Yes, I Dated During a Pandemic

Dating in 2020 was one big shit show, but it was also a lot of fun. At 26, I’d never actually dated. I’d only ever been single or in a relationship, but no middle ground. There was only one date I had gone on. It was a blind triple date– lucky me, right? My friends must fucking hate me, because they were setting me up with a man 10 years older than me, balding, and living out of his car. That was about eight years ago. They are still my best friends and I love them so much that it’s disgusting, but I never let them set me up on a date ever again.

Fresh out of a chaotic six year relationship, eight years since my last date, while confronting my mental health for the first time in the middle of a pandemic, somehow seemed as good of a time as any to start dating. I can clearly see how this was probably a time I shouldn’t be dating, but I’ve always wanted my life to be like a romcom and that won’t happen if I stay on the bench. I blame my unhealthy obsession with 10 Things I Hate About You and that my ex used to love saying that real life isn’t like the movies. This was one of his typical responses when I would ask him for things you should never have to ask your partner for, like kindness and support.

I became aware of how much of myself I had lost, forgotten, or ignored through the six years I was in relationship that was a constant threat to my physical and emotional safety. Getting asked basic questions like “who’s your favorite artist?” or “where’s your favorite place to eat?” was embarrassingly thought provoking. It was also embarrassing how I would be blown away by the smallest gesture, like asking me how my day was or opening doors for me. The first time this guy told me to drive safe and to text him when I got home, I was fucking floored. It really made me think of how fucking damaged I must be that when someone shows me bare minimum kindness and interest it makes me surprised and uncomfortable. I legit do not know how to act and my hands get clammy, then my awkwardness starts to spiral and I hit ’em with the finger guns. It was painfully obvious that I had no idea what the hell I was doing, so I started to rely on my work family, friends, and mom for advice.

This became a source of entertainment for a solid fifteen people I work with. They would help me pick out outfits, vote on which contenders they wanted to win over my cynical heart, and help come up with nicknames for my situationships. The squad also gave me important advice and pep talks to help get me through the self-induced torture of dating.

My Scorpio twin always calls me out on my bullshit. This is a very important friend to have, so if you don’t have one go get one stat. Whenever I did some toxic shit, he told me. It is okay to tell your friends when they are in the wrong. I love him for telling me when I’m the problem. There was a point where I was dating two guys at once and I wanted one of them to just drop off on their own. I was complaining to my Scorpio twin that neither of them were losing interest so I was going to have to chose one. He interrupted my annoying babbling to tell me that I didn’t have to chose either of them. Solid. Fucking. Advice. So what did I do? I dropped both of them.

I also relied heavily on my besties. My girls always hype me up. They keep my confidence on point. I don’t have time to be in my feelings because they always remind me who the fuck I am– a catch. They’ve helped me believe that. When you work on your self-esteem, surround yourself with friends that uplift you. This helped me view all of the not-so-fun moments of dating as a lesson and not as rejection– something I have struggled with my whole life.

Coming out of my last relationship, I promised my mom that there would be no more secrets. I’ve opened up to her about all the things I’ve typically hidden from her. Talking about the people I’m dating over margaritas and/or edibles has caused some seriously deep belly laughs— like the time I explained what pegging is and I almost peed my pants laughing when I realized my dad overheard the lesson.

She always wants to see pictures of who I’m dating and she’ll tell me straight up what she thinks. She’ll say things like “he looks like a random homeless man at the park” or “he’s a serial killer.” I even let her do my swiping for me on Tinder once, but we have very different taste so none of my mom’s matches for me worked out. She wasn’t a fan of my ex (before knowing all the bullshit that went on), but it never bothered me. After all of this bonding, my mom’s opinion of who I date is now important to me. Not a deal breaker, but I’ve grown to value her advice.

With so many people in my corner, I knew that I had love and support behind me— allowing me to fully embrace the “whatever happens, happens” mentality.

I have little to no sense of time and space. I can’t tell you when I dated someone, what day I saw them last, spoke to them last or even what month. I can, however, pinpoint each situationship to a single season. I have yet to date anyone for more than a season and I’m starting to wonder if my bipolar has anything to do with that. Besides each situationship getting a season, they get a nickname, a song, and a magnet sentence on my fridge (except Winter guy). There were other men and women that I dated in 2020, but my seasonal situationships were the ones that made the biggest impact on me.

