I know this seems shocking, but the last time I did anything resembling dating was in high school. As soon as I was able and 18, I packed my bags, told my parents, “I’m moving out with someone I met on the internet,” and left home. A year later, I got married and I’m still married to that same person. Needless to say, I’m not familiar with dating beyond current pop culture references to Tinder and Bumble and what I remember from my experiences nearly twenty years ago. But my “dating” experiences could be categorized into two types:
- Awkward, sweaty, secret hand-holding outside class before being shoved into a locker when the guy they liked walked down the hall
- Hanging out and having a good time on Saturday (and sometimes Sunday), then being trashed to their friends on Monday.
Needless to say, I’ve never really understood dating in the classic sense — mostly because I never experienced it.
Not that I want to. I think about dating if I were single and it gives me heart palpitations. The apps, the ghosting, the “dance” of emotions and feelings and getting to know someone and having them get to know you again — it’s overwhelming. If by some chance I were to find myself single again, I don’t think I could take it. I might just retreat from society and become a Swamp Witch, churning a cauldron of nightmares and menstrual fluid until I’m as ancient as a sibyl. Children will run from me in the streets when I creep into the village for the monthly town halls and threaten them with vague riddles of impending doom. Young women will seek out my wisdom or potions for spells while men will seek my foresight but forbid me from crossing their home thresholds. I’ll be both pariah and sage; temptress and crone. No one will desire me but everyone will still want me.
I related this plan to M, but they didn’t see the humor in it.
I can’t imagine the dating circuit while quarantined, either. I’ve read stories about first dates being on Zoom or FaceTime. I’ve also read stories about people going on one date pre-COVID then never seeing their dates again due to quarantine. Even sadder still, I’ve read about existing relationships falling apart because they lived apart pre-COVID and the virus separated them either due to distance or work/family obligations.
Sigh. I don’t like this path of the 2020 Choose Your Own Adventure timeline.
Thankfully, I’m not in that situation. I’ve been married for 16 years and M and I have been living together for over 17 years. We’re immersed in each other, for better or worse. No, it’s not always easy. I’m not going to paint our marriage as this perfect, default status all relationships should strive for because that’s not the case. But, we’ve made it this far and still want to be around each other much more than we want to kill each other, so I’d say we’re successful in this relationship.
While M and I have been in lock down, we’ve been getting creative in how we spend our marital time together. And before you go any further, this will not include any description of our sex lives as that is private and none of your business. However, like This American Life warns, we will be acknowledging the existence of sex inasmuch as it pertains to other couples and our observations therein. So if you were hoping or cringing about any descriptions of our sexual activities, I will tell you what I tell my mother: “We’re married; we don’t have sex.” I’m not sure if she believes me, but it’s enough to end the conversation.
So what can to DINKs do (besides NOT have sex, of course) during quarantine?
Introduce each other to movies we loved as kids. This one is easy. Now that the movie industry has slowed to a halt, we can finally catch up on the backlog of movies we’ve been meaning to see. There are a lot, unfortunately. M and I had very different upbringings and that shows in what we watched as kids. They’re showing me movies like Dark City, The Lost Boys, TRON, and War Games. I made him watch The Princess Bride, The Craft, The Cable Guy, and Last Action Hero. Some movies hold up to our childhood memories, others do not. For the ones that hold up, we have discussions about them. For the ones that don’t we laugh and riff on them.
As a reminder, The Lost Boys is just…*chef’s kiss*
Cook food together. I’m not a cook. I hate cooking. I don’t like food preparation at all. Cutting, chopping, washing, tearing — it’s tedious and just gets in the way of my eating the food. But I’ve been helping cook more meals thanks to Blue Apron food kits. We’ve had numerous delicious meals together (as well as a few not so appetizing ones). The best recipes, I believe, are the meals that require you to fry or soft-boil an egg on top of them as a flourish. It is important for my obsession with eggs to have an egg flourish.
