By Anne Johnakin
On May 18, the New York Times published an op-ed by Nayeema Raza called “What Single People Are Starting To Realize.” In short, Raza details her worries about the post-quarantine world of socially-distanced dating, especially as a single person. Because of the coronavirus, Raza and many others have come to the realization that they don’t want to die alone. I’ve made the opposite realization: I’m perfectly happy to.
Raza describes this Brave New World of dating that we find ourselves in, relying only on video chats and dating apps. Certainly, now is not the time of fairytale first kisses - masks and the promise of two weeks of quarantine make that kind of difficult. It’s a daunting world to be a part of, and like most other single people, I find myself lonelier than I’ve ever been. A common reaction to this is to double down on your search for that special someone, or really, just anyone you can ride out the end of the world with.
While that is one very real truth that I am living, the much more poignant one is that I never realized just how much of me takes up my life. Going into quarantine with no real experience dating, I’m not really missing something I’ve never had. But at the same time, I’m realizing just how unnecessary the whole dating thing just may be. In this world where I have no one but myself, I find that I am enough. Enough to soothe my worries and my fears. Enough to nurture my hopes and dreams. There is love in my life even in the absence of romantic love. Before all this, I never knew the depth with which I could feel for myself.
In her article, Raza mentions that times of crisis are, for better or worse, ‘relationship accelerators.’ “Unhappy marriages lurch to divorce. Young lovers rush to cohabitate on a third date. And single people realize: I don’t want to die alone,” Raza says. Add this to the never ending societal pressure to find your ‘perfect person’ and COVID has people feeling like they’re miles behind in the rat race of life. Or at the very least, that’s how I feel. I had a few set plans for these next 10 years, and top of that list was finding “the one.” I imagine and reimagine COVID’s ripple effect on my life, for example: What if I was going to meet my soulmate in KAF 20F, but now that’s impossible? Maybe my inner dramatist is showing, but it can feel like any hope of living a perfectly paced life is lost.
At the same time, I’ve learned that the relationships I miss most are those I’d taken for granted. With so much emphasis placed on finding my romantic soulmate, I’d forgotten about my friends who’d always been there. I think in general we tend to place friendships lower on the ladder than romantic relationships. While I constantly preach that platonic love can be just as powerful as romantic love, I forget to live my life with those priorities. COVID woke me up in a lot of respects, but it especially forced me to realize just how important my friendships are. We covet romantic relationships so much, often without realizing the immeasurable support and love from friends that make our romantic pursuits possible. It’s been my zooms with friends that have gotten me through quarantine, not awkward virtual dates.
This last year has been tough for all of us. It’s unrealistic to hold ourselves to a standard of life that was created without a worldwide pandemic in mind. It can feel like the prime of our youth, the prime of our dating years are wasting away, but I think it’s important to cut ourselves a break. You are doing the best you can, and when everything else has gone off the rails, I think maybe it’s time for us to embrace a new reality of dating. Maybe it’s not written in the stars, maybe it’s okay to be a bit late to the finish line.
Of course, I’d love a hug and a kiss just as much as the next person. I am human after all. I don’t fault any of us for needing and wanting companionship. But when I come out of quarantine, when the masks are boxed away at the top of my closet and my hand sanitizer is once again relegated to the bottom of my purse, I’m not going to be running to find someone to love, some mystery man to fix my life. The people I’ll be running to are the ones I knew before the world went to hell and back.
At the end of the day, I’m surviving this pandemic alone. Just like I’ll survive every day after it. And when my time finally comes, I’ll die alone too.