From "covidivorce" to "coronalingus" - in this week's instalment, our Girl in Luxembourg ponders the (changed) notion of love in times of a global pandemic.
‘Did it hurt when you fell?’
‘Ummm...what ? Fell from where?’
‘Heaven, cause you look like an angel to me. Can I buy you a drink?’
This ancient ritual of procuring a mate is no longer practiced or acceptable (was it ever?) in a post-covid world - the proximity of a stranger, the possible contamination of beverage handling, the chance that a microdroplet of saliva would hit you in the face as they delivered such a pick-up line - all too high a risk to take. Coronavirus has eradicated the cheesy pick-up, in fact it’s eradicated the bar scene full-stop in some cases - so how does one navigate this new world when it comes to matters of the heart?
The pandemic brought the world closer together despite the closing of borders, the joy or should I say the despair of a universal communal experience is powerful. We shared our new normal through memes, quarantine tiktoks, zoom calls, online gaming platforms, quizzes, Netflix parties - the list goes on. Things often feel more bearable when you know everyone is going through it, and love lives are no different.
The new nuances of ‘Love in the time of Corona’ emerged across the world, ‘covidivorce’ sprung up in China, the country experienced a sharp incline in divorce applications when things began to open up there in April.Whilst China is one of the easiest countries in the world to get divorced in, the government had to step in and introduce a 30-day ‘cooling-off period’ between the application and recognition of the split. Now, as governments around the world loosen their restrictions, divorce lawyers prepare for a swift rise in demand for the dreaded covidivorce.
Over in Japan there are new innovative ways to ‘Quarandate’, the Japanese have taken to drive-through omiai (matchmaking), kind of like a drive-thru McDonalds minus the food, as singles flirt with each other from their cars in empty car parks.
Globally, sexting has exploded exponentially, everyone knows I love a good play on words but the Economist has beaten me to it with the newly coined ‘coronalingus’, or the more tasteful term of ‘farplay’.
Like the inquisitive (read nosey) person that I am, I gathered up insights aplenty on what ‘Love in the time of Corona’ looks like. Different perspectives and situations but ultimately all sharing the same goal : to love and be loved during the uncertain times of a global pandemic.
The tinder-trotting expat
The people here where I live are generally quite shy and so it’s difficult to develop a relationship culturally from my European perspective - I’m an African-European expat in Asia so it's definitely a whole different approach even without Covid-19.
Single life during quarantine, it’s been funny - here in Asia it started quite a bit before Europe. We knew it was coming, I’m telling you everybody and I mean everybody was on tinder trying to find some comfort before going into lockdown. Most young single professionals like me are living alone or perhaps with a flatmate but you cannot bring anybody into your own home.The traffic on tinder was sky high , and I definitely matched more with people. People were not even trying to ‘know you’- it was more like let’s hook-up immediately. ButI mean there is still a virus, you don’t even know the person you are talking to.
I think people were trying to find some emotional and sexual comfort prior to going into lockdown. For me it was definitely emotional support, tinder is free, but to change your location you had to get the premium version - but this feature became free during lockdown. I’m French and I set my location to Paris, I went to London (where I used to live) and then I went to various countries in Africa, I just wanted to travel the world through Tinder, it was fun for a while. It turned into a game at this point, like candy crush - you don’t really think, you flirt, you feel good.
Actually, you match, match, match and it feels good at the time - but it's ultimately just a game or something , you don’t even interact often. Many men seemed to be living for the thrill of ‘the match’ but are we really into having a discussion and a real talk with this person ? You realise that the virtual world is just a bubble with no challenges, just addictive notifications.
The new dining experience
Sometimes you need the romantic connection that friends and family cannot provide. Someone approached me on Instagram, we started to have long conversations and it became intense, we met a week before the government said they were extending the lockdown for an additional month so this person came into my life at the right time, I needed someone at that time.
We had some virtual dates, we have an app kind of like Uber but it’s for everything, you can send packages or even dinners. We had multiple virtual dates sending each other home-cooked food, also doing workouts together, so it was a great emotional support. To spend time outside of work and zoom calls, it was refreshing to learn about someone else.
I realised during quarantine you focus more on who the person you are talking to is, if you go to a restaurant you talk about the food, you make polite conversation, you don’t deep-dive immediately. However, he got to know things about my family, my feelings, my beliefs, my weaknesses - these all came out during lockdown, there are no distractions. You somehow have to go deeper if you want the conversation to continue, we watched movies together - we spent hours talking about everything and nothing. It was another way to interact with someone, put aside all your game, you become vulnerable and open up much more than you normally would. Quickly you develop this virtual emotional connection which is also addictive.
