As the coronavirus pandemic develops and we continue to practise social distancing, IRL dating is becoming increasingly difficult, if impossible. But is it okay to use the virus as an excuse to ghost?
We’d been speaking on Hinge for around two weeks, which in dating years is the equivalent of about three months. We’d hit it off from the start. He loved well-designed Swiss watches; I like to be on time. I’m an avid runner; he once ran a relay in school.
We had enough superficial things in common to facilitate a fortnight of easy small talk, so when he finally asked me to go on a date, it came as no surprise. We decided on a couple of casual drinks and planned to meet on a Sunday evening in South West London.
But in the days leading up to the date, we talked less and less. I told myself he must be too busy to chat, but I instinctively knew there must be more to it. So when the morning of our date rolled round and I’d not heard anything from him, the anxiety set in. At midday, I took control of the situation and contacted him in an attempt to solidify our plans.
“So… what time shall we meet tonight?”
“Ah… so sorry, but I’m going to have to cancel. I’m feeling fluey – hopefully it’s not coronavirus, but you can’t be too sure!”
“Sorry to hear that, let me know when you want to rearrange?”
And reader, that was the last I heard from him.
Ghosting is nothing new; it’s a dating trend that has long haunted modern romances, leaving those on the receiving end feeling confused and rejected. People have varying justifications as to why they do it, but according to relationship expert, Kate Mansfield, ghosting is “an unconscious reaction” that is “usually based on a fear of intimacy or commitment”. It’s just one of a myriad of behaviours that have contributed to making being single seem chronic – and frustratingly so. For the most part, though, if you’re really honest with yourself, you probably saw the ghosting coming, which can make you feel slightly stupid on top of the rejection.
As if the current dating landscape wasn’t bad enough, recent global news has had a further negative impact. Coronavirus, the virus that’s supposedly contracted through contaminated air droplets, surfaces and physically touching an infected person, has added a new difficulty.
The government has issued advice to limit face-to-face contact with friends and family whenever possible as part of social distancing, so that leaves many issues when it comes to relationships.
For those actively dating, COVID-19 is yet another obstacle that has completely changed the scope, as the presence of the virus in the UK shows little sign of abating anytime soon.
Danni, a marketing manager working in banking, recently went on a date with a man who had come back from Wuhan just months before the outbreak surfaced. “He only told me he had been to Wuhan once we were on the date and a couple of G&T’s deep,” she explained. “So it was a little too late. I knew he wasn’t going to be ‘the one’ anyway, but it did unsettle me.”
There has been a 262% increase in coronavirus mentions on OKCupid since January this year, and there has been an upsurge in dating app bios requesting dates that “haven’t sneezed in the past 24 hours”. One witty user even created a profile for coronavirus on Tinder.
But is it acceptable to use the virus as an excuse to cancel a date? According to Mansfield, “There are many available excuses, including coronavirus, if somebody wants to wriggle out of seeing you again”.
Suzannah*, a writer based in London, had been dating someone but had sent them a text early after the WHO announcement to say that she’d rather not meet up again. Her fear, she explained, is “public spaces. Or some idiot sneezing without covering their mouth. The more you’re out in town, the more likely you are to come across it.”
As far as reasons for cancelling a date go, the fear of contracting a deadly virus, whether it’s legitimate or just an excuse to ghost someone, is difficult to argue with. Which makes it all the more annoying.
According to Mansfield, the fear of coronavirus could potentially be a positive thing. “It will slow people down”, she suggested, “and cause them to think more carefully about who they are being intimate with”.
Both Danni and Suzannah agreed that if you do suspect you have the virus, then dating should be off the cards. Danni added, “you should self-isolate and not put others at risk.”
Mansfield also offered some advice for those worried about coronavirus whilst social distancing. “Take it slow, get to know somebody first, allow things to unfold.”
If you, like myself, were victim to the coronavirus ghosting excuse, she suggests that, “being ghosted is always a gift”. “It shows you quickly that that person is not available for the kind of love and relationship that you want,” she adds. “Don’t make a rejection into a personal attack on you – sometimes it is really just about the other person.”