The one downside to Blue Apron is kale. M and I share a hatred for kale, which is a garbage food for garbage people. With so many flavorful greens like rainbow chard, mustard greens, and even spinach in the world, kale’s existence can only be explained by my fellow white people. It’s tasteless, dry, formless, and unappealing. Blending kale with almond milk, sauteing it with onions, or smothering it with oil and frying it with rice are just a few of the ways us whites have tried to convince the world that kale is edible, but these are lies — kale will suck the life out of any food you mix it with until your meal is sad and depressed and then you are sad and depressed for eating it. Kale doesn’t even dissolve in your mouth when you bite into it; it just lingers there long after you chew it but somehow gets stuck between your teeth and under your tongue for hours even though you can’t taste it. Naturally, Blue Apron includes it in almost every recipe. Worse still, Blue Apron includes kale as part of a salad. Meaning, I have to eat a side salad consisting of kale and — I don’t fucking know — walnuts and tangerine slices.
Let me explain something about salads. They’re fine. They’re a cute little side dish to convince you that you ate something healthy. But if my meal was already healthy, I don’t want to eat a fucking salad with it. I paraphrase Ron Swanson from the beloved show Parks and Recreation when I say, “No, son, I am not a rabbit.” In the Before Times, I ordered a salad as a meal if I knew there was nothing healthy on the menu. But I will not be insulted with kale, walnuts, and tangerine slices — some middle school trip chaperone mom’s idea of snack foods — mixed together and called a side dish. How dare you. I’m an adult.
When Blue Apron sends kale, M laments from the kitchen, “Oh no, Nina. Something terrible happened to the kale!”
“What? What happened?” I call out, feigning disappointment.
“It fell in the garbage.”
Then we hum the Funeral March of Queen Mary and go about our cooking the other parts of the recipe.
Go on Duo dates with friends. Maintaining friendships whilst physically distancing yourself from friends is difficult. My girlfriends and I are affectionate with each other for one, and two friends had babies within a month of each other (despite my snark, I don’t have problems being around their children). It would be nice to hug my friends, hold their babies, and pull them aside to talk privately. But none of that is possible right now and it’s especially critical for them to have as much distance as possible while their infants are growing their immune systems. So for now, we go on Google Duo dates and watch something on YouTube or a movie together. Earlier this month, we streamed Hamilton; before that, we watched Phantom of the Opera. We make it work.
(Incidentally, do you know how much teeth-pulling goes into deciding on a video chat platform? Some people don’t have iPhones, so we can’t use FaceTime. For those of us that do, FaceTime sucks. There’s Skype, but some people fucking hate Skype. Some people have Microsoft Teams, but others don’t; some can’t figure out Zoom. It’s nuts. We’re all on Slack, but Slack doesn’t have video chat. We settled on Duo, even though I was the one who capitulated to my Google hatred. WHY CAN’T WE HAVE ONE THING?)
We pick musicals because they’re the least divisive, but I’ve got to admit something. I’m a former theater kid, but I’m starting to hate musicals. Sure, I’ve got my steadfast favorites (Chicago is my all-time favorite, and Book of Mormon is the most recent), but lately I just cannot connect with them. The ones that used to light me up inside as a teenager grate on my nerves as a 30-something. I think I noticed it first mid-depression a few years ago, but it was while watching The Last Five Years, a soundtrack I used to love years ago. The movie version just irritated me, even though the actors were incredible performers and believable as Cathy and Jamie, I just couldn’t stand watching or listening to them sing. Then, I watched Moana with friends and thought Ok, this is…fine, I suppose. I’m not sure why I don’t like this as much as everyone else does, though. And my sister-in-law, who is far more brash than I do, said it succinctly: “Yeaaaah, Moana….it was fine and then they started singing. Then I was like, ‘just shut up.’” That’s when I realized, Holy shit, I don’t like musicals any more!
So what I’m getting at is this: Phantom might be your trash, so I won’t say the obvious (it is ridiculous trash). But Hamilton? Um. Yeah. Good for this world, but not my thing. But it would have been 15 years ago.
Go outside for a walk when there’s no one around. Arabia Mountain might be out of the question these days because A) there are too many people around for it to be safe and B) it’s the Summer in Georgia and I’d rather not melt into a pile of red hair and teeth before we even made it to the base. But that doesn’t mean hiking is out of the question. We’ve been able to explore sparsely populated trails here in Northern Georgia and take a few walks around the neighborhood with our masks on. During those times, we don’t run into many people and if we do, we step off to the side to give at least a 10-foot berth to the passers-by.
