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Tales From the Return of In-Person Dating

An accidental kiss, mask negotiations, car sex—meeting up again is off to an awkward start.

By Heather Schwedel for SLATE July 1, 2020

On a recent Friday, a 28-year-old Torontonian named Natalia was on the first date she had been on in months, since her city and much of the world shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It was going well. She and her date met in a park near where she lives and shared a blanket, her sitting on one end, him on the other. He drank beer; she had cider. They seemed to be succeeding in both having fun and staying 6 feet apart the whole time.

Eventually it was time to say goodbye. “I was a little buzzed. He was also probably a little buzzed,” Natalia said. “I was like, ‘Oh, should we hug? I guess we shouldn’t hug.’ And then he was just like, ‘Yeah, I guess we could.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, OK … ’ ”

Natalia went in for a hug. Her date went in for a kiss.

“It just kind of happened,” she said. “I’m definitely not proud of the fact that I ended up kissing this guy.” (She, like several of the people quoted in this article, asked to be identified by her first name to preserve her privacy—and to prevent future dates from judging her.) She worried that she caught the virus and would expose her family, who lived nearby and who she’d been continuing to see throughout the pandemic. Or that she’d have to tell them the embarrassing reason she couldn’t visit them: “They’re gonna say, ‘What is wrong with you? Control your hormones.’ ”

Two days later, she went for a COVID-19 test. “It did come out negative, so that’s good,” she said.

It was a rookie mistake on a “socially distanced” first date—but it’s one many people in the coming weeks seem poised to repeat, as restrictions related to the virus start to loosen, especially in places that officials hope have put the worst of the crisis behind them. In New York, for example, last week marked the beginning of phase two, which allowed bars and restaurants to open for outdoor seating. To some single people, this looked like one more sign, after the widespread protests didn’t appear to result in large outbreaks, that some version of in-person dating could work again. Not full-blown dating like people used to do, in the olden days of January and February, but phase two dating. Socially distant dating. And after months of video dating, in-person dating sounds great, even if has to be 6 feet apart.

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