At least I got f**ked by 2020
Jayde Atchison // Columnist
I was drinking champagne alone in a lukewarm bubble bath when we crashed into 2020. I am an introvert by nature, so it was the ideal New Year’s evening because it meant avoiding bar prices, small talk with strangers and trying to find someone to kiss. I swore that I would become a “yes” woman to begin the new decade and explore more local scenes. Like many, I naively thought 2020 would be my year—graduating university, backpacking through Europe and finding love. While I did get to saunter across the stage in that majestic robe, every other plan slowly spiralled down the drain.
After a painful break-up two years ago, I finally felt ready to enter the never-ending loop of downloading and deleting the trifecta of dating apps. In February, Hinge, Bumble and Tinder became the greatest leech to my phone’s battery. The talking phase began with a handful of people, and I felt like a spicy version of myself, ready to play the field until I found the one. However, March came in like a wrecking ball and knocked my mental health on its ass. I lost my job, my ability to hug my friends and, most prominently, my will to romantically engage with strangers on the internet. Dating apps are depressing creatures on a good day, but looking at 67 dead fish in the span of five minutes hit differently in 2020.
Once I adjusted to my new schedule of baking, reading and home workouts, the weather had warmed up, and I was more open to the idea of safely meeting people. I went on my first socially distanced date in May with a guy I had known for years through mutual friends. Through Zoom drinking games and a FaceTime date, quarantine revealed a shared interest between us. We decided to walk around the seawall, six feet apart, on an unusually warm May evening. We talked about ghost encounters, childhood traumas and our love of the horror genre. I made a pact with my best friend that she would be my first hug as soon as Dr. Bonnie gave the green light on physical touch, so at the end of the date, we air-high-fived, and I went up to my apartment alone.
My first suitor of 2020 and I decided it would be best if we remained friends and left our date as a nice catch up instead of the beginning of my romantic memoir. Scrolling through Hinge, I stumbled across two people I had ghosted during my pandemic meltdown and messaged them apologizing for these unprecedented times. They were more forgiving than I would have been had the roles had been reversed, and they were interested in talking again. My second socially distanced date was with a bearded, lanky man with a sweet smile. We sat at opposite ends of a blanket on the sand, watching the sunset on Second Beach. Again, we didn’t break the Public Health Officer’s (PHO) orders and said goodbye with only a longing look. Fast forward two dates, and he tossed out a classic “I have been seeing two girls, and I’m choosing the other” text.
Those lucky enough to be coupled up prior to Miss Rona’s arrival would often ask me what it was like to do dates from afar. The answers would be followed by many skeptical looks and questions about the level of awkwardness that comes with the new normal. Yes, it has been an adjustment to the days where restaurants and bars were the spots of choice, and I would live through goodbye kisses that I was too polite to reject. However, I can’t help but feel like I am the main character in a Jane Austen novel, with the only thing missing is our chaperones walking 20 paces behind us, discussing how well suited this match might be. As I quickly make my way into my third decade of existence, it is nice to have nostalgic moments like remembering what it was like to call someone your boyfriend—despite only ever talking on MSN. Going on walks or having safe beach sits alleviates a lot of the pressure that comes with seeing someone. When do you kiss? When is it okay to sleep with them? Which friend do I have on speed dial today to get out of going back to my date’s place? The lockdown created an opportunity to take things slow and weed out all the people looking for a quick lay.
Exploring the dating world in 2020 has made it much easier to spot the red flags that pop up in the app world. If someone is against the idea of a Skype date, it’s either a toss-up between ulterior motives or you’re being catfished. Is that pretty girl hugging her brother in that first picture? Keep scrolling down because she’s probably just looking for a third with her partner. If a guy says he wants someone that understands his sarcasm, he probably makes racist or homophobic statements and gets mad at you when “you can’t take a joke.” When I would go on dates pre-COVID, and the person would end up being more vulgar than their profile suggested, I would count down the minutes until I could leave without feeling like I wasted my merlot. I had one FaceTime date with a man that asked me three separate times to take off my top. At first, I thought it was a joke, but then the second two times happened closer together and more aggressively, without a hint of humour. I said I was uncomfortable, and he ever-so-thoughtfully replied, “I won’t screenshot, and if I did—it would notify you!” The greatest invention is the blaring red ‘end call’ button, and I happily smacked it like Pam smacked Michael on The Office.
My favourite line to give to people when they are trying to booty call me or break the PHO is, “I asked, and my mom said no.” I think it gives a throwback twist to when I was grounded for being a rebellious teenager. If you want it to be more accurate, replace mom with Dr. Bonnie. No matter how many times I reiterate that I am not looking for something casual, especially in a pandemic, people want to convince me otherwise. To them, I say 2020 is screwing me hard enough as it is—I don’t need some subpar human to get in the mix too.