I Learned to Date in the Middle of a Pandemic
After a life spent avoiding dating and intimacy, I started to figure it out while the rest of the world was falling apart
It is June 9, and in another world not far from my own, people are continuing to protest over the death of George Floyd. People are continuing to die of Covid-19. Other people are enjoying brunch on a popular local restaurant’s patio, seemingly oblivious to the world on fire around them.
As for 31-year-old me, for the past two months, I’ve gone on more dates than I ever have before. After a lifetime spent avoiding dating and intimacy, the irony — and recklessness — of starting to date in the middle of a global pandemic is not lost on me. On this particular night, I am experiencing a very common — but no less awful — case of misread signals. I met Justin at a recent Black Lives Matter protest. Afterward, when I learned he had also been tear-gassed, I messaged him. We commiserated together and made plans to attend other protests. This particular evening — our first time hanging out alone — started with joking and gin and lots of music from our high school days. It ended with him awkwardly telling me he wasn’t interested in dating me and the realization that all those “signals” I thought I was getting from him were, in fact, nonexistent.
A little more than a year before that night, I was sitting in my therapist’s office. Dr. Hollingshead was holding up a sheet of paper where, in the top left corner, it said, “Situation: Dating.” Under it were four sections: “Thoughts,” “Feelings,” “Behavior,” and “Physical Symptoms.” Each is full of my own words that Hollingshead had written down as quickly as I dictated them. I still have the paper, filed away in my medical folder in my desk. Under the “Thoughts” section, I’m struck by one in particular: “This is too much work.”
If you’re afraid of elevators, the only way to get over that fear is to get in as many elevators as possible until it’s no longer terrifying. Dating is my elevator.
I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder as a teenager, but I had only ever done short stints in therapy. As…