It’s been a year of no dating. And I’m okay with that.
2020 was not a year for love. At least not in my perpetually single opinion. I turned off all dating app notifications, settled into sweatpants and happily let my makeup accumulate dust during the early months of the pandemic. Now a year later, I’ve grown accustomed to spending Saturday night, not dressed up in a downtown bar, but at home with a $10 bottle of wine and a playlist of Broadway showtunes to keep me entertained. But as more people are becoming vaccinated, I’ve started to wonder about post-pandemic life. And if this will mean, possibly sometime quite soon, that I should start dating again?
The easy answer to this question is probably yes. While I decided to take a year-long vacation from dating, it’s clear from my social media feeds that many others opted for a different approach. Every time I go on Instagram, I swear someone is announcing an engagement, sharing wedding photos or posting about their newborn. Apparently, I missed the memo that 2020 was actually the year to make major life decisions while I was busy spending my time singing the soundtrack of Wicked.
But in all seriousness, this last year of no dating has been sort of nice. Sure, there are elements of dating that I miss and a part of me is excited to engage in flirtatious conversation with a stranger again. But on the other hand, I’ve enjoyed the fact that the only person I’ve “dated” this past year is myself.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of times I have felt lonely during the pandemic. There was even a time last summer when I found myself scrolling through the apps and said yes to a date in Central Park. It turned out to be a fairly pleasant time. But when I was asked to go out again, my overthinking kicked in and I felt overwhelmed with uncertainty of how to navigate a potential relationship during a pandemic. Where would we hang out? Would he want me to come to his apartment? How would I get there? Public transportation? Definitely not.
And so, after much deliberation, I told him I enjoyed meeting, but it just wasn’t the right time for me to be dating. “Maybe after COVID,” I said, and I even sort of meant it.
The truth is that even before the coronavirus, I didn’t date very much. There are various reasons for this. One is simply that dating in New York is not what it looks like in the movies. Or for that matter, dating anywhere at all.
Another reason is that I’m not a big fan of dating apps. I find it exhausting to swipe and chat and try to maintain conversation with someone I have never met. And now there’s video dating! This is quite literally the last thing I want to do with my time despite Bumble and Match’s repeated efforts with targeted ads to sell me on it. I am just way too God damn awkward for that. I mean, what do I do with my hands? Where do I look? And is it me, or is it still entirely possible to make accidental eye contact with someone over Zoom?
It’s for this reason that when it comes to the apps, I’m typically quick to judge, slow to respond and more likely than not to never message you back. It’s self-sabotage at its finest. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t want to find love through an app. And maybe that’s my problem. Maybe it doesn’t matter where you meet someone. I know plenty of people who have found their significant others with the swipe of a finger. But I’m a writer, I want a better story. Is that really too much to ask?
Of course, if I’m being fully honest, my dislike of dating apps isn’t the only reason I don’t date. And it’s not my anxiety about coronavirus either. Rather, the pandemic has enabled me to engage in all of my usual tactics of avoidance with little to no guilt. It’s been a convenient excuse to put off love rather than having to acknowledge the deeper, more complicated reasons I am apprehensive towards dating. Because a year of no dating has also meant a year of keeping all my bad habits to myself. A year without feeling I need to be someone I’m not. A year without hiding my anxiety. A year without someone else making me feel more broken than I already do.
But, on a lighter note, the truth is that I also just really like being alone. A groundbreaking statement – I know. One, I’m an introvert so spending time by myself is naturally energizing. I also relish possessing the freedom to do what I want, when I want, how I want, without having to account for anyone else in my plans. Maybe that sounds a bit selfish to admit. But autonomy is arguably one of the biggest perks of being single.
Yet, there is still pressure to date; a feeling that it is what I should be doing. I should want to be in a relationship. It’s not enough to be content on my own. But why do we still give in to the outdated cliché that relationships are the epitome of happiness? Especially for women. Why is my relationship status still so often something others want to know? Like my being single is a problem desperately awaiting a solution rather than a choice made from my own free will.
I’m well aware that my independence is both one of my greatest strengths and weaknesses (my exes have also all kindly confirmed this). But on a deeper level, I don’t think I’ll ever be truly happy in a relationship until I’m happy by myself. And in this last year, I’ve experienced both progress and setbacks in this regard. While the end of the pandemic may mean I should put myself out there and start dating again, I’m not in any rush. I’m still figuring shit out on my own and for now, I’m content doing just that.