Dating In The Time of Quarantine

My love life during quarantine…where do I even begin? I don’t think any of us thought that Covid-19 would wreck 2020 the way that it did. Jobs have been lost and people have been sheltering-in-place for months with no definitive end in sight—it’s so real y’all.

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But amongst all the chaos, some of us, namely me, have still been out here in these figurative dating streets trying to make fetch happen.

Pre-Quarantine

Before I dive into the details, it’s important to fill you in on the dating situation pre-lockdown. I’m a Black woman currently living in the Bay Area and working in tech (story of everyone’s life here). Although I’m happy with my career and have a healthy social life, the only thing I’ve been missing is bae.

There are four major things most of us come to realize when dating while Black in the Bay:

  1. Dating in the Bay is not Black. 

According to the most recent census, only 7% of the Bay Area’s population identifies as non-Hispanic Black or African American. As a transplant from Florida, this was a far cry from the south where the melanin overfloweth. The Black population accounts for over 50% of the population in some cities. In short, dating looks different out here and there may be some cultural gaps. I’ve learned how to have the conversation about my silk pillowcases, cabinets full of seasoning, love of Insecure, and everything in between. Oh, and my “is-he-down?” radar stays ready.

  1. Commitment is the new bubonic plague (or…coronavirus). 

People can barely commit to paying for Netflix every month let alone a whole relationship. This is why the dreaded “intentions” talk can be an instant mood kill. The notion of a traditional monogamous commitment doesn’t have a ring like it used to for the average 20/30-something-year-old single person. No one wants to be alone or feel lonely, but they also don’t want to fully commit which results in a lot of grey area situationships. Part of the reason is that there are…

  1. More Options

There are a lot more relationship options that make traditional monogamy look vanilla (e.g. ethical non-monogamy, polyamory, multiple kink partners, friends with benefits, etc.); depending on the relationship option, what commitment means and looks like can vary wildly.

  1. Issa struggle, period. 

Between trying to find someone that you have chemistry with, who makes their intentions clear, and has time to devote to dating outside of their career and hobbies, it’s safe to say that it’s hard out here in these streets.

Personally, my dating life pre-quarantine was non-existent. I had just gotten out of a complicated situationship last summer and took my time to heal, self-reflect, and better define what I wanted. At the start of this year, I decided to gradually dip my toes back in the dating water, and after a few duds, COVID-19 happened and the shelter-in-place order was issued. Great timing, I know.

Mid-Quarantine

There was a consensus amongst my friend group around at least one silver lining for Covid-19: the downfall of the proverbial fuckboy. Gone were the days when men could send a few basic messages, meet up with a girl, and expect to get lucky because he bought her a $7 mojito from the bar during happy hour. Now that we can’t meet up in person, men will care more about getting to know someone before trying to get physical, right? 

Ever the skeptic (and slightly out of touch with the dating scene), I wasn’t quite sold. But, willing to be proven wrong, I decided to test the virtual waters myself by downloading the not-so-holy trinity of dating apps: Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. 

dating while Black in quarantine

The type of men that I’ve actually encountered while dating during quarantine usually fit one of the following profiles: 

The One Night Standers

Description: Men who still only want to hook up (not that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic or anything). Instead of using the new-found plethora of time to enrich themselves, these are the same men posting on social media that they’re “Bored in the house and they’re in the house bored” and sliding into their ex’s DMs to “just check in”.
Commitment Level: Non-existent
Sample Message: “You tryna kick it at the park tonight and see where things go? I got a bottle.”

The Conversationally Challenged

Description: Men that were clearly not conversationalists before quarantine and have stayed true to that. They reply to messages with uninviting one-word responses, and the conversation feels like a one-way street that no one wants to be driving on.
Commitment Level: Unclear
Sample Messages:

Me: “Hi, how are you?”
Him: “Good.”
Me: “What are you up to today?”
Him: “Just work lmao
Me: “What do you do for fun?”
Him: “LOL why do you want to know?”
Me: *rolls my eyes and closes the app* 

dating while Black in quarantine

The Dirty Talkers

Description: Men that understand that hooking up is not an option at this time and have settled for finding a sexting partner (I guess Demon Time/OnlyFans weren’t doing it for them).
Commitment Level: Low
Sample Message: “Hey. You’re hot 🔥 What u wearing rn?”