While we walk, we talk. Well, M talks — I listen and respond passively. I can’t converse and traverse at the same time lest I get clumsy and get stumbly, whether that be of words or feet. But M hasn’t lost his zeal and can navigate trails and sentences gracefully, so I follow them while they lead the conversation and the way until we’re back home, and I’m safe again.
Remark on how much sex everyone is having. Ok, here’s where things get cagey but have you noticed that when people are bored and trapped inside, they fuck a lot but act like they don’t? Sure, you have your braggards — the ones who giggle and go “tee-hee my husband and I were so busy over the weekend!” Wink wink, nudge nudge saynomore saynomore! Yup, we get it, you were fucking. Good for you. But then you’ve got the people who will never say anything about their private lives and the evidence of their sexual activity is obvious.
For example, I was browsing Target’s site for the semi-monthly “don’t want to order from Amazon” purchase and noticed that they were out of a lot of stuff. There are the regular items like hand sanitizer, soap, and toilet paper that they never seem to have in stock, but then other less innocent items disappeared from the site: Lotion. Underwear. Candles. I scratched my head, wondering why these items I needed for quarantine reasons were always out when I needed them.
Then it dawned on me. Oh. Oh. Of course.
Next, I started to see ads for vibrators while web browsing — that may or may not have been coincidental — from an upscale adult sex toy shop right here in Atlanta (I won’t link to them because I’m not yet at the point where I let you know where I buy my sex stuff, but trust me — they’re the best). They were high-end vibrators, so at least the advertisers flattered me while profiling me. However, when I went to the site to, well, observe just how high-end these vibrators were, I was met with another shock — a lot of the vibrators were also out of stock. In fact, a number of other implements and accessories were out of stock! And their orders were delayed for a full week-and-a-half!!
I said to M, “Wow, people are bored so they’re having sex. And if they’re not having sex, they’re masturbating a lot. This site can’t fulfill the orders fast enough.”
They replied, “Which makes me think the people running this site are also having sex. Or masturbating. Or both.”
“Oh damn. You’re probably right.”
(Again, this does not apply to us. We’re married; we don’t have sex.)
If you’re still part of the few following the stay-at-home protocol, you’re likely suffering from claustrophobia and boredom, even if you’re partnered up with someone you care about. It’s difficult being in the same home with someone 24/7 and expecting it to work 100% of the time. If your relationship is new, it is the ultimate test of getting to know each other. This is when the mask slips and your other half gets to see who you are underneath that carefully controlled persona you created. Soon, they’ll know that:
- You fart. A lot. In your sleep, too. Big, loud, stinky farts that come in twos and threes. They make the dog raise her head and pity you.
- You don’t know how to use any setting on the microwave other than REHEAT and aren’t interested in learning any more.
- You compulsively flick the hallway light switches downstairs so they’re in the DOWN position and the switches upstairs so they’re in the UP position and secretly get mad when they’re out of alignment but never say anything.
- You make up songs about everything. Everything. Going to the bathroom? “IIIII’m gonna go poop! Gonna go poop! Here I go poooooop!” Throwing something away? “Whaaaaat is this thing? I don’t knooooow! Throwing this thing awaaaaay! Throwing this thing awaaaaay!” Stepped on something? “Ow! Fuck! Stepped on a goddamn caaaaaattoy! Fucking cats and their tooooooys! Trying to kill meeeeee!”
- You are still not done farting. In fact, you probably ran to the bathroom twice reading this to release a fart or two (or three), but you are not fooling your partner. You don’t have to pee that much.
Naturally, this takes getting used to. There’s the period of adjustment, followed by celebration of these quirks.
Of course, well before you get to the 17th year of cohabitation, you move past the celebration period and into the natural part of yourself phase. Sometimes, your partner will even join with you on some of these quirks, or, you will learn to better yourself. Maybe you’ll learn to use another button on the microwave or not care so much about the light switches. But goddamn it, you’re going to continue to fart a lot.
It’ll make your bonding experience in quarantine a lot better.