Love in the Time of COVID

Love During COVID

How does one find love during a time when human contact can be deadly? That question is extremely dramatic, I know, but the enduring and ostentatious nature of its framing doesn’t negate from the fact that it is true. We should always be cautious about the activities we participate in. The pandemic is no exception.

I am not actively trying to get me or others sick. But there comes a time in a person’s life when it’s been months since they have been on a date and people aren’t meant to be alone. Dating is both fun and vital to human survival. Romance is good, sex is essential, and love is amazing. Combine all three and you can have something that can ignite your world on fire in ways it hadn’t before. All of these activities inform the human condition. There are several obvious solutions at my disposal to resolve the issue of loneliness, and they are pretty straightforward: I can get a dating app and/or ask someone out on a goddamn date. But it’s not that simple. I would jump for joy if everyone’s risk assessment aligned with mine but we live in uncertain and unprecedented times. Not everyone comes to the same conclusion about safety through their experiences and knowledge.

COVID Fireworks

I work on the thin green line between humans and their food. At face value, it’s a pretty simple job, but when you dig deeper and you look at how “essential” employees are treated by the public it should gain more validity and respect. This has never been more obvious than during the pandemic. I can’t work from home like I did in my corporate life. I must deal with the public in a vulnerable way. Most customers I talk with day to day wear a mask and we take all the recommended precautions, but I still work for hours in a place that equates to a giant petri dish. I chose this job after taking time to write a book, but I didn’t foresee the circumstances of how I would earn my paycheck. And even months into the pandemic I didn’t expect for the fallout of my job to affect my love life.

We decided to meet up on the Fourth of July in a park near my place to have a few beers. There weren’t any city or state-sanctioned fireworks displays to attend so everyone decided to buy their own. As we sat in the park, drinking beer and talking about our lives and dreams and fears, the sound of bottle rockets and mortars was almost overwhelming. Our conversation cozied up inside the blanket of explosions all around. The resulting connection with our personalities during this strikingly different atmosphere for a date rang authentic. As a result, I felt the need to put myself out there and I asked if I could give her a kiss. She hesitated for a moment and turned the conversation to something that was on her mind.

COVID Fireworks

I expected the issue of coronavirus to come up during the night, so, I didn’t feel like the change in topic was awkward. She told me she wanted to kiss me, and she appreciated that I asked her first, but her concern with COVID was very real and my public facing job added another element to her hesitation. I could empathize with her apprehension because I had them also. But I wasn’t expecting that my job as an essential employee would be an additional hindrance to our unforeseen connection.

At my work, I interact with hundreds if not thousands of people per day, whether that consists of giving them masks as I count the people coming in or handling their groceries as they check out. It’s a higher risk, underpaid (in relation to the level of possible exposure) occupation that, until recently, was completely ignored. In the initial days of pandemic, the job was downright stressful, and riddled with anxiety. Early on, I needed to come to grips with the reality of my situation. I started writing about my experiences and people with the same fears gravitated towards my words. It’s was and is a great honor to give a voice to people who might feel invisible. Any fear that I did have was drastically reduced when I found a tribe of folks on the grocery line. It’s harder to be afraid in a group.

COVID Fireworks

My experiences from work have changed me; I’m a different person now than I was in January. I try to look back fondly on who I was a year ago, but really, I am right where I need to be. The young woman I went on a date with has worked from home for a few months. Her view on the dangers of this strange and insular time in our lives is naturally different than mine. I can not fault her for how she feels about going on dates with someone who constantly interacts with the public. Our risk retention levels are going to be different. Everyone is going through this whole experience with their own feelings and emotions.

On our second date, we went out for pizza followed by a stop a local brewery. The conversation was light and fun and our connection continued to blossom. But the issue of my job and the risks of COVID came up again after discussing different political issues at length. Despite spending four plus hours a few feet from me – without a mask – she wasn’t sure about touching or the physical nature of dating. I knew after our discussion that we weren’t on the same page. But we made plans for the next Sunday to hangout.

Over the course of the next few days, I thought about our conversations and her concerns and what they really meant for not only our dating future but also for other people with similar interactions and concerns. I decided that I needed more time, so I cancelled plans for Sunday and went to hang out with friends. She responded back with a text saying, “I’m totally fine with the cancelled plans, and I’m glad you’ll get to see your friends and family, but with you expanding your social circle, I’m struggling to see a safe path forward for us. I really like you and I think there is some real potential here, but maybe now just isn’t the right time for this. I hope you don’t delete my number and don’t be a stranger – maybe we could try this down the road.”

COVID Fireworks

I didn’t delete her number. We are still talking. My gut tells me that it’s not going anywhere. I don’t have money to date the way I would want with my $15 an hour job and our realities about the coronavirus reside across a vast canyon of different experiences. I agree with her conclusion that it probably isn’t the right time. But I’m left wondering if my job as an “essential” worker will continuously hinder my life from moving on. How will society go forward? Perhaps, the virus has infected us all on deeper levels than we expected. I’m old enough to know that this isn’t the last woman I will connect with during coronavirus times, let alone the years to come, but I learned a fair amount about the nature of trepidation in others through our time together. Fear of getting sick in the time of COVID is not equally distributed among those looking for love even though the virus does not discriminate.

One thought on “Love in the Time of COVID

  1. I am so sorry things didn’t work out with your new friend and sorry for the position you are in. I’m very pleased to be a part of your group, your tribe of folks. You are right, it’s harder to be afraid in a group and I am enjoying the friendships we are all forming. ❤

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