“It was our first date and I felt like a member of the Covid-19 task force talking to my date.”
Kevin (not his real name) is recounting the first date he had since the pandemic broke.
“Have you ever been tested for Covid-19? Will you wear a mask? Did you bring hand sanitiser? It was pretty awkward, really, but I am glad my partner agreed to that,” Kevin said, recalling the questions he and his date asked each other as they went on their first date.
The pandemic has given birth to a new way of dating.
For almost a year, many aspiring daters were unable to socialise face-to-face. As the restrictions became more flexible, many were eager to find someone to share the pandemic – or at least have a short few hours – with.
On the other end of the spectrum, Meri (also a pseudonym), a 23-year-old medical student, wants to keep following strict health protocols and has not seen her boyfriend since the pandemic began.
“I feel that it is safer that way, and my boyfriend’s parents are very strict about health protocols in general anyway,” she said.
Indeed, dating can be considered as the very activity that violates almost all of Covid-19 health protocols: we meet new people outside our social circle and we’re likely to take our masks off to converse, eat, or to be intimate. The whole idea of dating is about getting close to someone, a complete contrast to how we should be living our lives, according to health experts.
Dr Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist from the University of Indonesia (UI) said, “It would be better for everyone to have at least a rapid antigen swab test before going on dates.”
Kevin said he kept going on dates because he felt his “love language” changing.
“I used to like it when a partner gave me words of affirmation or presents. But during the pandemic, all I’ve gotten are affirmations through chats and calls, or presents sent through online delivery,” he explained.
For this reason, he was willing to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures to ensure safe in-person dating.
According to Dian Wisnuwardhani, a relationship expert and lecturer of psychology at UI, physical touch and giving gifts was one of the easiest ways to show affection.
“During this pandemic, however, people are forced to change their relationship behaviour. Something as simple as holding hands, is now probably not the wisest thing to do, due to the health protocols,” she explained.
“So, I think more people will try to get to know their partners first before eventually asking for a physical connection.”
After meeting in-person frequently, Kevin and his partner did experience what he called a “Covid-19 scare”.
“My partner’s sister-in-law tested positive, my partner did not, but as a precautionary measure, we chose to isolate ourselves,” he said.
Meri, on the other hand, has never experienced a Covid-19 scare – a move that also comes at a price.
“It feels like (my boyfriend and I) have a long-distance relationship, even though we live in the same city. We text and call, voice and video chat every day, but the very moment I put down my phone, I feel empty. It feels like he’s not there anymore,” Meri said.
A study done by the European Psychiatric Association showed that while quarantining, self-isolation and social distancing do help to contain the pandemic, it does have a huge impact on mental health, especially due to increased loneliness.
Hence, it is advised that people break the isolation by still communicating with others with precautionary measures in place.
“We have seen an increase of people that feel lonely, depressed and suicidal during this pandemic, both nationally and internationally. Humans are social beings, after all,” Dian said.
In a way, it seems like dating is one’s method to survive in this pandemic – not to survive from the virus but rather to ensure their sanity and mental health. The matter of Covid-19 infection, scare or risk will be decided later on by one’s obedience to the health protocols.
Dian agreed that being physically intimate with your partner will obviously make you happy. But, she also said that romance in a relationship is not only defined by physical touch.
“There are still other things that can spark our relationship during this pandemic,” Dian said.
For Kevin, however, the sacrifice of acting like a member of the Covid-19 task force on a date seemed to have paid off.
Of his relationship with his date, he announced, “We have been together ever since!” — The Jakarta Post/ANN