Sarah Buitendach Contributing editor at FM
A protester holding a placard which reads "Where is the love?" sits on a large iron heart during a protest outside the Redhouse in Merthyr Tydfil, United Kingdom. Picture: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
A protester holding a placard which reads "Where is the love?" sits on a large iron heart during a protest outside the Redhouse in Merthyr Tydfil, United Kingdom. Picture: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

When SA went to level 3, a single friend said to me: “So I guess it’s a bit premature to be dusting off the old black book of reliable men, then.”

You know: the ones you call on for a bit of, erm, light entertainment. After some discussion, we concluded that legalities aside, right now is definitely not the moment to be putting out a call to action. Nor, broadly, is it a time to be upping your dating game. Or resuscitating it. Or, frankly, paying it much attention at all.

Which is a lamentable state of affairs, because being on your ace romantically during a global plague isn’t for sissies.

And while couples may be at the end of their tethers with their plus-ones, at least there’s a body with whom Netflix and chill is a possibility.

For us singletons, these have been dark days. And, as taxi windows throughout the country warn us, it is at precisely this time that friends are few. Unless, of course, you had the foresight and practicality of the Dutch and found a sex buddy. See The Guardian for more on this gem of a suggestion.

Dating and sex are two issues taken to a stratospheric level by New Yorkers. At the beginning of the outbreak, the city even released a fairly colourful official guide to sex during Covid, which you can read in full here.

Their best prophylactic against Covid: “You are your safest sex partner.”

Given the importance of this topic in the Big Apple, it’s no surprise that its paper of record has spent a lot of time mulling over the conundrum of Covid singledom. In this New York Times article Helen Fisher argues that the virus is changing the dating game for the better — in a number of ways, but primarily because it’s forcing us to take it slow.

Whether or not you buy that shtick — and it’s a hard sell for the single folk — it’s clear that getting out and meeting the one or even a one is going to perilous for quite a long time still. Say you meet someone on a dating app, what then? You chat for eternity? It’s like 2020’s answer to the pen pal; thrilling indeed.

In the interest of research for this article, you understand, I struck up a conversation with a guy on one such app. Roughly 10 minutes into the conversation, he suggested I “come around to his place and listen to music”.

“No dice,” I said, “there’s a pandemic.” That was that; we knew were we stood. Me, at home safely. Him, being loosey-goosey with his germs on the other side of Joburg. I deleted my account shortly after.

You might, of course, be trying Zoom dating. If it sounds like an extension of the tedious office meetings you’re forced to endure during the day, but with a greater edge of social anxiety and very little upside, you’d be on the mark.

Still, if you insist, for peak onscreen looks (as per the suspiciously perfect Duchess of Cambridge), try these tips courtesy of The Telegraph. But don’t bet on things going from full-screen flirting to a happy ending easily. The science isn’t really on your side, as this piece from the US Conversation website illustrates.

But what if you’re the sort of person who simply insists on meeting for a first date? Well, there’s always an amble around the burbs with enough distance between you that you may as well have had a Victorian chaperone in tow. Restaurants and bars are out, clubs too. Movies are a hard no. So are dinner parties and braais at friends.

Still, the absence of all of those opportunities cannot be as bad as the converse. Imagine risking it, meeting up with a person in some “unlawful manoeuvre”, only to have a totally rubbish experience (the kind of endless and awkward chemistry-free shemozzle where a friend has to put in the fooling-nobody “emergency call” to extricate you) and getting Covid-19 on top of it all.

There is, at least, one glimmer of light at the end of the fixing-up tunnel. Now, dear brethren of the solitary variety, might be the time for you to find religion and take up church.

*Buitendach is the FM's Life editor and editor of Wanted magazine.

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