Is Love Still Possible in 2020?
This video is an honest look at what the near future of dating could look like for you if you’re single right now.
Even as parts of the world open up again, a vaccine appears to be at least 8-12 months away. That means that for about another year, there will be some significant implications for our dating lives…
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Recently, I was asked to do an interview where I was part of a panel with an anthropologist, an epidemiologist, and then there was I, the love-pologist.
We were there to talk about the impact that all of this is going to have, not just on dating and love now, but on the future of dating.
The epidemiologist was asked, “What constitutes safe when we’re out there dating right now?” And her answers amounted to, “There’s no way to know that you’re safe if you were to meet someone in person right now, and that’s going to be the case until we have a vaccine.”
So, on behalf of single people everywhere, I volunteered the question, “Are you talking about us being celibate until there’s a vaccine?”
And she said, “Well, no, you might be able to meet up with someone in person if you are able to really trust that that person hasn’t been around lots of other people, hasn’t been to any events, any gatherings. At that point, maybe you might meet up with that person and be six feet apart.”
Which then of course begs another question, which is at what point do you decrease the distance from six feet to something more romantic?
We are now introduced, aren’t we, to a different layer of complexity in dating, as single people? The complexity before was, how do I discern someone’s intentions? Do they want a relationship? Do they not? Are they looking for the same thing as me? Are they just looking to play around? Well now, we’re not just trying to discern intentions, we’re trying to discern the state of someone’s health. Whether they are a carrier or not. That is a difficult thing to think about.
We used to think about that, and still do, of course, in the context of sex. At the point of sleeping with someone, we would, of course, want to know whether they had any STDs that we needed to be concerned about. We’d use protection.
Now, we’re not talking about it at that intimate stage, we’re having to figure out certain things about each other before we even go on a date. Have you been around people? Think about that. Not, have you slept with anyone unprotected. Have you been around people. In which case, I’m more concerned about meeting up with you.
So what happens as things begin to open up again, and we start trying to figure out how to navigate our dating lives? It’s a time when it’s going to be even more confusing because people are going to have all sorts of different standards about this.
We’re already seeing this, not just between cities and states, because that gets stereotyped, doesn’t it? This state is behaving really badly. This state’s doing a really good job. This state is taking it too seriously. There’s all of that side of it. But even within neighborhoods, door to door, people have different beliefs. I don’t know if you’ve had the experience of talking to a neighbor or someone who’s close to you and realizing that person has a completely different belief system about this whole thing than you do.
We don’t date a city or a state. We date door to door. We date the person who lives in that house or that house, who might have a different opinion on what “safe” is or how necessary it is to even worry about any of the guidelines that are given to us.
That’s the part we’re going to have to navigate, when we talk about what have you been up to? How have you been spending your time in quarantine? Have you been around lots of people? Are you still seeing friends?
When things open up and you decide you do feel comfortable enough with the way somebody else has been acting in their own life that you want to meet up with them in person, there will be a moment where the two of you see each other on that date and you may have decided for yourself, I’m not going to hug this person right now. I’m going to have a six-feet-apart date. In which case, that could potentially be an awkward moment, but it doesn’t have to be.
Communicating your standards is something that can be done elegantly in a charming and warm way. You could see that person walk through the door and say, “I would normally hug you, but I’m trying to be careful right now. And I’m close to my family and I live with them or I see them often so I’m being super careful. But just know that I would normally be hugging you. And you look very handsome in that shirt.”
Now in that, you’re doing many things. You’re saying, I’m close to my family and, therefore, look what a kind and caring person I am that I’m worried about them too and I’m being safe for their purposes. You’re saying, I have a standard that I’m bold enough and confident enough to communicate to you without dancing around it or making things awkward. And I’m also giving you a compliment: I’m telling you, you look handsome just in case you thought that I didn’t find you attractive.
If we’ve decided what our standard is right now or what we’re OK with and what we’re not OK with, which ideally we should decide ahead of time, not on the spot arbitrarily simply based on how handsome the person in front of you is, we can have made a decision about what we’re going to do without trying to be right. Just because you’ve made a decision, it doesn’t mean you need to be right.
I think we’re living in a time where everyone is trying to be right about the decision they’ve made instead of accepting that I’ve decided something for now based, to the best of my ability, on the information that I’ve gotten. I don’t know if I’m right. I don’t know if three months from now, I’m going to look back on the things that I did to be safe today and think that was overkill. That was way too much. I don’t know, I might. But this is the decision I’m making right now. I don’t know if me not hugging you is really protecting my mom, but I care about my mom, and based on what I’ve heard, this is what I’m going to do right now.
We don’t have to be right to have made a decision for now. And all of us can reserve the right to look back on that decision and think it was too much or too little, or to change our mind about that decision at any point in time. That’s our prerogative at any point.
A little humility will actually help a lot of this, because instead of me defending my position and saying, “Well, I can’t believe you’re doing this. And I can’t believe you’re doing that”, we can simply say, “This is what I’ve chosen to do for me. And this is what I’ve chosen to do for the people around me.” That stops something from becoming dogma, from becoming a political position that we take against somebody else, and instead allows us to communicate about those things while still respecting our own boundaries.
You know what I think it’s going to happen?
Firstly, people are still going to find a way of sleeping with other people.
There will be a disproportionate bias towards known entities: the people that you already know, the people you’ve already slept with, your ex, the person you’ve been on a few dates with, the person you already trust. Even if that person hurt you before, even if that person was not right for you, you’ll find a way to justify going back to that person because the activation energy for going back to that person will be lower. It will simply be easier to go back to that person than to go online, meet someone new, develop enough trust to meet up with that person in person, because you now believe that they have been pretty careful so now you’re with them and now sleeping with them feels like a kind of a decision. Kind of a, oh, I’m really making a decision here. If I kiss you or sleep with you, I’m almost committed to whatever you have or don’t have. It seems like more of a decision. I do think that there’ll be a propensity to go for the people we already know.
And where people don’t have someone they already know that they can go to, I think that in the near future of dating, as people date, there may be an inclination towards less promiscuity. There may be an inherent squeamishness against sleeping with multiple people and it might, frankly, become more selective. Do I really like you? Do I really want to take the risk with you?
There’ll also of course be differences in people’s situations. People who have weakened immune systems or prior conditions are going to have to be more careful when they date. People who live with their parents might find themselves having to be more careful than a dater who lives alone and has no one to worry about but themselves.
All these things are going to play into it.
And, of course, there will be certain people who disregard all of it and simply do what they want to do when they want to do it. I think those people will reveal themselves pretty quickly. The person who meets you online today and then says, “Shall we get together? Do you want to do something tomorrow?” But also says, “I don’t normally do this.” It’s kind of like the person who sleeps with us in five seconds and says, “I never do this.” And you go, “Was I really that great in the first five seconds? Could I really have been that charming in the first hour of meeting you that you’re just sleeping with me right now?” It’s the same thing. I think we’re going to know fairly quickly if someone is very liberal about meeting up with lots of people.
But if you do want some encouragement, consider this:
There are many, many, many, many, many, many, many wonderful single people, just like you, who also want to find a relationship and find themselves stuck at home, figuring out where that next right person is going to come from. The single people of the world did not vanish. They are still there and they want to meet you.
And, a lot of people who were in relationships a few months ago are now broken up because they’ve realized that the person they’re with is a nightmare to live with. So they’re on the market too.