Promiti Debi | Staff Illustrator
The coronavirus outbreak has brought no shortage of ways to date remotely, like OKZoomer, a dating service where you meet your matches via the video conferencing service Zoom, and a TikTok user who picked up a girl he saw on a neighboring rooftop using his drone.
The New York City Department of Health even released a series of guidelines for how to practice safe sex during the outbreak, reminding New Yorkers that they should be avoiding close contact — including sex — with anyone they don’t live with.
Unlike those trying to find love during the pandemic, my sort-of relationship met an untimely sort-of end in the wake of school closures and shelter-in-place orders.
I met Jake on, of course, Tinder in October. He was — and still is — a senior at Duquesne University, with a funny bio that has since changed. We chatted a bit, exchanged phone numbers and chatted some more, eventually agreeing to go out for dinner at Steel Cactus in the South Side.
The date went the way most first dates off a dating app go — kind of boring and incredibly awkward. I have a tendency to talk too much when I get nervous, which I was. It taught me two things about dating, though — that tacos are a terrible thing to order on a first date and that dating using Internet services where you swipe endlessly on the people in close proximity to you is terrible. We agreed we’d be in touch for a second date.
He didn’t text me and I didn’t text him, at least until January.
Sometime during winter break, I got a text from a number not saved in my phone, that said something along the lines of, “Hey, I know this is weird since it’s been a couple of months but I was wondering if you wanted to get a drink?” I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go, but multiple friends of mine thought I should give it another chance.
We went to a Spanish restaurant in Lawrenceville, where I also did a majority of the talking, then to see Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” when it returned to theaters, eventually seeing each other sometimes multiple times per week, an impressive feat considering we’re both full-time students with jobs.
At first, I felt apprehensive. It was really hard to search for a connection with someone I met online, especially when my most recent relationship came about the old fashioned way, by meeting in person. As the weeks went by, I realized that I really liked Jake. He was everything I like in guys — funny, smart, kind to servers, a leftist — and it felt weird if a week went by and we didn’t see each other.
During the original week of spring break, I took a trip to Florida to visit my relatives, who live on a small island off the coast of Miami. Jake picked me up from the airport at midnight on a Tuesday, and we debated which university was going to make the switch to online classes first. Two days after I came back, Pitt announced that spring break was to be extended and classes were to move online due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Duquesne followed shortly after. The question came to this — how do you continue to casually date someone during a global pandemic?
The answer is that you don’t.
I think that the conversation about breaking up would have been inevitable — when the semester came to a close and he moved out of his on-campus housing at Duquesne — but I wasn’t prepared for it to happen in March. Administration at his school decided if students could move out, they should, and I suddenly had only a week to decide what to say to someone who wasn’t my boyfriend, but I certainly didn’t want to ghost.
After a series of times where we tried to meet up and one of us flaked, or didn’t answer, I texted Jake what I had wanted to say since Pitt decided to shut down. We shouldn’t keep seeing each other, not only because of the global pandemic, but because of the elephant in the room. I have plans to spend my summer living in Maryland and working at an overnight summer camp before returning for my final semester at Pitt, while he has plans to attend law school in San Diego in the fall.
I didn’t think that we wanted to be in a long-distance relationship, considering we weren’t really in a relationship at all. I was really worried, at the time, that he wouldn’t feel the same or that I was being a jerk by breaking up with him over text. Eventually, he told me that he felt the same and apologized for avoiding me because he wasn’t sure how to broach the subject.
Despite breaking up, about six hours later, I texted him to see if he wanted to come over. When I told my roommate, she rolled her eyes at me and asked me, “Didn’t you guys just break up?” We had and yet, at midnight on a Tuesday, he came over to my house, slept with his arm wrapped around my waist and drank the coffee I made in the morning.
Before he left to go volunteer at a soup kitchen — I’m not making that up, he’s that decent of a person — I asked him how attached he was to his Duquesne University hoodie, which I was wearing. “That’s dependent on how attached you are to this.” He pointed to my Pitt News T-shirt, which was sitting on a stack of folded laundry, waiting to be put away.
I wear my new sweatshirt when it gets cold in the apartment that I don’t leave for the sake of public health, and I’d like to think that Jake sometimes wears his Pitt News T-shirt when spending time with his family in Altoona.