3. Love in the Time of Etc

18 June 2020

I was playing Call of Duty: Warzone with a friend I hadn’t talked to in a while when he started telling me about a woman he was dating: they had recently met on an app and their dates so far had consisted of going on chaste little walks together, 6 feet apart. I mentioned that I didn’t really see the point of dates if there’s no chance you’ll sleep with the person at the end of it, because I am a lizard-brained caveman, not someone who seeks to emulate Pride & Prejudice. He scoffed and asked if I’d even want to go on a date with someone who would be willing to break quar for a one night stand. I mumbled something about how like no of course not that would be like totally an unspeakable sin haha and I smoothly changed the conversation back to the call, as it were, of duty.

Despite what I wanted my friend to believe, I actually have broken quar a few times for sex. Look, this is a diary, you’re going to read things that make you think less of me. I don’t do it anymore but in the first few weeks I regularly saw this one cowboy with similar caveman tendencies. Beyond that I haven’t even entertained the idea of redownloading the dating apps.† What am I going to do? Go on a chaste little walk with someone who wants to talk about software? Kill me now!

I’ve leaned so far into my celibacy that I now watch Gilmore Girls. At some point while watching Rory bumble her way through relationships, I became curious how other single people were coping, so I asked the lonely masses on Twitter to DM me about their experiences, and many did! What I found interesting about those confessions was that, across the board, everyone felt exactly the same way. Either they hadn’t gone on any of these stupid little Zoom dates because they thought they’d be pointless, or they had gone on these dates and learned the hard way that they are indeed pointless. Everyone hates the aimless, indefinite texting. Everyone hates video calls. Everyone misses physical touch. More than a few people are ready to break quar for it. Hey, literally who am I to judge.

It’s a sad mix of desire and apathy. People are so ready for love! Or at least sex. Or even just a hug :( But everything is so scary and uncertain that it’s hard to reach out for any of this, so we stay inside and yearn. One night I had a dream I was on a date with someone, a complete dream-stranger, and our legs touched, and it was the most exciting thing I could imagine. Yearning is off the charts.

Ironically, or maybe not at all ironically but kind of interestingly enough, or maybe not even interesting but anyway I need to tie this in to the overarching narrative, about two weeks before quar I went on four different dates with four different people. In my actual diary, the one no one will ever have access to, I even wrote: “been really slutting it up this past week now that i think about it.” So that’s where I was at, mentally and spiritually, before quar. And now it may as well be illegal to so much as glance at someone else.

I miss being within 6 feet of someone (!) and talking without a mask, being able to read body language, maybe sharing a drink or a cigarette, not really knowing where the evening would take you. Just two bodies circling around each other getting closer and closer. Or maybe spinning further apart, but all the same, locked in this exciting dance.

I still talk to all those people from that hedonistic week. One of them, an artist with big eyes who gave me a tarot reading the morning after we met, told me that on dates there’s always that moment when the other person gives you a soft look and you suddenly know, you really know, that they want you. I knew exactly what he meant; I recognized that look, too. You can analyze all the flirty text messages and Instagram story reactions you want, but none of it matches the electric thrill of being around a real person and letting your bodies speak for you. Which I guess is really at the root of my issues with dating now. It’s not that it’s unbearably celibate, it’s that it’s unbearably cerebral. Who said what, and when, and how exactly? Did they like your Twitter post? What else are they liking on Twitter? How often do you text? What does this comment mean? And so on, and so on. This manic over-analysis existed before quar of course but it was balanced out by eventually being able to interact in the real world. Well we don’t have that anymore! It’s all ethereal nonsense on a digital screen and it will never compare to the feeling of being one body dancing around another body.

So no, I will not be going on a Zoom date anytime soon!!

† when I originally wrote this, a few weeks ago, I hadn’t yet downloaded Tinder; I have since downloaded it out of morbid curiosity. It’s not really doing much for me but it’s there, on my phone. Swipe swipe.