It’s been over two years since the COVID-19 pandemic first reared its ugly head, and life still isn’t the same. Though many of us are slowly adapting to a ‘new normal’, it’s hard to push our collective, pandemic trauma under the rug. Particularly, for the disabled and immuno-compromised members of our community, the new normal is not always safe and inclusive.
After spending so much time indoors, deprived of physical and social contact, it’s been surreal to re-enter a world teeming with human interaction. From slow weekends spent curled up watching Netflix, attempting elaborate recipes, playing board games, and listening obsessively to daily press conferences; to busy workplaces, sweaty dancefloors, and casual dating. Make no mistake - we are in the throes of a cultural whiplash. The peace and slow clarity we might have gained over lockdown feels as distant as the 2020 toilet paper shortage.
It’s not just you - sex and dating feel different too. Many lockdown romances have run their course, and some people have found themselves recently single. While we commend those who have sprung back onto the dating scene, guns blazing, it hasn’t been the same for everyone. If you’re re-entering the dating scene, but you’re still a bit unsure post-pandemic, here are some things to remember.
You haven’t forgotten how to date!
In addition to lurking covid-infections, casual dating forces us to get out of our comfort zones. Many of us didn’t have to talk to strangers or make small talk for two years! It’s natural to feel a little anxious about the pressure that accompanies a first date - and when we’re out of practice, that feeling is even worse. You’re going to be a bit rusty, but that’s okay. You haven’t forgotten how to date, you’re just relearning. And so is everyone else.
Take it at your own pace
While it’s a relief to be getting back to normal, it’s so important that we check in with ourselves and remember that it’s okay to slow down and switch off. It’s also okay to set boundaries and say no sometimes. We’re all learning to renavigate the social world, but everyone processes things at different speeds.
Many people have felt overwhelmed by the fast-paced (and sometimes cutthroat) return to the dating world. If you need to, take a mental-health break from the apps. Now that the world is open, there are so many other places to meet people. There’s no need to rush.
It’s going to get easier
Even though it might feel unnatural and unpleasant to put yourself out there again, it’s only going to get easier. Exposure to anything we’re afraid of will diminish its power over us, and dating is the same. Exercise a little exposure therapy - the more we do it, the less scary it will be. And the more experience we will have to figure out what does and doesn’t work.
We’re in this together
The pandemic was a collective experience, and though it affected us in many ways, we’re mostly in a similar boat. It’s okay if small talk makes you or your date feel a bit awkward. Lean into it and laugh about it. Try not to concern yourself too much with what your responses are, just be present and enjoy the company of another - not so long ago you may have killed to be in the situation you’re in.
Perhaps one genuine silver lining from the pandemic: we take each other for granted a little less. Being around other people is a pleasure, a privilege. Sharing intimate moments with others is precious, whether it be platonic, or romantic. Hooking up in the ‘real world’ can be tough at the best of times - but at least we’re off Zoom dates.