Return of the Woo
We’re harking back to a time of ‘courtship’. I want reams of papers and letters, I want the slowburn of Jane Austen - woo me like it’s 1829. Imagine pouring your heart and soul out on paper with only your quill and a pot of ink, before riding your bike in the rain (it has to be raining) to the postbox and sending your correspondence out into the universe - in the hope that an equally emotionally-ladened letter would make its way back to you. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Sense & Sensibility during lockdown...but if you can’t send me an ink stained monologue of your innermost thoughts I’ll accept a well constructed and grammatically sound WhatsApp or a DM.
Embracing the simple and delaying the physical
I was on tinder- and it’s trash. It’s true that a lot of the initial chats revolved around ‘How are you keeping yourself busy/ What are you watching?’ It was much easier than usual to get on the phone with people, because you’re all at home and bored, no one is pretending they have lots of exciting plans and amazing social lives - because we didn’t.
My experience was that we were getting to know people on a deeper level, more because you cannot see each other so you have to speak and speak on all kinds of different subjects so inevitably you get to know the person faster. The person I was talking with became a companion of sorts - there’s a bond there that’s created easier, compared to dating in ‘real life’. You might talk for a week, go for drinks and if you don’t like each other it stops. If you do like each other you might meet again and things become physical - I’m not saying you wouldn’t bond on a deeper level, but it will take longer to get there because when sex is involved things get a little more complicated always - atleast from my perspective.
Lockdown also made me and others I know embrace ‘simple dates’- let’s go for a walk in the park and then you both show up in sports clothing which in real life wouldn't really happen, normally you’d meet for drinks and dress up and try to look your best. From my side during lockdown I was definitely making less effort. I did go on some ‘ socially distant walk dates’ here in Luxembourg at the beginning - there was less effort put into the dates themselves but the ‘real you’ was exposed much faster which is probably a good thing.
The separated by oceans love
We’ve been quarantining in separate countries for five months, it’s the longest we haven’t seen each other in years. It’s been challenging of course, we will see each other for the first time again in a couple of weeks and I think it might feel weird at the beginning. Time definitely does have an impact, I’ve started going out socially again as things have reopened and there’s definitely a vibe in the air that people are keen to meet and mingle even more so than before.
The pandemic and being separated for so long definitely makes you question things, it makes you wonder what you’re doing with it - where is it going? Perhaps the pandemic has given a new appreciation of our own fragility - life is too short and if this is not ‘the one’ then what? I’m impatient now to either progress or move on. From a physical perspective definitely elements of withdrawal, and you can see eager singletons on nights out probably feeling the same way. It’s been five months apart, the world feels like it’s falling apart , life plans have been altered, we may not be aligned anymore and it’s a lot to think about.
The self-reflection period
I’ve been a go with the flow person, taking relationships lightly - lockdown has made me look into myself and I came to a stage of facing my own situation and that maybe I need something deeper. I think being abroad during this time without family or any chances of seeing them anytime soon is also particularly daunting and so you look around and think well what do I have here, who do I have ?
The person I was speaking with virtually admitted they were ultimately looking for a relationship and it was refreshing how open an admission that was. The takeaway for me has been not being afraid to open up, initiate the conversation about what I want straight away and move forward - things I was scared to do before. Emotional attachment to someone you don't actually know very well in real life is one thing but at some point you have to see them, we live in our own bubbles where it’s comfortable and easy to stay but you have to face reality. Things like physical attraction, how you interact, share a laugh, a bottle of wine are irreplaceable - virus or no virus.
The cooped up newlyweds
We were in the process of moving into our new house, construction was of course delayed so we found ourselves quarantining and working in a small apartment together. Living in such small quarters meant having routine was more important than ever, and scheduling some alone time each day - and being clear with expressing one’s feelings which takes work ! There are also lots of positives - mostly time to do things we would never do before. Cooking together, going to the ‘pub’ aka the sofa with our homemade drinks, exercising together, longer conversations with less distractions and no external pressures was also really nice. So no divorce lawyers yet thankfully!
So to conclude...
Our lives are tapestries of many little threads, it’s fair to say Covid-19 has been a much bigger stitch than we anticipated, it has changed the course of many a life not only in love but across the board.
What struck me most was the idea of ‘self-disclosure’ in almost all the stories, revealing one’s innermost feelings, thoughts and experiences whether it's to a stranger online or your spouse - spurring intimacy and contentment even if shortlived.
I find these perspectives of life and love endlessly interesting - and while I’m certainly not qualified to advise in matters of the heart I’m just here to share some stories.
Thanks to everyone who contributed their own story, I always feel incredibly privileged to write about it.