Give love a try – during a pandemic

The Kyle File by David Abdel

Everyone’s favorite “love it or hate it” holiday is coming up: Valentine’s Day. It got me thinking about the nature of relationships, especially during this pandemic. I was trying to brainstorm some ideas about what to do with my wife for the holiday, so I enlisted some feedback from friends. It was a surprisingly fruitful conversation each time. My married friends had the typical response of flowers and dinner, maybe some chocolates. I’ve always felt like these were tired efforts, void of creativity so I dismissed them fairly quickly. My single friends, complete with an eyeroll, asked why bother celebrating this year at all. I began to notice something.

Most of the people I spoke with, regardless of relationship status, seemed down about the holiday. It appears as though this pandemic is affecting our ability to find and celebrate love. My married friends said they will probably treat it like any other day, since the pomp and flair of a traditional Valentine’s Day seemed to be missing. They didn’t feel comfortable going out to eat, it would be hard to get a secret gift on a shared Amazon account and sneak a delivery into the house, and there wasn’t much enthusiasm about getting all fancied up to have dinner at home. The luster of the day had worn off. I suggested that it isn’t the ‘what you do’, or ‘what you get’ that makes the holiday special, it’s just the expression of love. While everyone agreed, there just seems to be that something extra missing in this pandemic world that makes the holiday seem a little less special.

My single friends bemoaned another year without a partner. This one was especially difficult, as they said, because the pandemic virtually eliminated the dating scene. For them, there was a tinge of satisfaction knowing that the joy of people in a relationship wouldn’t be shoved in their faces this year, but I could tell they were a bit let down because in some small way, Valentine’s Day gave them hope. That eternal “that’s going to be me and my one true love next year” attitude that many singles have around the holiday seemed to be missing, instead replaced with a blight on the heart. Social distancing has created a fear that singles will remain so for longer than anticipated, not knowing when and if a social scene will reopen, and if it will ever be at the scale it was prior.

While creativity has reached into the dating world during the pandemic, many appear to be absent from that space. Online apps like Hinge, and local favorite Bumble have increased in popularity, even now running ads on television. However, many local singles are frustrated because they’ve been using those apps for years due to a lack of a dating scene locally (their views not mine). I could understand this because I was single and struggling to find people to date in Kyle for a time. To be fair, my wife and I met on a dating app, however she lived in Austin and I was in Kyle. Funny story, we only matched because I happened to be using the app when I was waiting in line for bagels in Austin. Had I not opened the app at that time, we wouldn’t have been in each other’s areas, and never met and created the beautiful life and family we now share.

Others have taken to having online dates, which I think is great and allows people to get to know each other prior to meeting in person. But friends tell me that it’s a bit too impersonal, and that feeling you get being around someone, either good or bad, is lost and is often an important indicator in the early stages of dating. I still highly suggest putting yourself out there in the digital space and trying new things if you’re single. We may be stuck in this sort of holding pattern socially for years to come, so it’s worth giving it a shot. For the married couples, don’t let the lack of a place to go stop you from having a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Get creative. Find a new recipe for an amazing dish online and cook it together. Order decorations and dress up your dining room for a fancy meal (some restaurants have great to-go V-Day specials). Build a makeshift backseat in your living room for a drive in movie. There’s no limit to what you can think of.

Most of all, single, dating or married, there’s more love in the air than COVID particles.

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