Q. Since COVID started, I haven’t gone on too many dates. I went on a few dates last year after getting vaccinated. However, after reading about all the breakthrough infections and about vaccinated people getting long COVID, I stopped dating. I’m now extremely cautious. I wear a mask in public and avoid dining in restaurants and places with crowds. It seems like this will go on for a while.
How will I be able to date again in this environment? If I go on dates, I’ll have to eat in restaurants and go to places with crowds. I’ll have to be mask-free in public. This is all part of dating. It’s unavoidable. So how can one date in these circumstances?
DATING DURING COVID
A. There are people out there who have to be more cautious about COVID than others. Some are high-risk or live around high-risk people. Some just want to avoid getting sick, which is OK. You are not alone in this.
1. I don’t see why dating requires crowds. Dating can involve walks, outdoor meals, visiting someone’s home when you’re comfortable, etc. It doesn’t have to be a concert at Patriot Place (I’m placing you around Boston for this answer).
2. Dating can involve masks. I mean, not for kissing. But let’s say you walk through South Station with a date, maybe to get to a beer garden on the Greenway (maybe during a less-crowded hour), and you notice there are a lot of people, so you put on a mask. Not a big deal.
3. I am still encouraging people to have Zoom/FaceTime dates. A lot of people wouldn’t have considered having them before COVID (if they even knew of Zoom), but now this kind of screen time seems like a great step toward dinner. You can be comfortable in your own home, wearing the leisure pants of your choosing. You don’t have to worry about how to get home or who’s paying. It can be spontaneous and fun. Ask people for that kind of first date and go from there.
4. Everyone’s comfort level is so different. Some of the best people in my life start the planning process with the question “What’s comfortable for you?” What a great way to say, “Hey, I know we’re all in different places with this. Where can we meet in the middle?” Use that line.
5. I think part of the confusion with COVID is that even the people who describe themselves as careful have their own rules about what that means. I told someone I went to my favorite salad bar, and this person was like, “You went to a salad bar???” The thought of a shared bar of food freaked them out. It does not freak me out. I wore a mask, got that salad, and ate it — and it was perfect.
I flew on a plane before some friends were willing. I feel weird about taking a mask off in an empty parking garage, but I will sit 2 feet from someone at an outdoor restaurant. I can’t match all of my feelings to the science ... and my rules change by the week.
The point is, a lot of people are like this — just feeling it out. You want someone who understands that and can have empathy. If someone rejects you because they have no interest in dealing with these questions, they’re not right for you anyway. And that’s OK.
Get on the apps (or whatever you use to date) and be honest about who you are, what you like, what makes you great, and also what makes you comfortable. Then listen and make decisions. That’s all you can do.
If you are that worried about it, there are plenty of things you can do outdoors to avoid crowds. It’s not as difficult as you seem to want to make it.
“If I go on dates, I’ll have to eat in restaurants and go to places with crowds. I’ll have to be mask-free in public.” You don’t have to do any of those things. Put in your profile that you want to stay outdoors and wear a mask. It will limit the responses that you get, but you wouldn’t be compatible with the other people anyway.
Go for a hike, go for a run ... heck, go for a walk around the block! The weather is getting nicer and patio dining is returning. COVID is not a reason to not date.
Yes, COVID is still here and rising in some places. A friend of mine just tested positive on Friday and he was vaxxed. But like many other letter writers, you are giving the extreme either-or scenarios. No, you don’t HAVE to eat in a restaurant to date; and you don’t HAVE to go mask-free in public. There’s a happy medium where you can get to know new people in public areas ... such as walks or picnics. There are ways to be relatively safe [nothing is 100 percent] while meeting new people. Once you have met someone that you want to get serious with, then the two of you can discuss what you’re comfortable with. Maybe it’s going to a movie during off-peak times and wearing a mask; maybe it’s going to restaurants and sitting outside. Everyone’s threshold is different, but there are ways to get to know people either one-on-one or in less-crowded areas.
My partner and I started dating during the height of the pandemic, pre-vaccine, and we were able to navigate the challenges by communicating with each other and being honest about what we were comfortable with and what we wanted. You just have to be creative with dates and talk to each other. Granted, we do go to restaurants and weddings and such now, but ... to each their own, I suppose.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.