By Paige Bodine
With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I began to think about how stinking hard it is to be a college student and meet a significant other in the era of COVID-19. College is supposed to be a time where there are copious opportunities through class, clubs, events, and occasional partying to be able to possibly meet someone that can be more than a friend. After meeting two couples, I learned some interesting things about dating during a global pandemic.
Finding Someone through Sport
This summer, during the lockdown, sports at the collegiate level were moved to the spring semester. The only collegiate sport that was competing last fall was junior college, cross country. Carolanne Merlington, 19, was starting her sophomore year and was excited to compete. Merlington met Jack Kehoe through the cross country team, which they both competed on. After a year of friendship, they started dating.
Meeting someone during the pandemic was something unexpected but somehow happened naturally. Once cross country was finished, Merlington and Kehoe began to realize that it was becoming difficult to think of ideas of fun activities to do. Especially during the cold months when outdoor activities don’t seem as appealing.
“One of the hardest parts of being in a relationship during COVID has been not being able to do much together outside of our homes,” said Merlington. “ We have been able to go shopping and do fun things outdoors but since many of the restaurants have been closed for a bit, it feels like we don’t go out much.”
Balancing COVID-19 and dating has proven to be a challenge especially for community college students who live at home and have to think about their family members in addition to themselves.
“Staying safe with the pandemic has been challenging. When visiting older members of our family we are more cautious when we hang out,” Merlington said.
Navigating through such an uncertain time can be hard but also hopeful. Finding someone and lasting through a pandemic shows how exciting things will be when things open back up again.
“I can’t wait to sit down in restaurants again and I also can’t wait to just roam around the city without having to wear a mask,” said Merlington. “ I am also looking forward to doing any indoor activities like an escape room or axe throwing.”
How Separation Made Us Stronger
Whitney Edson and River Foco (courtesy of Edson)
Whitney Edson, 19, had met River Foco in September 2019. Their first date was at an escape room. They expected to be put into a group and were surprised to learn that the rest of the group didn’t show up. That resulted in them working together to try to get out. Unfortunately, they did not get out of the room but they did decide that they both liked each other. When March hit and everything shut down, Edson and Foco couldn’t see each other for weeks.
“It sucked not seeing him,” said Edson. “We Facetimed a lot and tried to stay in touch. It is so hard not doing the basic date things.”
As the stay-in-place orders continued to be extended, Edson and Foco started to think of creative ways to have fun. When the weather became warmer they started to enjoy exploring the outdoors.
“We have been very invested in our Nintendo switches,” said Edson. “We love Mario Kart. During the summer we spent a lot of time outside and went to the beach a lot.”
Finding a way to enjoy dating and stay safe has proven to be a challenge especially living at home where everyone has different opinions. Unfortunately, that leads to not meeting parents like people in the past usually did.
“His parents are more strict about leaving the house,” Edson said. “I haven’t really spent any time with his dad at all. At the beginning of COVID, it was pretty different.”
Luckily Edson and Foco were able to find a middle ground and figure out how to navigate dating and COVID-19.
When reflecting on what dates she couldn’t wait to do once things open again, Edson said, “I can’t wait to go to a concert. He bought me tickets to go to see Dan+Shay but the concert was canceled because of COVID. I would also really love to go to an amusement park.”
Learning to adapt to dating during a global pandemic and finding fun at-home activities have allowed both Edson and Foco to be creative and think out of the box which has made them even closer.
Valentine’s Day represents a love-hate relationship for most people. For those of us that are single, many find themselves watching cheesy romance movies, eating ice cream, and maybe shedding an occasional tear, not speaking from experience or anything… Some find themselves going on a special date with their significant other, and some treat Valentine’s Day like any other day. Regardless of where someone is in love, it is important to recognize that the dating world has become even more difficult. These couples have managed to improve communication and to stay active outdoors. Having a positive mindset helps us remain hopeful that eventually, we will all find that special someone.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” (Oscar Wilde)