The news about the Omicron variant has been constant and trending ugly: its arrival from South Africa, travel restrictions, inevitable spread around the world. Oh no, I thought, here we go again. I had memories of early 2020 when the world went on lockdown due to COVID-19, which was spreading rapidly and devastating the global economy, affecting people’s health and resulting in countless deaths.
It was deja vu. To make matters worse, the COVID numbers were steadily rising and as a single man, I avoided the dating apps and vowed to get through the pandemic on my own. Sometimes I would wilt and go back to the apps to see if I could connect with anyone. I’ve had a few socially distanced dates. There was the woman who didn’t want to meet in person, but instead was cool with FaceTiming. After five virtual meetings, I asked if we could meet in person. (She was too scared to do that.) Also, the woman refused to sit together in a restaurant’s parklet, preferring instead that we take our food to a park and eat at least 6 feet apart, our masks pulled down for every bite.
When the headlines about Omicron hit the news in December, I had to make a decision. Am I repeating my hesitancy to find someone on the dating apps? Or do I continue? Since the delta wave of COVID-19, I’d met some nice people and been on a few dates. Some of these relationships lasted two or three months, but nothing seemed to work long-term. I was bound and determined. I would dare to take the risks and try to find the elusive love of my life.
Several women’s profiles seemed promising. There was Beth, the technician who was interested in skydiving. Also, there was Stacee, the comedian, who seemed funny but also looked like she was an attention-grabbing handful. One day, after what seemed like forever scrolling, I saw Ann’s profile. Like me, she was a teacher. She’s about my age, only 11 months older. And she lived a little far away, in Ventura County. It would be around an hour and 40 minutes drive if traffic was flowing, but that could be overcome. swipe right
On the Bumble dating app, guys must swipe right and wait with bated breath, hoping for a woman to take that crucial first step in a connection. A few hours after I swiped right, a notification appeared on my phone. It was Anna. OK, I thought, now let’s talk. She seemed friendly. I scrolled through her profile again. She was pretty and her answers to a few set questions were funny and entertaining.
I wrote them back.
At first it seemed as if the distance was too far for her. I told her I didn’t mind the distance and that I would drive to her place. “Who knows,” I wrote, “maybe we’ll find out we’re worth the drive.” She suggested we meet up halfway rather than drive all the way, only to find we had no chemistry . I agreed. She said Christmas is coming and her children are visiting from abroad (her daughter) and from abroad (her son). I said, “That’s fine. Maybe after Christmas.”
On December 26th we met in a pub. She texted me a few minutes before I got there and said she would be there, which caused me some concerns. Why didn’t I go earlier? I always arrive before my date.
Ann was stunning and her smile lit up her face. I thought: She looks even more beautiful in person.
She wanted an IPA and I wanted dark. When the bartender asked if we wanted 12 or 16 ounces, I figured she’d take the smaller amount. On the contrary. To my surprise, she chose 16 ounces. Based on her choice I thought this might be the one for me.
We went for a walk. I love history and enjoy sharing my passion. Sometimes I can get a bit nerdy when I point out this or that historical place. To my surprise, she seemed genuinely enjoying it. After walking for a while, we ended up on a college campus and admired the architecture, gardens, and statues. Standing close together in front of an ivy-covered faculty office building, we leaned in for our first kiss.
There seemed to be a connection. We spoke that night and the next day. I received a text early the next day from Ann asking if I would like to hang out with her. I said I couldn’t play that day because I had a hard-to-get hair appointment and was in dire need of a cut. “Would you like to visit me here?” I asked.
To my surprise, she said she would. We spent that day walking around my quaint town.
New Year’s Eve was approaching. Should I ask her out? I opted for it. She told me that she would be busy that evening and planned to ring in the new year with her sister. I suggested getting together on New Year’s Day. The next day she called me. change of plan. She wouldn’t go to her sister. So Ann invited me to her house. We could have dinner together and ring in the new year. I said yes. Can I bring my dog?” She replied with an enthusiastic “Yes”.
I got to her house around 7pm on New Year’s Eve. Within the first hour, one catastrophe after another happened. At first, my dog chose to defecate on her living room carpet. Not realizing what had happened, I brought his little kennel and set it right on top of my dog’s shop, slapping the poop on the carpet. Ann didn’t seem bothered by this setback; she seemed more comfortable than ever. She tossed me an apron and said, “Let’s cook.” Disaster #2: I accidentally knocked over one of her expensive wine glasses and broke it into pieces. Ashamed, I tried to hide my embarrassment. 2021 couldn’t end soon enough.
We seemed to anticipate the weekend. After these glitches, everything went perfectly. We rang in the new year by talking, eating a great meal and sipping champagne, and discovering the many things we had in common. We were lifelong teachers and we loved to write, read and hike. She asked if I would go hiking with her on New Year’s Day. I said yes.
New Year’s Day went perfectly: the hearty breakfast, the long hike, followed by dinner and a visit to “Being the Ricardos”. It was all over the next morning, I thought as I drove the hour and 40 minutes back home. I didn’t want to leave her. I wanted to stay and continue the magic our weekend together had brought. I was attracted to her and felt the relationship needed to go on.
Over the next few days we spoke on the phone and made plans to meet up again. We decided that she would come to me next. She texted me the day she was supposed to come over. She had tested positive for COVID. Just the night before I had experienced a few colds and a few sneezes. I took a sick day from work and went for a PCR test. The results would only be available in two to three days.
The next day was another free day. I went to a rapid test site. Negative. The results of the PCR test came back. Positive. I gave Ann a quick call and said, “Let’s get together as we both have it.” Her doctor had said that if we were positive we could quarantine together – it was a perfectly good agreement. Ann said she would stop by as soon as she could pack and get her things together.
We were two almost strangers sharing quarters. It was only about a month after initial contact and about two weeks since our first date. “Oh yeah,” said my friends, “that’s a good idea.” There was no way it would work.
Ann and I found out a lot about each other during the week we were quarantined together. We had a lot in common. We are very positive people. Good listeners and easygoing, we refuse to make big deals out of small problems. Because of our daily meditations, yoga practices and love of food, we felt like we had known each other forever, two souls who had eventually broken up but were finally back together. We enjoyed our role as caregivers for each other.
Turns out I wouldn’t have gone through COVID any other way. The connection we formed was visceral and powerful, and the test that COVID imposed on our relationship was easily defeated by the joy we experienced upon discovering each other. We talked about who gave the disease to whom, but in the end we realized it didn’t matter. COVID brought us together and more than three months after our first date we are still together planning our next dates, adventures and travels.
The author, a lifelong Californian, is a high school English teacher and associate professor. He’s on Twitter @parkmesse.
LA Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the LA area, and we want to hear your real story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. The submission guidelines can be found here. Past columns can be found here.
I found a friend on Bumble during the pandemic
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