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L.A. Affairs: How being alone during coronavirus helped me make a real connection

L.A. Affairs
We have fallen into a nightly evening phone call habit.
(Franziska Barczyk / For The Times)

Being single during the pandemic isn’t all that bad.

After the abrupt closure of the school where I was teaching, I suddenly found myself with an extra two weeks plus spring break ahead of me. As the teens were screaming and cheering on our last day, I started to dream of a spontaneous mini-trip. (California was being aggressive in its shutdown, but other places weren’t.) My usual go-to is the Caribbean. The clear blue water, swaying palm trees, steel-pan music and the laid-back peaceful vibe were calling to me. Maybe I can escape, I thought. LAX wasn’t completely shut down yet.

I posted about my potential mini-vacation opportunity on social media and within hours a guy I call “St. Martin,” a 6-foot, 4-inch singing bartender with a boyishly wide smile, messaged me on Whats App. He had seen my seen my post and offered to fly me in. (We had dated several years ago, and I would fly out to see him every three months. It made for the perfect, exciting dating situation. Our breakup was bittersweet, and we half-joked that someday we’d end up together after our kids were grown.) Now, as a restaurant and bar owner, he had to frantically keep working while the tourists were there. A lunch date was all he could offer. It sounded like too much trouble for too little time.

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Later a poolside bartender I call “Puerto Rico” texted to check in on me. Yes, I know I have a habit of meeting and dating bartenders on tropical islands. But what can I say? I’m friendly, outgoing and curious. I like to get to know the locals when I travel and find out where they hang out. Bartenders always know the best spots. Sometimes they even offer to give you and your friends private tours. Or surprise you and your travel buddies with picnics on the beach. This is why I have a terrible time dating locally. How can American guys live up to this? Anyway, he volunteered to check on discount rates at the hotel where he worked. The next day, when I checked back in with him, his hotel had closed and he had been laid off. There went that idea.

As the days progressed and a total shutdown seemed inevitable, the messages from guys from my past took on hints of desperation. It seemed no one wanted to be in quarantine alone. By this point, though, I had made peace that I would have to stay put alone as everything everywhere started to shut down.

Instead, trying to remain positive about the isolation, I created a quarantine bucket list. One item was to try online dating again and make more of an effort. I would try to make a real connection.

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On one of my many isolation walks, I thought back to a guy I had matched with on a dating app a couple of weeks before the shutdown. He was intellectually stimulating, told entertaining stories about his military experiences in Iraq, and was back home, working in customer service.

I did something totally out of character: I sent him my phone number.

A couple of weeks later we have fallen into a nightly phone call habit.

Now that everything in the world had slowed to a standstill, we were forced to take things slowly.

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Our conversations last until late into the night as we take time to share travel stories, create inside jokes, genuinely listen and discuss our fears during this surreal time. We don’t feel the need to jump to the next level.

I don’t even have to bother taking an hour to put on makeup and pick an outfit for our phone “dates.” I can simply change out of my yoga isolation daytime wear and into my nighttime PJs look instead. It’s refreshing. As we were talking one recent night, I said, “I hope you remember me after all this is over and things get back to normal.”

He laughed and reminded me of some of the date ideas we had dreamed up for the future: Visiting an old-school bar and arcade in Highland Park, and stair-hiking in Silver Lake. And my indoor ax-throwing birthday party that had to be rescheduled due to the shutdown.

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After we hung up, I smiled, realizing that whether we held each other to these promises or not, it was all going to be OK. I was enjoying the moment. In this new age of isolation dating, just like everything else in the world, especially right now, nothing was guaranteed.

The author is a teacher and you can find her on Instagram @tera__2014

Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary: L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles — and we want to hear your story. You must allow your name to be published, and the story you tell has to be true. We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here.


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