperation. Which is to say I was ready for my first single (hot girl) summer in years. In preparation, I organised a sexy trip upstate with my new New York lover. She was to pick me up from JFK and drive us straight to Hudson (or at least, that was the plan outlined in the erotic fiction she wrote me). On top of this, I had booked a ‘girls’ holiday’ (hate myself) with my best female friends. And closer to home, I had duly slid into some crushes’ DMs to line up a few IRL dates… with varying success. 

Of course, like literally everything anyone was planning on doing for the foreseeable, all of the above is now cancelled (with very good reason), and I have found myself flitting between wondering where all of this leaves us as human beings. And, more selfishly, how to navigate the new alternatives to real-life dating now that I can’t actually meet up with anyone. Of course, turning to devices for dating is nothing new. App culture increasingly rules all. But now, rather than a lazy buffer, it is the only safe option. 

My virtual journey began well. At first, the phone sex was novel (have you read the countless thinkpieces on how it’s the new-old-new thing?) and the DM chit-chat was beguiling (it’s amazing what can be conveyed with a single emoji). I had convinced myself that l live for the chase, and what is more ‘chase’ than not being able to physically see someone because of a government-imposed sanction? A lack of face-to-face interaction was the ultimate in delayed gratification. But as time has passed, so has the novelty. The first few days of flirting felt risky, but a month in and they feel like those spam emails you know you should junk or delete but can’t be bothered to. Potential lovers become actual pen friends, and there’s a reason that pastime never lasted. 
At moments, I’ve felt pangs of jealousy for those couples who met two weeks before quarantine, hunkered down together and are already engaged (yes, that’s a thing –trust me). And so, in the last week, I succumbed to resorting to the familiar: sexting my ex. Around the third message, I asked her, ‘What knickers are you wearing?’, to which she replied, ‘Why?’ and that was the end of that. During another low, I found myself inexplicably wasting an hour listening to voice notes from another ex (from 2016). And a few days later, after several glasses of wine, I threw caution to the wind and video called a beautiful girl I knew back in the glory days when we could meet up in bars, only to keep accidentally holding the phone camera to my ear like a drunken mum. Technology (and the increased pandemic drinking that seems to come hand in hand) has been making me feel too old for digital dating.  
Is this what love looks like as a singleton in the age of coronavirus? Probably. And I know I’ll get better at it. As we all will. Tinder says that conversations are already now 10 to 20 per cent longer than they were in February, with users being much kinder to one another and checking in more. The dating app Hinge is seeing users migrate to their new video dating platform en masse, and on the kink app Feeld, people are meeting up in a virtual sex bunker-come-dark room to still satiate their sexual desires, because why the hell shouldn’t they? Since starting this article, I’ve even seen countless new iterations of love-finding slowly take hold, and working. One friend in LA is deep in flirtation with someone she met over a Zoom AA meeting. Another friend has taken to posting daily Instagram thirst traps and has never had more attention in their entire life. 
Perhaps pandemics bring out the warmer side of humans and the better side of technology. And although we might not be connecting in the physical world, I suppose any kind of connection is good for now.
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