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Edward Celaya: Dating, in the time of coronavirus
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Edward Celaya: Dating, in the time of coronavirus

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Edward Celaya, staff opinion writer at the Arizona Daily Star. May 30, 2019

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

The worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19 has changed how we relate to one another, and the long-term effects are just starting to be sorted out. From the way we travel to how we interact on a day-to-day basis; every micro- and macro-interaction needs examination.

Apparently, the first, most important thing my editors wanted me to examine was: How are young, single people dating when they can’t really meet up? In response, and with apologies to Gabriel García Márquez, I’ve come up with a look at Dating, in the Time of Coronavirus.

Personally, I can report that I’m finding my way through each day just fine without a live-in partner or girlfriend. Sure, self-quarantine can be a little lonely at times, but much like the ’90s had a “pill for that,” the 2020s offer an app for such unwanted emotions.

As a somewhat-handsome-ish young man in my early 30s, dating apps are not a new thing for me or others of my generation but may need explaining for those less familiar with the matchmaking technology.

These apps include more popular brand names like Tinder, Bumble and Facebook Dating, as well as a slew of other niche or catered experiences, such as Christian Mingle and Fetlife. Bonus points to you for finding a way to use those last two together.

In an age where meeting someone at the grocery store or laundromat is fraught with more than just the embarrassment of using a bad pickup line (and meeting someone at a bar is a literal impossibility) these apps have proliferated.

As evidence, Tinder CEO Elie Seidman told the BBC in an interview that the app experienced its largest volumes of swipes worldwide ever on March 29, around the time U.S. states were joining their counterparts around the world.

Most of these apps function by letting users see one another’s profile pictures and a short personal description. Red flags to look for here include profile photos claiming to be the person you’re meant to match with but clearly depicting a celebrity who does not live in Tucson, and failure to list one’s height.

If you like what you see, you “swipe right” and hope that your newfound crush does the same while perusing pictures of you in San Diego, or in front of the Golden Gate Bridge after a 7-mile hike, or on Santa-themed bar crawl down Fourth Avenue.

If they do swipe right, you are both now a “match” and can freely message each other about your purely surface-level attractions and similarities. Lord Byron had nothing on this.

Once you’ve matched, it’s time for the courtship, or as the kids nowadays call it, “text messaging.” You’ll want to introduce yourself and break the ice while also sympathizing with your match’s plight during these difficult times. An opening line along the lines of, “Hey (match’s name), nice to meet you. How’s your evening, and end of the world, going?” might be something you can use.

Once you’re able to make it past the initial awkward texting phase that includes a hashing out of where you grew up, why you majored in journalism and why you actually love living in Tucson and get to know the person you match with, the hard part comes: figuring out how to meet up for a first date.

First dates are already tricky without having to consider state and federal guidelines saying you shouldn’t even be talking to strangers right now. But we humans are a clever bunch. Leave it to millennials and Gen Zers to find a way to eliminate face-to-face interaction while still being able to hang out.

Many, counting myself, have taken to the unheard-of-three-months-ago-but-now-ubiquitous video chat app Zoom to meet our matches. The dates play out much like the video meetings many are familiar with now, with the same occasional delays and glitches in audio, but without the hassle of having to pass your alcoholic beverage off with a coffee mug.

While not the ideal forum for meeting anyone, my first and only social-distanced date did go well enough to warrant a second, in-person meeting. Exactly when that will happen, or what the young lady saw in me, is still in question.

What isn’t in question is that dating, and for that matter the world, are changing. Probably forever. Just like the automobile, radio and phone changed how dating worked, so, too, have Zoom, Skype and FaceTime.

Just let your date know when you meet in person that the Zoom camera adds 10 pounds.

Edward Celaya is an opinion writer with the Arizona Daily Star and producer of the Star’s podcast “The Point Being.”

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