Dallas College student Brenda Jasso pulled her Ford Fusion into a Target parking lot on a rainy April night for her first date in a year. Next to her was her date’s Ford Fusion.
The two embraced under the parking lot lights in the April drizzle. They enjoyed their first date as they sat, talked and laughed from the safety and comfort from her car.
In true 2020 fashion, even this was a risk. However, It was a risk Jasso and her now-boyfriend were ready to take.
Jasso met her boyfriend through mutual friends in March 2020. The week after they first spoke the COVID-19 pandemic made waves through the nation as shutdowns began to be enforced.
On March 31, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order closing all non-essential businesses. This included bars, indoor dining and entertainment activities hindering traditional dating options.
“Fear of isolation was very serious, even introverted people were feeling it,” Paul Lavigne, Safe Connect public community educator, said during a Dallas College virtual event on dating during the pandemic.
Without the availability for traditional dates, Jasso and her boyfriend slowed down and dated virtually. They quarantined six weeks, relying solely on virtual communication to set the soil for their relationship to bloom safely.
Jasso and her boyfriend replaced bars, restaurants and the Dallas night scene with Skype, Zoom and Google Meets.
They met in virtual groups and ventured into the world through the lens of their webcams. They bonded over virtual museum showings, pre-recorded plays and even watched an Erykah Badu concert through Skype.
“My mentality going into it was that since we are home and we cannot go anywhere, this is the perfect time to get to know someone,” Jasso said. “To me, it was more intimate as to how I dated before.”
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
2019 was the year Jasso decided dating was no longer a priority.
Jasso grew exhausted from walking into a date to find out she was one of the stops in a stream of dates for that weekend.
While on her quest for emotional intimacy, Jasso felt minimized to a first impression.
“If we did not hit off that day we would never speak again,” Jasso said. “The world moved faster before COVID hit.”
Dates composed of dinner, drinks and brazen flirting left Jasso exhausted.
“People just want people to be around for the sake of being around,” Elgrie Hurd III, a psychology professor at Brookhaven Campus, said. “When another option comes around, they leave.”
Jasso was tired of being just one of many options and left the rapid merry-go-round of dating. It was time to focus on her family and herself as she evaluated the criteria for the intimacy she craved.
“It is really important to take your time and be honest about what you want in a relationship so that you can have a healthy relationship,” Hurd said.
The physical restrictions placed by executive orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic allowed Jasso and her boyfriend to flourish an organic intellectual intimacy which was lacking in Jasso’s prior dating encounters.
“If you are going to engage in dating you need to figure out what you want before you start that process. If you do it while the process is started then your emotions are dictating it,” Hurd said. “Emotions are some of the most deceiving influences in us making important decisions.”
Jasso navigated through her dating criteria, life situation and voids to outline her desires. The restrictions COVID-19 placed on the dating scene gave her the tools she needed to seek out a relationship that satisfied those wants and needs.
“Right now is the right time to meet someone because we are all on the same page,” Jasso said. She advises prospective daters to be open to new dating experiences.
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
Jasso and Hurd said individuals must take the time to outline their desires for relationships. The current social climate allows individuals to take a step back and use this time as an opportunity for self-reflection.
Once established, online dating applications can provide the platform to interact with other prospective daters individually.
Prospective daters must establish boundaries in place for COVID-19 precautions. For Jasso that was a six-week incubation period where she and her boyfriend remained quarantined at their respective homes to ensure they did not infect each other during their first date.
Finally, seek opportunities for virtual dates. Jasso and her boyfriend used Google and the Facebook events tab to find opportunities for virtual dates.
When fears of isolation, stress and anxiety loom, a silver lining can be found. Jasso has found the intimacy she craves through the chaos of COVID-19.