Opinion: Today’s Dating Pickle

By Cindy Julia Tobing
14th July 2020
Dating has always been synonymous with going out. Now that lifestyle establishments are being mandated, associate editor Cindy Julia Tobing ponders on how the dating landscape may have changed forever, making one reevaluate the significance and value of in-person experiences.

To humour you, this is my current Bumble activity in a nutshell: swiping left, swiping right, turning on the snooze mode (hiding your profile for a period of time) and repeat.

Talking to a new match is always exciting at first. Throughout lockdown, however, I found myself losing interest and the energy to keep up with the conversation, rather quickly. The pattern would either be a series of small talk with no directions or, simply a matter of  ‘“obliga-swiping” (getting matches for a buzz). Even for the ones I consider a ‘real deal’, I’d back out before any connection can happen. My go-to defence? “If we can’t meet anytime soon, then what’s the point?”

Dating has always been synonymous with the act of going out; like dining at that new restaurant everybody hypes over or visiting exhibitions while knowing squat about art, down to the classic movie date at the cinema. 

Now that public spaces have become regulated, today’s dating landscape may have just changed forever. During the stay-at-home period, many have had to get creative and turned to the virtual world; from Zoom dates and playing games on Houseparty, they’re certainly the closest way to compensate, but I think we can all agree that the physical payoff differs by a mile. And while this arrangement may work out for some people, video call first dates can be a disaster waiting to happen for the rest (guilty). 

I asked my close friend, Shadrina Denaya, on how this situation has affected her relationship with her partner of almost four years. She immediately pointed out the drastic difference in the level of intimacy when they finally met after the PSBB (large-scale social restrictions) policy was lifted.

“The physical void in our relationship is very felt during this pandemic. I have only realised this when I met him after months of talking through phone and video chat,” says Shadrina. “Now, going out requires extra planning. I used to not care about where to meet up, but now, I find myself planning things ahead so I can make the most of our date. When we want to be intimate, we also have to get used to being as hygienic as possible. It’s definitely a real change, but this is the trade we all have to accept.” 

Like Shadrina, this situation has forced me to question things that I thought will always be accessible to me – in this case, the ability and privilege to go out and meet people. I’ve always underplayed the importance of physically meeting one another, and the benefit it brings to a person’s well being. I also never think about the value of public spaces as a stomping ground where interactions, connection and intimacy can happen. 

Into this transition phase, couples are starting to meet up, and it’s an amusing sight to behold; talking through face masks, sitting in distance from each other. It’s strange to think that this is what the dating scene is going to look like for the time being, a further signal on how in-person experiences will possibly never return to the way they were. Our perception of public spaces – from the places we go routinely to the ones that bear sentimental values-  may also change with them being overshadowed by rules and safety protocols in place.

Today, going out and meeting people means having cautious heed and an instinct to be fully alert at all times – something that I’ve begun to see unconsciously ingrained in how I carry out my activities. I foresee this shift further translating to every aspect of our lives, including dating in the era of the pandemic. It’s different and uncomfortable, and whether you’re ready to get back out there or not, this is the pickle that we all have to be okay with at the moment.