Illustrations by Slimy Oddity
In history books of the future, the horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic will be described in painstaking detail. Students will learn about the devastating number of lives lost and the vast economic toll wrought by the virus. Authors will explain how, in many ways, life was put on hold indefinitely — children in virtual school, travel canceled, weddings and other celebrations postponed.
It’s critical that future generations understand the pandemic’s effect. But what will be left out of the textbooks? Those fears you and your family felt in mid-March when shutdowns began. The TV shows and books that eased your anxiety during quarantine. Historians might not explain the myriad ways some learned to see the world anew. In many cases, a different life was forged in an otherwise dark, isolated time.
Communicating with readers is part of my job as an audience engagement editor at the L.A. Times. During the pandemic, this has meant gaining insight into our readers’ lived experiences. In the last year, I’ve sent out surveys about missed rent payments and small business closures. As I’m sure you can guess, the responses were often heartbreaking.
Then last August I tried something different. I sent out a survey about love. I asked readers: “Did you fall in love or become closer with your partner during the pandemic?”
This issue is dedicated to the stories that readers told.
Some answers were short and sweet: “We spend every day, almost every moment together since the pandemic started. After 25 years of marriage, we are closer than ever,” one man responded.
Others painted deeply intimate portraits of the ways their love evolved over the past year. Partners who stuck together through COVID diagnoses and family deaths. Two people pining for each other while in a long-distance relationship between the U.S. and El Salvador. A separated couple who decided not to sign the divorce paperwork after all.
We even received a few stories of long-lost friends who became lovers years after meeting. As a hopeless romantic, I found those a particular joy to read.
Many details made me smile and even laugh out loud. A couple who took “a big step” and introduced their dogs to each other. A wife who teases her husband about his overuse of the word “pivot” on work calls.
Here are some of my favorite responses to the survey. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.
Responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Finding shelter together
We decided to move in together during a pandemic. Let me tell you, looking for a place to live during a pandemic is not a walk in the park. And adjusting to someone else’s daily routines and habits is also not a trivial matter. But after a few months I wondered why we didn’t do this sooner. Living with my partner felt so natural. It was nice to have someone to do mundane things with, and to just be there.
When I lost my job and spiraled into a dark place, he was there to remind me that life was still happening around us.
— Holly Tran
In 2020, Alex and I lived in three different places. His place in Hollywood. Our place in North Hollywood. Then we moved in with my grandma, where we are to this day. He helped take care of my grandma when she had COVID. He says she’s the only grandma he’s ever really had. Seeing how much he loves me, Poppy (originally my dog) and my family has only deepened my love, devotion and trust. I love this dork.
— Michelle Aslanyan
During COVID we became very distant. We actually separated and were about to divorce — but we both stopped before signing the papers. With the kids, his job as a firefighter, bills and COVID, things became overwhelming, but we got through it all. We fell in love again.
— Victoria Harris
My fiancé left to visit his family in February 2020. “It will only be six months,” I thought. Then the pandemic hit, the airport in El Salvador (his home country) shut down, and he had no way of renewing his student visa because the offices were closed.
It was a very difficult few months not knowing when we would see each other again. But one day before my 29th birthday in November he surprised me: He came back.
— Susan Rodriguez
We have been married for 23 years, 12 of which my husband has worked out of town. As a TV producer, he had to go where the work was and that was hardly ever in Los Angeles. Long-distance marriages can really work, and we wrote the manual for a successful one.
Then the pandemic hit and all production was halted. The next thing I knew my husband was home. We went from seeing each other every couple of weeks to being together all day. Every day. For days on end.
It wasn’t easy. He is a night owl and I am an early riser. He doesn’t eat between meals, and I am constantly snacking. We had to get used to each other’s habits again (his loud banging around in the kitchen, my snoring), sync up our daily rhythms (“You’re eating dinner now?”) and adjust our schedules to accommodate each other (“But I need the office for a Zoom meeting!”).
Now, 10 months in, I can tell you we are better than ever.
— Debby Pearlman
I’d been living in Ecuador and moved to Napa Valley in November 2019 to run a small bed-and-breakfast. Last April I decided to go on a dating site. I began a remote exchange with a woman in Berkeley. We agreed to meet several weeks later and our attraction was immediate. She is beautiful and kind and fascinating and smart. We are deeply in love.
— Pat Viera
After a year of dating, we took a big step and finally introduced our dogs to each other. He has two big dogs, one husky and one German shepherd, and I have a small dachshund-Chihuahua mix. We are happy to say they get along.
— Maira Sanchez
My family lost a loved one to COVID-19. My partner’s unconditional support helped me and my family through these times of pain.
We hope to visit India once we both are vaccinated for our engagement ceremony and wedding. Though this year brought a lot of heartache, it was also a year of reflection and planning for our future. We learned an important lesson — to always cherish your loved ones and hold them tight when possible. Our love survived and thrived.
— Alejandra Gonzalez
My husband bought a camping van that turned into the “date night mobile” for getting takeout and eating meals at the beach. We bought mountain bikes. We constantly say, “It’s not so bad quarantining with your best friend.”
But there was one argument recently when he ate seven pieces of my See’s candy. That crossed the line.
— Elena Ramos Peffly
I’m a healthcare worker and she works from home, so it became even more important for us to find things to connect over outside of our normal dinner and movie dates. We started doing things like learning to play piano at home and doing puzzles together. Even though we’ve been together 10 years, the tough circumstances actually brought us closer together.
