Love in the Time of Corona

I talk to my mom through the window every day. I’m quarantining just down the street from my parent’s house, so I can walk over,  sit on the porch and talk to her from afar. It’s the bizarre, new normal, and has made me realize just how very much I have missed long chats with her. 

I picked a daisy on my walk over and was plucking the petals, playing “he loves me, he loves me not.” So much me reverts to being a kid when I’m home in Ohio. The little game reminded me that in France, they play a little different. There’s no real question of if he loves you – each petal is just a different question of how much – un peu (a little), beaucoup (a lot), passionnément (passionately), à la folie (to insanity!), pas du tout (not at all). 

I was telling my mom about one of the men I went on a few dates with in Paris. He was tall, dark, and handsome, with impeccable manners and a ridiculously cute French accent. His English was perfect, but hilarious. He’d gathered an extensive vocabulary from old western movies, children’s books, and other strange places – so he would randomly throw words like “curmudgeon” into our conversations, which made me feel like I was out with an eighty-year-old man.

It also reminded me of my mom, who often says phrases that I feel like she borrowed from another time period. On a brief second on one of our dates, though I knew we’d never be that serious, I wished I could bring him home to Ohio to meet her. Just because I knew she would adore simply hearing him speak. 

‘You met all these dates there on the internet,” she asked me?
“Yes,” I responded. “Well, all but one. One I met on a bicycle drive-by.”
“Wow,” she said, “they must have really good internet over there!”

They sure do.

Every, and I mean every, French man that took me on a date in the last six weeks has contacted me over the course of this month. 
It all starts under the veil of “just wanting to check on you darling – are you safe?” and ends with something along the lines of “don’t be shy to FaceTime with me at night so I am not so lonely.”

I love the French, so I have to admire their audacity.

In all the chaos of this month, I haven’t given much thought to the suffering of the French bachelor…
How is he coping with being locked up without anyone to take out and seduce over medium-rare filet and île flottante

By going through his entire list of Bumble matches – it would seem.

Sorry, Matthieu, but if I wasn’t interested when I could actually see you, I’m definitely not interested in becoming your virtual booty call.

The truth is, I slowed down the dating almost to a halt after my birthday. My throat infection took me out of the game for a while, and then something strange happened: I met someone I really liked talking to. Sacre bleu! I had no intention of letting that happen. And for me, once I really like talking to someone, it makes me acutely aware of when I don’t really like talking to someone else. I became less interested in my dates who didn’t know who Fellini was, or listen to Eartha Kitt, or weren’t sending me daily good morning texts that made me smile the way warm croissants do. So I began cutting ties. 

But give a French man your number, and he’s going to keep using it. 

The first check-in actually came a few days after Paris went into lockdown. We had been on two dates, and had plans for a third weeks ago, that had never come to fruition. I had essentially forgotten he existed in the chaos of corona, so imagine my surprise when I woke up to the text, “Coucou, tout va bien? J’espere de te voir bientot”

That means – Heyyy, all is good? I hope to see you soon. 

….excusez-moi?

A few days earlier I had packed one suitcase and fled the country in the middle of the night like the Germans were invading. France was now shut down, and you needed a paper in order to leave the house! 

“No, Olivier,” I responded. “Tout is not bien. I left Paris a few days ago. I am in London now and I don’t know when I’ll back.”

He replied, “If you don’t want to see me again, you can just tell me so…”

“Have you WATCHED the news? This is not an excuse! We are in the midst of a global pandemic… dating is canceled!”

It did turn out to be a great excuse though. I was trying to find a nice way to cancel the pending date, and a virus that prohibits proximity was the perfect reason to do it with no hard feelings.

“I still hope to see your angelic face again when you return,” he said.
Yes, he said angelic.

Oh la la.

But the truth is, war-time romances have always charmed me, and this does feel so like a war. 

I’m such a retrophile, such a romantic, that the idea of being separated by uncontrollable forces kind of thrills me. I would have been an excellent 1940s girlfriend – writing my sweetheart hand-written love letters and wearing his pin on the lapel of all of my dresses until he returned from abroad. I would clip locks of my hair and embroider handkerchiefs and whatever the else they did back then to show their devotion. All while wearing pin curls and seamed panty-hose and bright, red lipstick. 

There is something to distance… They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and I think they are right. All the couples I know quarantining together are slowly losing their minds; starting to hate each other’s little habits and wondering why they ever started dating. But the ones who are separated are counting down the days until they can kiss; until they can grab each other tight in a hug and never let go.

