“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.…” So begins the first line of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera, a classic saga about connection and love at long last revealed and returned.
Love in the Time of Corona is much different- especially the finding love part. The staying in love part is a whole other blogpost for those who are quarantined with their significant others. We’ll get to that, but tonight, we’ll start here- right at the beginning.
Behaviorists point out to the surge of sign ups on dating apps as proof that no matter what, our human instinct is to connect. Time magazine reports that the need for attachment is like breathing. We cannot escape it. Bumble has seen a 93% increase on video call usage averaging about 14 minutes which is a pretty long call for people who are strangers. This is astonishing since most of their users didn’t even know there was a video call feature!
How do you go from a hook up culture to whatever it is we are now? A good friend of mine put it best when she said, all of the rules have changed. Now, people have to woo someone with words. They actually have to communicate like talk on the phone, text, and whatever meeting platform of their choice. Dating apps like Bumble and Hinge have demonstrated that people have redefined their whole way of communicating. “’Sup?” is replaced with actual conversations. And, though sexting is still commonplace, it is no longer the first volley. If this isn’t, then what is? With the risk of sounding redundant… actual conversation is.
This has added an unintended positive consequence for women who report feeling that there is a higher feeling of safety and surety. One of my students told me that she was always uncomfortable with dating apps because there was pressure to move too far, too fast. Now, she tells me, she feels like she is really getting to know people because they are talking about less superficial things. She said, “I’m talking to people about politics, what their passions are and what they want to do in the world. I don’t think this would happen normally.”
I’m a generation removed from the dating app, no-strings-no-definitions-no-rules situations so it’s not so shocking to me that conversation is the “new” seduction. I’m a writer. The surefire way to seduce me is through words. Full disclosure, the hardest I’ve ever fallen in love has been with someone who helped grow my ideas and sharp enough to keep up with my wit (and that takes a pretty extensive vocabulary). It seems communication and connection have become the pathways to relationships. And yes, I used the “r” word because apparently, it’s come back in fashion. I’m getting ready to use another “r” word, too- romance. We are potentially entering a new era of romance. My own anecdotal proof is in the fact that my lone book of love poetry is sold out and I’ve had to digitize. Apparently, if one cannot find their own words, they can borrow others. The role of the poet has suddenly is fast becoming its own type of essential worker.
As long as social distancing is the social norm, virtual dates, WhatsApp messages and FaceTime liaisons will continue to be how people will fall and stay in love. It might be one of the best things that comes out of this situation- the ability to connect authentically based on getting to know the other person. And, maybe this may be the opportune time to learn about ourselves as well.