Love in the time of coronavirus

It’s February 2021 and spring is around the corner, but for single people there’s a good chance that nothing has exploded into bloom since march of last year. Unless you are irresponsible, impressionable, or merely very horny for the Hermes man, it has been extremely difficult to meet anybody new during a pandemic.

The offer of “fancy coming back to my place?” is less enticing when you’re standing 2 metres apart in a freezing pub car park, and there’s also the risk that you might wake up next to a hungover stranger in the morning only to check your phone and realise that you’ve received a text message telling you to shelter in place for the next four weeks. You can’t even get coffee because early risers have already done a run on Waitrose and two mums have been arrested for brawling in the loo-paper aisle.

Now, I respect that some people are into masks, and for them the pandemic has probably been a bit of an adventure, but I’m old-fashioned. I like to go to the cinema (closed), the fairground (unable to complete travel paperwork as none of them have legal ID) or a fancy restaurant (now serving you steak in an aluminium box) so my love life has had less events in the last year than a basement nightclub. Much like them I’m hoping to celebrate being open for business again soon – with drinks promotions, sweat dripping from the ceiling and perhaps a happy hour on quiet Tuesdays. In the meantime, I’ve bashed out a little frustration with this summary of the romantic opportunities that have existed since March 2020.

MUTE PARTICIPANT:

THE PERILS OF ZOOM DATING

It wasn’t that long ago that a computer window full of webcams was something you’d urgently need to close down whilst trying to locate a dodgy stream of the latest Marvel movie. Now YOU are that dodgy stream, both all day in “the office” and well into the evening if you’re trying to maintain some human contact outside glaring at the neighbours because one of them coughed on you through the hedge. It’s difficult enough trying to conduct a conversation about spreadsheets when people keep freezing up but it puts a serious dampener on any attempts to negotiate a romance. The effect is like trying to make flirtatious chit-chat with a malfunctioning robot, as you can never tell whether somebody is not laughing at your lockdown jokes because they’re too morbid, or because their connection has died. There’s also that issue of the potential outcome of any erotic connection over the webcam – even in speed dating it’s broadly acceptable that somebody might impress you enough in ten minutes for you to take them home. After a Zoom date? I’m not sure they can print the answer in a family magazine, but I will say that I really hope you aren’t using a connection provided by your employer.

MY COLLAR IS AS STIFF AS MY UPPER LIP: LOVE, VICTORIAN-STYLE

If you have a much higher tolerance for frustration, or perhaps a religious belief that normalises chaste encounters with the opposite sex, then you could always try courting in the fashion of a couple from the late 1800s. You can arrange to meet somebody in a rose garden with the stipulation that you will stay two yards away from each other at all times. This condition will be enforced by an embittered maiden aunt who will regulate proceedings like a tennis umpire, armed with a riding crop or perhaps a fire extinguisher full of cold water. Now that I think about it, a riding crop might actually make matters worse if the temperatures rise, which they will undoubtedly do as you’ll both be wearing multiple layers of uncomfortable linen undergarments. In order to preclude the remote possibility of innuendo the only acceptable topics of conversation are the progress of the virus in the colonies, and whether it is better to cure yourself by drinking mercury or to take an ice bath followed by flogging. Do bear in mind that this was a generation so repressed that they scratched the nude bits out of Egyptian temples and could be sexually provoked by an especially curvaceous table leg. Personally I’m more of a Prince Albert than a Queen Victoria, if you catch my drift.

FREE RANGE ROMANCE: LOVE AMONGST THE GREAT OUTDOORS

For lovers of a more adventurous disposition, it simply might not be possible to forswear all physical contact for the indefinite duration of this pandemic. Despite best intentions, they will feel powerful urges coming upon them as they gaze out upon the full moon from their empty bedrooms. There’s nothing mystical about it though – some people are so irredeemably horny that even in a zombie apocalypse they’d be out in the fields and car parks, howling like upspayed housecats in heat. If you are reading this and think that the sordid rustles of a home counties layby could never occur in a tiny island, you’ve clearly never gone rambling through some of our secluded car parks at night. I would certainly never imply that people would do anything illegal in pursuit of pleasure, so I’m going to assume that Jersey’s pandemic doggers were all puffed up in plastic hazmat suits like a bunch of kinky nocturnal Tellytubbies, and that everybody’s post-watershed content was fully protected behind the kind of plastic seal that is impossible to remove from a badly-packaged supermarket ready meal.

EXILE ON LOVE ISLAND: SEARCHING FOR EROTIC QUARANTINE

The solutions I have listed so far will be acceptable for some, but are really just different forms of compromise. For some lovers compromise is impossible – they must live as humans, blood pumping through their veins as they inhale the pheromone-rich sweat of other mammals. If this is you, then the only solution is to leave lockdown and head to a place where humans are free to get it on in whatever way comes naturally to them. This does present a further problem in that these places are either those that think the virus is not real, or those who have maintained a hermetic border control. The first are places like the Southern States of the USA, where spitting tobacco and kissing cousins are viewed by many as a patriotic duty. Coincidentally they now have more virus than my Nan’s laptop, which leaves you the option of claiming erotic asylum in New Zealand or, perhaps more realistically, canoeing to Guernsey and throwing yourself on the romantic mercy of the neighbours. Could it be so bad? They might put you in quarantine for a couple of weeks, but then you’ll be released onto the streets of St Peter Port like an untamed beast roaming the fertile savannahs of Africa. At this point the metaphor breaks down, as if anywhere resembles the colourful safari lands of Africa it probably isn’t St Peter Port on a Friday night, but at least you can go on the lash at both of their nightclubs and mouth-kiss somebody who is wearing a fashionable outfit from 2017. If you do this, please think of your friends at home in Jersey and send me a very saucy postcard.

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