Just when you got the hang of sexting, 2020 showed up and changed the dating game all over again. Suddenly, instead of a quick IRL meetup for a cocktail, we were back on the phone, chatting it up like it’s 1999 and seeing faces for the first time via Zoom. And while things are looking up for 2021, COVID-19 is still very real, very dangerous and very much affecting our budding love lives. Which is precisely why Bumble, the women-first social dating app, released their own data-driven bible for dating in 2021. There are lots of great tidbits in there—like 68 percent of Bumblers admit to swiping in sweatpants—but two of the most useful tips for dating in 2021 revolve around “The COVID Conversation.” Here are the two things you need to establish before you say yes to an in-person date in 2021.
1. Find out your potential date’s attitude toward COVID-19
The vision: You chat with a person for a couple weeks and then decide to meet up for a cocktail. In your mind, you’re getting margaritas to-go so you can sit socially distanced at the park across the street. The reality: You show up to learn that your date thinks you’re drinking indoors and didn’t bring a mask along.
Infectious diseases expert Dr. Ravina Kullar recommends in the Bumble dating guide that you learn your match’s attitudes towards social distancing and wearing masks before you meet up—she even thinks you can do this during the first conversation you have (second convo works too, but early on is important). Here are some helpful questions, per Dr. Kullar, to gauge your date’s vibe if you’re thinking about meeting up in person:
- What have you been doing for the past couple of weeks?
Have they been hanging with friends, going to restaurants, work? Dr. Kullar stresses getting to know your date’s patterns—especially in the last 14 days (*hint hint: the estimated incubation time of COVID-19*) so you can grasp their behavior and who they’ve been exposed to. And if you learn that they go parties and don’t always wear masks in public, maybe their outlook on safety and public health doesn’t really align with yours in a major way, and the relationship isn’t worth exploring.
- Do you live with anybody else?
Do they live with an essential worker who’s coming in contact with others? Do they live with three roommates or children who are in and out of the home? Who your date is coming in contact with could put you at risk of coming in contact with those people. (Germs 101, people.) Perhaps that means you stick to outdoor and contactless meet-up situations until you really like each other, trust each other and can integrate safely into each other’s pods.
- Have you had any symptoms?
Not exactly sexy talk, but you should definitely know if your potential date is experiencing any COVID symptoms prior to meeting up. Even if they’ve had a small cough, it’s probably smart to reschedule.
2. Decide what your comfort level with COVID exposure is
So you’ve grilled your date. But have you really sat down with your own thoughts about this stuff? Dr. Carolina Pataky, a sex therapist and founder of Love Discovery Institute, told Bumble, “Meeting someone who you want to actively go on a date with can stir up a whirlwind of exciting emotions and feelings…You may want to throw all your inhibitions out the window. That’s why you need to plan and prepare, beforehand.”
Perhaps the risks of meeting in-person (after evaluating your date’s COVID patterns), outweigh your desires—especially since you’re planning on visiting your parents soon. Or maybe you struggle communicating virtually, and in-person connection is crucial for you (and you’re fine quarantining from your favorite cousins for it).
This comfort level will likely change as things come up in your life, work, family, etc. So continue evaluating yourself before you say yes to something that could expose you to COVID and put you (and your pod) in a precarious situation.