— Asia Sullivan
I met Shawn on Dec. 26, 2019, for a date in Silver Lake. The power was out in the neighborhood that day. Foreshadowing?
Three dates and five days later, I told him I was in the process of knocking myself up and that he was free to run. He stayed.
My first embryo implantation failed. My close friend was diagnosed with Stage 4 uterine cancer. He stayed.
My second implantation failed. My job sent us home to work. The city locked down. I want to say that all happened within the same week; it was a bad week.
He stayed and — without much discussion — we decided we would quarantine together. I remember lying in bed early on in the quarantine and whispering, “I want to say I love you, but I don’t want to freak either of us out.”
He didn’t respond. I mean, eventually he said it, but not that night. It was the next day, when he told me he was 93% sure he felt the same.
In December we celebrated one year since our first date. And what a year it’s been.
— Mary Anne Bargen
This pandemic has proved to us we’re built for a partnership together — and thank goodness, because we got pregnant by surprise in June. After we got over the initial shock, we embraced the miracle.
We decided to elope to Palm Springs in October (who knew getting a marriage license during COVID was going to be next to impossible?). No family, no friends, no guests, just a photographer a healthy 10 feet away. It turns out it was the ceremony we’d always wanted, without knowing it.
— Sean Conroy
Sitting at home during the pandemic, I thought of my friend, Lisa, a photographer whom I worked with more than 20 years ago. I stalked social media and sent her a message.
One week later the little red bubble lit up on my messenger app. It was Lisa. Her simple reply changed my life. When I told Lisa that I was no longer “straight,” she reportedly “fell out of her chair.” Apparently she had a thing for me way back when; I had no idea.
After mustering up the courage to call her, thanks to a glass of Cab, she answered the phone, “No f— way!!” and the nerves melted. She was my friend and now my home, Lisa. We now have plans to be married … SOON because life is too short, too precious and too uncertain.
— Michelle Pepkowitz
I dated my college boyfriend and first true love for three years before we broke up. We weren’t ready to get married and had other plans.
Fast-forward almost 50 years. Life’s circumstances brought us back together. He came to visit me in early March, intended to be a short visit. COVID turned it into a five-month living situation instead! It certainly has brought to light the reason why we were compatible so long ago. It’s never too late!
— Charlotte Morrison
We celebrated our 20th anniversary in Las Vegas at the Venetian with our two children. Two weeks later we went into quarantine.
Then at 2:15 a.m. the night of Aug. 6, the sky exploded with a lightning storm unlike any I had seen. The River fire broke out that night and then two days later the Carmel fire broke out only 4½ miles from our house.
We thought we had been through a lot but evacuating our kids, dogs, cats, birds and chickens really took a lot as a couple. We really leaned on each other, and our already strong bond became even stronger.
— Michael Lykken
It’s been almost nothing but stormy weather since my man and I have been together. Yet we find a way to love through it all.
Sometimes his coffee slurps and deep sighs turn me into a praying mantis lady, and my midnight chatter is clearly the stuff of man-mares. We snap and snarl in too close a space.
And yet, love prevails. Now if he could just communicate a bit more, and me a bit less … but what else is new? Love rules, even in a pandemic.
— Maggie Sennish
We got engaged in February when the coronavirus still seemed like a distant phenomenon. Our dream was to have a destination wedding in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with our extended families and friends.
In March, the pandemic blew up just when we were about to travel to Mexico to meet with our wedding coordinator. Our wedding hopes grew dimmer as the COVID-19 case numbers kept growing. By the end of April, we realized that our plans were no longer realistic and made the difficult decision to forgo our dream wedding and elope.
Neither of us could think of a more stunning locale than Big Sur to recite our vows to each other. We got in touch with an officiant, rented a convertible, drove up the Pacific Coast Highway and said “I do” on a seaside cliff during sunset in Big Sur.
Getting married amid the timeless grandeur of the California coast made us feel like we were starting a great adventure together. We cried because our families were not there with us. But we also laughed, danced and cuddled while sea otters played in the ocean and crickets chirped nearby.
We are now living happily together a month into our marriage. We never thought that a pandemic would bring us so much closer.
— Eduardo Lizarraga
While in quarantine I was connecting with my friends online and shared a post. Some friends replied, including my school friend Claudia.
We started chatting and found out we were both single and even born in the same hospital about six weeks apart! I told her I am queer. She decided to be bold and told me about a crush she had on me when we were teenagers in the ’80s. We started chatting every single day since and fell so in love.❤️
— Rebecca Navarrete
Never could I have imagined that we would spend months sitting three feet apart from each other in a shared home office. We learn so much by watching each other at work. I tease him about his overuse of the term “pivot” and he laughs at the faces I make into the phone when dealing with frustrating clients.
— Daryll Hinckley
After having a crush on my co-worker for months, I finally asked her out on a date. A week later, COVID-19 hit.
It took just one week apart before we decided to share a bubble together. None of our co-workers know. We CC each other on emails while sitting side by side. We even participate in a weekly team Zoom call, thanks to an intricate on-and-off muting system when one of us needs to speak.
This past week, she looked in my eyes and said, “I love dating you.” I replied with a smile. “Dating? I thought we were just living together.”
— Rebecca Williams
Since March, my now-wife and I have gotten married, lost and took up new jobs, and moved cross-country to L.A. It’s been a hell of a way to start a marriage.
— Zach Suber
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