The Secret Partners

Description: Men who try to make connections with women online that in some way, shape, or form already have a living, breathing partner but are not upfront about it in their profile or initial conversations. This ranges from men who claim they’re in “ethically non-monogamous” relationships, but are secretly looking for another partner for themselves, to married men that casually forget to mention their whole wife that things are “complicated” with. Yes, this happened to me, sigh, and they only revealed their secret partners after much prodding.
Commitment Level: Low/Medium
Sample Messages: “Why I avoided the question? Well I’m still in a relationship of sorts but it’s platonic. What does that mean? I’m technically married with kids and things are complicated with my wife. We’re kind of separated right now.”

The Needle in the Haystacks

Description: Men who are on the platform to make genuine connections. They clearly articulate what they want, and make sure intentions are aligned upfront. They usually come equipped with witty banter, quality conversation, and thoughtful exchanges. By the end of the conversation, you’re usually ready to exchange the digits.
Commitment Level: High
Sample Messages:  “What am I interested in now? A committed relationship. I’m trying to find someone who’s passionate about what they do, curious about the world, and isn’t afraid to laugh at themselves from time to time.”

dating while Black in quarantine

As you can see from the data, both my friends and I were wrong. While fuckboys still lurk in the weeds, quarantine dating is not the Sahara desert of options I originally painted it as. There’s a mix of different flavors of men on the quarantine virtual dating scene. Depending on what you’re looking for, there’s something for everyone. 

For the men I connected with, and went on “dates” with off the app, here are a few things that worked for me while virtual dating during Covid-19: 

  1. Video Chat Dates: They’re lowkey and you can do them in your sweatpants. Win/win really. Video chats offer a low-pressure environment to really get to know the person and see if there’s chemistry. If you’re not feeling it, cut it short and keep it pushing. I’ve had so much success with these that I plan to continue them as a first date screener even after quarantine is lifted.
  2. Virtual Activity Dates: Once you’ve established that both of you actually like each other and are more than the 5 pictures and 140 characters on your profile, moving to virtual activity dates is a good way to keep the momentum going. Some of my favorites are:
    1. Board games – There are plenty of online board games you can play remotely. Settlers of Catan and 7 Wonders Duel are my new jam *whispers* and they’re free.
    2. Movie nights – Hop on Netflix Party and watch your favorite movie together. Pro tip: video chat on mute while you watch so you can see the other person’s reactions and chat about the movie after.
    3. 21 questions – The segue from small talk to real talk that allows you to really get to know someone can be difficult. 21 questions is a fun and easy game to make that segue smoother.
    4. Zoom dinner dates – You gotta eat, right? A date where you both cook and eat dinner from your own homes is a cute and creative spin on the traditional “dinner date”. Plus, you can see when you have a little something something in your teeth in real time.Picking at food GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY
  3. Intentional conversations: Now that there aren’t as many distractions, it’s the perfect time to start flexing this muscle. I’m more comfortable with saying what I really mean and clearly communicating what I want/don’t want. I’ve created more meaningful connections with my potential quarantine bae and its a muscle I hope to keep flexing once quarantine is over.

The landscape of dating hasn’t changed much while in quarantine—we’re all still talking to a bunch of people on dating apps and never meeting up with them. But, the way I’ve approached it has changed. I’m more intentional about my interactions. I communicate more clearly, and I don’t hang on to things longer than I should. I’ve learned from my past dating experiences leading up to Covid-19, and its positioned me in a better place. Once I do find my needle in the haystack, I’ll be ready for them as much as they’re ready for me.

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