Guess when the worst time to break up with someone is? I’ll tell you: Mere days before a global pandemic shuts down nearly every aspect of normal life, leaving you stuck at home to pine over the person you just ended things with.
In the first few days of quarantine, my mind was a ticker-tape repeating the same few questions: Was it the right decision? Should I have done that? Do I really miss him? There’s truly nothing like moving back into your childhood bedroom with nothing to do but bake bread, binge Netflix and drink wine that will cause you to second-guess ending a relationship that you were so sure was the right choice just a few days earlier.
Fast forward a few weeks of wallowing and I’d come to my decision: There was no chance of reconciliation. At that point, the guy in question had packed up his apartment and left town—one of many decisions that had led to our break up in the first place—and long distance just wasn’t in the cards for us. So, it was time to pour another glass of wine and log onto the dating apps. Yet again.
At first, it felt exhilarating to be back in the dating game. I started imagining a new, exciting future with the guy who would take me on a grand adventure, at least based on the way he was smiling in that hiking pic. And oh, what would life be like if I ended up with the mogul who lived in a massive modern loft? Or maybe he was just taking a selfie at his friend's super cool apartment. Either way, it was unclear when I’d get to go on an actual date with any of the handsome (and yeah, not-so-handsome) faces I was now swiping on.
Then the first few conversations started rolling in. “How’s your quarantine going?” asked Brad. “Keeping entertained in isolation?” John inquired. “How are you staying busy these days?” Glen wrote. Yes, they were all curious about the one thing we all had in common: being stuck inside. I learned pretty quickly that I had no desire, whatsoever, to discuss the minutiae of my newly homebound life with anyone. Especially someone who I was meeting for the first time, albeit via dating app. And were they copy and pasting that same question to every girl they matched with? I had a feeling the answer was a resounding yes.
Don’t vilify me, but I left most of those dudes on read. I was more interested in the men who asked me questions about the prompts in my profile, like my perfect food (a chocolate chip walnut cookie from Levain Bakery) and what I’d do with $1 million dollars (go to Mars, on a budget trip). One of those people was Max, who hooked me with his questions about my unabashed cookie obsession. It sparked quite a bit of witty banter between us and continued on for the next few days.
With Max, my mundane Tuesdays and boring AF Saturday nights felt better. I was actually excited to see if Max had messaged me. He eventually sent me his number, suggesting it might be easier to text than message in the app. Ah, the first step towards...something.
For the next few days, we’d send each other funny articles, complain about how moving back in with our parents wasn’t exactly the dream and comparing notes on how our workdays had been. Eventually, Max asked me if I wanted to hop on the phone. A phone date, if you will. I, admittedly, felt a little nervous. And also a little silly telling friends I couldn't make our usual Zoom hang, as I was busy that evening. I had a “date.” I sat on the edge of my bed and dialed his number. And our first call was fine. Save for the fact that our phones kept cutting out and every 15 minutes or so he’d ask, “Are you there? Can you hear me? I think you’ve cut out.” Then he’d hang up and call me back. That awkward start and stop happened a few times before we agreed that we’d finish our chat another night.
But still, it gave me plenty of time to get to know him. Like how he was really into storm chasing and was looking for a partner who would be willing—or even excited—to seek out tornadoes with him. For a moment, I entertained the idea. I saw myself heading to some Midwestern no man’s land plagued with twisters, adorned in surprisingly chic adventure gear (perhaps a safari jacket and smart sneakers) and discreetly whispering updates to Max into a walkie talkie (not quite sure why this part of the vision took place in the nineties). But then I learned that Max usually sleeps in his car during his storm chasing trips, sometimes up to a week at a time, and that dream was quickly squashed. I’m much more of a cute boutique hotel girl myself.
But we still kept up with our texting and calling, both sweetly admitting that we enjoyed talking to each other. Though slowly, I started realizing that we didn’t have all that much in common. I felt like I was grasping at straws when it came to sparking a conversation with him, not quite sure what common ground there was to touch on—or if he’d care to know how good my avocado toast for breakfast was. But when I half-heartedly mentioned that we should do a FaceTime date next, Max jumped at the opportunity. I guess I was just bored, looking for something or someone to fill the blank hours of quarantine.
So, we set the date, and unlike an actual date, I didn’t even get ready. Sure, I made sure to schedule it on a day when I would be wearing makeup. But I didn’t read any of those cute stories about what to wear for your first Zoom date. I had the feeling that this guy wasn’t going to even brush his hair for our call, so why should I show up in some outfit that required more effort than necessary.
My hunch was right, and my Led Zeppelin tee was perfectly in-tune with his faded sweatshirt and overgrown—and definitely not brushed—hair. Once again, our conversation was just fine. It wasn’t revelatory, it wasn’t laced with lust or dripping with sex appeal. And you know what I learned? How damn easy it is to notice when someone is scrolling the web while using their computer to FaceTime. Yup, this dude was reading articles or checking out Instagram or maybe Googling whatever I was talking about. But it was wildly clear that he wasn’t focusing his attention on me or what I was saying.
If this happened at our first proper date, which I imagine would happen at some dark but cute wine bar in Manhattan, I’d definitely tease Max out for looking anywhere but at me. But it didn’t feel right to do that with screens between us. Suddenly, it hit me, this whole thing with Max was going to be a lot harder than I’d anticipated. There was going to be a lot of nuances and a lot of things swept under the rug—unless I was willing to put in double the effort I would in a face-to-face relationship. And what happens if I put all that effort into making us work, only to learn there’s no spark between us when we finally meet IRL? Let’s be real, my life isn’t a cute-but-messy episode of Love Is Blind.
After just one Zoom date, I realized that I’m not interested in using my time in quarantine to meet the love of my life. And that’s OK. Much like the influencers who are being ridiculed for turning Coronavirus into time to brag about shedding pounds or “perfectly” designed to-do lists, putting pressure on myself to fall in love during a global pandemic just feels off. Sure, it would make a great story to tell the grandkids, but I’d much prefer to experience love without screens and to go on a first date that includes the excitement of getting to really know a new person, first kisses, brushing knees under the table and holding hands included.
So, Max and I never had another FaceTime date. Much like almost everything else in my life, dating is currently on pause. When it feels time to safely head back into the world, maybe it will feel like the right time to meet someone new. Until then, you can find me baking and binging Netflix—and FaceTiming people who pay attention to me when I speak.