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Photograph: Hollis Johnson

20 single New Yorkers on what it's like to date in the city right now

Going on dates has definitely been bizarre this year.

Will Gleason
Written by
Will Gleason

One of the aspects of our lives that has changed the most this year has been dating. Gone are the days of sweaty dance floors and jam-packed dive bars. Now, we meet people over apps for socially distanced walks or outdoor dining. In the past, the most important moment of a first date was always the kiss. Now, it’s when you both decide to take off your face masks.

Over the last year, we’ve sent single New Yorkers out on socially distanced blind dates across the city for our Undateables column. From kayaking in the Hudson River to connecting over pizza in Brooklyn Bridge Park, we’ve done our best to kindle some sparks during the time of Covid—to varying results.

Along with quizzing the daters on how their nights went, we also asked them to weigh in with their general thoughts on what it’s like to date in the city during a time like this. You can read through their opinions below.

Christophe: "Generally, I find it very stressful interacting with people during this time. It’s hard to find the balance of having fun on a date, but not exposing people to risk." 

Charlotte: "Going on a blind date is already a strange experience, and Covid just added another layer of not quite knowing what to expect. It was a whole lot of unknowns all matched up into one afternoon."

Aliyah: "We didn’t wear masks when we were eating. [The restaurant’s] culture seemed to be one where the customers sitting down at tables weren’t wearing masks, but when going to the bathroom, everyone was wearing masks."

Ryan: "When I tried to reach in for a handshake, I we ended up giving each other an elbow bump. We didn’t sit face-to-face, we sat diagonally because we didn’t want to talk directly at each other. These were the adjustments we had to make, but we got past that real quick."

Photograph: Ashleigh Ray StatonRyan and Aliyah

Courtney: "It felt weirder in my head before I got there. But once we were there, it was a nice time and there were a lot of people around. The place was really busy and thriving. But it was the farthest I’ve traveled from my apartment since all of this happened."

Maggie: "Because I’m not inviting anyone over right away, it kind of takes the pressure of everything being perfect. [This year] has made me a lot more open-minded, but the pandemic can definitely kill the romantic part of dating. Also, I’m more focused on skills that could help us survive an apocalypse now. How strong they are, etc."

Barrie: "The masks make everything awkward. It’s uncomfortable meeting someone new and not knowing their comfort level in that situation. You’re very conscious about how other people feel about these things, especially because the mask is protecting that other person. It’s kind of a game, and it doesn’t feel totally normal yet."

David: "It was surreal. I still don’t know how to gauge how people want to be physically greeted—if a handshake is ok or if a hug goodbye is ok. So that adds a layer of awkwardness to it. We shook hands. I asked for permission for that."

James: "The masks were a thing, but it felt more normal than other dates I’ve had since this whole COVID thing. She set the standard because she took the mask off when we first sat down. So I saw that and was like, Oh, Ok. I’ll take mine off too. But other than that, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I’ve had more weird, awkward dating experiences." 

Annabelle: "He’s the first stranger I’ve met in seven months, so I had to turn my social skills back on. I think we’d both been doing outdoor dining, so we were both used to the vibes. I think it became natural and normal pretty early on during the date."

Photograph: Lila BarthJames and Annabelle

Luke: "We talked a lot about how we liked that everything was outdoors now. I hope it keeps going and that there’s even more things outside after all of this."

Viviana: "One positive thing about the distanced aspect was that I don’t feel obligated to hug or get close at the start of the date. I feel like that’s usually the most awkward part. So that actually made it easier. But it did make it a bit difficult to figure out if sharing things was ok. We had to negotiate that a little bit, so that felt kind of strange."

David: "It just felt really strange having to wear masks to and from the restaurant. It was kind of awkward knowing when you should put on the mask or take it off. That sort of thing." 

Maura: "I don’t think he shook my hand at the start which I was glad about. I haven’t been shaking people’s hands. Also, he wasn’t wearing a mask right away. I kept mine on and then asked him if it was ok if I took mine off. I didn’t want to assume that he’d be comfortable about that."

Photograph: Hollis JohnsonDavid and Maura


John: "I didn’t think it was that weird. We had to wear masks going to the bathroom and before we sat down, but after that it was pretty ok. I think if it was earlier in the summer it would have been more weird."

Davis: "It’s kind of like one of those scenes in a movie where you can tell something dystopic is happening outside of a bubble, but everything’s fine inside of it. If you wanted to frame it as ominous, you could."

Orlando: "We spent a lot of time talking about how we both avoid the subway and how things have been more dangerous in the street. Being outside in a booth when it’s cold is weird. Luckily, we had a heater which made it doable. Wearing a mask was weird. Honestly, this was the first date I’d been on since Covid. But it was about as weird as I thought it’d be."

Renée: "I was in full lockdown. I’ve only been out and about in small groups. But the restaurant did a really good job. They have these outdoor pods with heaters in them. For me, the most surreal thing was that I was out with someone I knew nothing about, and I haven’t done anything like that since March. 

Megan: "Honestly, I felt very comfortable around him, so it didn’t feel weird in that regard. The only weird thing was looking around and seeing that the closest people were 25 feet away. So definitely different than pre-March. And obviously that you’re wearing masks. Usually, you’d chat with the waiter, see their face... but now you don’t and you’re kind of used to that."

Alex: "Definitely the mask wearing and being conscious of personal space and keeping space between each other was part of it. But, overall, just everyone in masks while you’re on a date is super weird."

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