Dear Wayne and Wanda,
Well I picked the wrong time to re-enter the dating pool. First off, I was married for 20 years and finally got divorced at age 40. I didn’t date right away — I needed some “me time,” frankly. A couple of years later, I am feeling completely ready to spend some quality time with a guy.
I’m on two dating apps. One app is more serious, with people professing to be looking for partners. The other is more of a hook-up app. Right away, on the serious app, I connected with “Jeff,” and we had an amazing first date. He kissed me goodnight, and it was amazing! He was leaving the next morning for a business trip and we made dinner plans for when he got back. I was still also talking to several other guys online via the less-serious app.
And then everything hit the fan. While Jeff was gone, Anchorage started going into lockdown over coronavirus, and by the time he got back, I was working from home, social distancing to the extreme. Obviously Jeff and I can’t go on dates now. He texts a lot and says he has “a feeling” about us and he doesn’t want the current state of things to throw us off. Things are very chaste and feel serious. Meanwhile, my flirty partner from the other app has been blowing me up, sending some pretty hot pics and trying to get me to engage in some pretty tantalizing texts.
I almost feel like I’m being unfaithful to Jeff with this sideline banter; but Jeff and I only had one date! And I need what I can get right now — I live alone, quarantine is lonely! Am I a horrible person for keeping up this flirty texting while Jeff is trying to keep our spark alive?
In the movie “Almost Famous,” band fan Penny Lane frequently uses the phrase, “If this was the real world,” meaning if she and her pals weren’t living the fantasy life of rock stars, perhaps things would be different. Toward the end, antihero William is finally exasperated enough to point out, “This is the real world.” And so I will say to you, girlfriend, this world we’re living in, however strange it is? This is the real world.
If things hadn’t taken a viral wrong turn, who knows where you and Jeff might be right now? You could be on date five, already dreaming of cohabitation and dream vacations; or things might have dramatically nose-dived after date two, when he confessed to believing in tin-hat conspiracy theories, or you realized the way he loudly chews his food drives you crazy. There’s just no way to know. Because that’s not the world we’re in now. In this world, this real world, if you want to move a relationship forward and explore a serious connection, you’re going to have to get seriously creative and learn how to use FaceTime and Zoom to your benefit.
Some things have changed dramatically in these past few weeks. Some things shouldn’t change at all — like your morals, your values, and your general beliefs about the right way to treat people. You’ve got two games in play here and you need to decide which course to take: pursue a deeper connection to Jeff, or liven up the lonely nights with some salacious sexting.
Pretty sure the norms and unwritten rules of online dating go out the window when we hit quarantine mode. Heck, online dating communication is unexpected and uninhibited during regular times, but in our suddenly crazy world everyone’s bored out of their minds and dying of thirst. Singles, creepers and philanderers alike are casting their nets and sliding into DMs far and wide, desperately seeking a reply. Some are seemingly sweet like Jeff, some are riding the fine line of T.M.I. like flirty and dirty dude, some are playing it both ways like you. And you know what: that’s totally cool.
But no matter what plays out virtually over the next few weeks of hunkering down, daily life will (hopefully) get back to normal someday (soon). And when things do stabilize, it will be like the lights coming on at the club at 2:30 a.m. Everyone will be faced with the big, bright, harsh realities of all the things they’ve said and all the decisions they made when the room was dark, the music was pumping, the drinks were flowing, and the club was going wild.
When the stay-at-home orders start lifting and the bars and restaurants start opening and you are finally cleared to safely meet up and make out again, what position do you want to be in? Feeling guilty? Feeling like ghosting? Feeling fine and ready to wine and dine with a dozen different dudes? Let that thought be your guide as you negotiate the wild waters of messaging in the days/weeks ahead …