That’s the camp I want to be in. Sure the distance is a little less dramatic now with FaceTime and Snapchat and all the many ways we are able to still be so connected, but nothing can replace touch. Nothing can make you feel the way a hug does. (Or as the French would say, a caresse.) Nothing can you give you the same type of butterflies that a time-freezing kiss in the middle of a busy street can. 

Some couples I know that were getting serious, but not yet co-habiting, are using this time to quarantine together and are essentially getting a trial-marriage. It’s like a crazy reality dating show: go spend all day together, let a bunch of things in the world go wrong, take away all ways to escape, and see what happens to your relationship. It’s brilliant. If I had had someone serious enough to play house with – I would have loved it. I can’t wait to see the results of these experiments they are conducting. I predict a lot of engagements or a lot of break-ups. Since I love champagne and wedding cake, I’m rooting for the former.

For those of us not yet serious enough to shack up with a semi-stranger – it seemed like dating was indeed canceled until further notice. But then I thought more about it over the last week…we know it’s possible to keep an established relationship going strong in quarantine, so is it possible to start a new one?

Yes, it may seem like right now the universe is preventing us from finding a soul mate, but aren’t the best pairs of lovers always star-crossed ones? Look at Romeo and Juliet! Lancelot and Guinevere. Tristan and Isolde. Pocahontas and John Smith. Bella and Edward. Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. Yes, I realize most of those people are fictional, and in most of the stories something goes terribly wrong. But nonetheless – they are wildly passionate pairs.

I was curious how the other singles in the world felt, so I opened the apps for the first time in weeks.

Let me just mention the stark contrast between Bumble in Paris, and Bumble in my hometown. I always forget that Bumble changes with your location – but quickly remembered when my high school boyfriend’s little brother popped up as a potential match. ***t. 
This is not a safe place to conduct my research. CLOSE the app.

Let’s try Hinge. They still think I’m in Paris…

Sure enough, profiles have been updated. Answers to prompts now feature clever quarantine jokes where “I love to travel” once was.

This next guy did not mention the quarantine, but he could be my soulmate based on this answer and photo alone, so I just wanted to include him.

It appears single people, more aware of their single-ness than ever, are seeing quarantine as an opportunity to meet their match. The more I thought about it, I realized this strange climate could actually be an excellent one to date in.

For starters, the inability to hook up completely weeds out men who are just on the apps to hook up! There’s no risk of going out with someone and then never hearing from them again – not when you can literally only hear from them. And, if you do start to fall for a guy, you know he’s not out there serial-dating other girls.

From a resource perspective: we are all saving. Dating is momentarily free – we’re not going out for drinks, movies, or dinners. The energy once expended to go out a date is now dull. You can date from the comfort of your own couch.

And what better time to get to know someone, really, then when you have all day to do it? For once, budding relationships can’t rely on attraction and physicality. You have to woo each other with your minds, with your hearts, your souls. It’s easy for someone to be attractive and a good kisser, but not nearly as easy to be a good conversationalist, or make you laugh. It’s not easy to really connect with someone on a deeper level. And when looks fade, and life gives you lemons, and the honeymoon is over – connection is what holds. Connection is what makes relationships last.

I’ve learned you bond with someone when you go through something tough and real together. When you see each other at your worst, not just your best, and like them anyway. When you realize that when the world is upside down – they are the kind of person that stays right-side up. When they have the ability to make you smile when there’s no other reason to. When you experience, first-hand, that they are someone you can call no matter the time, or day. When you feel dark and in need of sunshine and realize their voice is instant warmth. I think there’s a real chance that love found in the time of corona, could become the most real kind of love.

So I decided I’m charmed by the hopeless romantics in Paris fishing through their list of matches seeing who bites. I’m inspired by the people updating their prompts on their dating profiles; the ones who are still out there swiping because they crave connection. Maybe they are the true romantics of our generation.

It might be a long wait until they finally meet their matches IRL – but just imagine how passionate that first kiss will be, the day it can finally happen.

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  1. Jane Canie says:

    Please include me in everything! I am completely enamoured by your beautiful photos. I have only been once yo Paris but I actually spend probably way to much time dreaming about it. Also can I tell you that you are stunning. This has now become my happy place. This blog and a latte!
    Also sending prayers for your Brother.

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