October 02, 2020
Love in the Time of COVID-19, Six Months Later

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the struggle continues for those in love or looking for love.

by Puji Maharani
English
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It has been over six months since the first novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) case was announced in Indonesia. If the disease, which has since become a global pandemic, has taught me anything, it is that prolonged longing for your loved ones is unbearable, especially if you have no idea when you get to see them again.

As the number of new cases in the country consistently increases since March, reaching over 200,000 total cases in September, I have to do my best in shooing my worst fear: could the last time I saw them also be the last time ever?

It is one thing to be apart from your loved ones because you are busy, or they are far away, or you have yet to figure out the perfect timing to arrange for your next date. Add a pandemic into the mix and it is an entirely different story that you wished were fictional. No wonder Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel Love in the time of Cholera (1988) has become a common reference to talk about love in the moment when human lives could be so short-lived.

For me, it has been half a year since the last time I saw my boyfriend in person. Since we started dating, we knew that we mostly would be in a long-distance relationship because we live in different countries. I was not a believer of such romantic setup, but apparently, we like each other enough to decide to make it work. However, because of the pandemic, I am now in a long-distance relationship that keeps both of us safe at home, but also in the dark when it comes to making plans to visit each other.

When I was still single and sometimes get irritated during family gatherings when my relatives ask on the whereabout of my love interest, I sometimes would answer jokingly, “We are in a long-distance relationship because we live in a different time zone, I am here right now, and he is in the future.” Lesson learned: beware of self-fulfilling prophecy.

During the pandemic, I miss my boyfriend differently. Despite how much I miss him, I could not afford the risk to make the trip to see him. Being apart from him is how I could keep him and our loved ones safe.

Being apart from each other for months have changed the way we communicate, too. As we have to abandon physical touch altogether, we settle with mostly words of affirmation and quality time spent through our gadgets, and cat videos and Avatar: The Last Airbender memes he sends me feel like gifts.

This situation shows me how technology helps us modern humans cope in times of uncertainty in life, love, and everything in between.

Life as a thirty-something single woman in the 21st century for me meant freedom to pursue my curiosity and career aspirations, and opportunity to get to know myself better through the time I spent with myself. However, I was not certain I would find a suitable suitor because of who I am, with all my quirks, passion to be an advocate for feminism, and penchant for puns. So, I decided to hand my luck over to algorithm that powered Tinder, OKCupid, and Bumble. I had many right swipes, many first dates, and many moments of realization that things were not working as well as I thought it could be. But I kept telling myself, “Hey, modern problems require modern solutions!”

By the time Tinder made its Passport feature free and Bumble introduced virtual dating badge for users who are willing to go on phone or video dates, I no longer needed the service to expand my dating pool. After encountering quite a handful of matches, I had figured out what it felt like to get to know someone beyond his over 90 percent compatibility rating on OKCupid, and later received a PDF file of our chat in the app as a keepsake after both of us deleted our accounts.

Yet, I can relate to the struggles of those who are still using dating apps for seeking different types of connections and companionships, because I had been there, too. This kind of search could get even more challenging during pandemic, because now you have more layers of filter than your cotton masks.

You may find a cutie with bright eyes, brilliant mind, or similar values, but you also need to make sure this person is considerate enough to comply with health protocols before going out with them. If anything, the pandemic is a fitting moment to not settle for less when you are fishing in your dating pool, because no matter what you are looking for, you want someone who cares about your safety.

Still, despite the fact that it has been going on for over half a year, the pandemic is far from over. In the time of corona, I need to survive so that I can see my loved one again, despite not knowing when that would be.

No matter how your love life is looking like when COVID-19 is still in the air, your romantic endeavor needs to keep you alive, at least to a certain extent.

As a start, think of what you need to do to love and be loved as a human being in its absence, and whether or not you decide to seek romance, remember to love yourself first. If you are already in a committed relationship, remember that it takes two to tango, and if you and your partner are committed, it is worth the effort to keep dancing. If your romantic commitment has started to dim your desire to live life to the fullest, asses your options, seek necessary help to improve the situation, and if all else fails, the pandemic might have brought you the perfect timing to make your way out.

Puji Maharani likes to (over)think about life, love, and everything else in between. She talks about the experiences of thirtysomething women like herself on Instagram through a passion project she co-founded called @beginsat30 on Instagram.