The Lobster (Spring), was my rebound, but I still learned a lot from him:

  • I hate love bombing
  • If I set a boundary and someone ignores it, I am okay giving them a second opportunity but not a third
  • I do not have to settle just because someone is paying attention to me
  • I LOVE my alone time
  • Having shared interests is not enough
  • I’m going to need therapy to help me navigate dating with PTSD & that is OKAY! (Can’t do everything on my own)

Milkdud (Summer) was slightly unhinged, which attracted me to him. He helped me learn a lot about my own craziness and the following:

  • I am chaotic
  • I am not ready to be in a relationship
  • Being vulnerable is significantly more difficult and uncomfortable than I anticipated
  • Really good sex does not mean you should settle (although, very tempting)
  • I have social anxiety and it is hard to make eye contact
  • I need to work on my disorganized attachment style before dating
  • I need to be comfortable expressing my physical boundaries as someone who has been raped and assaulted by multiple men & the right partner for me will be patient, understanding, & still attracted to me

I didn’t date for several months following Milkdud. There was a brief reappearance of The Lobster, which helped me learn to leave my situationships in their respective seasons.

Spooky Daddy (Fall), was so much fun to date. This was partially because he was spontaneous and partially because I was manic at the time. Nonetheless, there were still lessons to be learned in the fall:

  • Moving too fast is a real thing
  • Just because someone does relationshipy things does not mean you should be in a relationship with them
  • Just because we have a lot of fun does not mean we are compatible
  • I am no longer interested in attracting broken/unstable people because most of them want to leech off of my healing energy
  • I should only date people with their shit together
  • Stop letting situationships into my sacred lair
  • People that are super confused are not worth investing so much time in
  • When someone is not interested in you, it ain’t nothing personal
  • My mental health has an undeniable impact on my relationships
  • I still need to work on my attachment style

The only bummer about no more Spooky Daddy, was no more adventure dates. He asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and I said go to Tahoe. This dude drove me straight to Tahoe after work. He was always down for random shenanigans.

In the winter, there was a situationship so brief and underwhelming that he never got a nickname. We just called him Little Steven because at work, there is a Steven and he is much taller than the little Steven I dated a handful of times. He was more confused than Spooky Daddy. He told me he wanted to stop dating via Snapchat because he was a bozo. He said he wasn’t ready for a girlfriend, which was funny because I had no interest in being his girlfriend. We had been going out for a few weeks and it was going well, but not that well. All I learned from Little Steven is that even nice guys can be really fucking stupid. Also, Little Steven was the first person I successfully put my knowledge and experience to good use with. The lessons from my previous seasons were paying off.

Coming into 2021, I stopped dating to find a new situationship but embraced casual dating for the first time. I wanted to make it to an important milestone, my one year anniversary of leaving my ex, before seeking a new relationship. At 27, I finally had a one night stand- two of them actually! Look at me go.

Another important dating milestone to come out of 2021 was my first bad date. I am talking dreadful. At least the decade-older-than-me-balding-living-out-his-car guy was interesting. This guy was not. I knew I didn’t want to be there the second I met up with him. This man told me he was 5’7″ and I am not being petty, but when I got there and he was eye-level with my 5’4″, I was annoyed. Just like, be honest with how tall you are and I promise I will still go on a date with you. This was also the first time in my life that it was obvious I was out of his league. I could see people at the bar looking at me and questioning my judgement. When my date went to the bathroom, I came extremely close to sneaking away with someone else. I am trying to be a nice human being, so I refrained from escaping.

My friends really busted my balls about not getting out of this terrible date and staying for three rounds and several hours, when I should’ve sent a bat signal out for my friends to rescue me. I did nothing but sit there in misery and try my best to be polite. I even let him kiss me and I am ashamed. I am also disgusted by how many times he told me I was a good kisser. It fucking repulsed me the first time he said it, so I nearly murdered him when he repeated it. When he texted me a few days later, I let him know this wasn’t it. I’m still a weenie though because I pulled the mental health card instead of telling him the truth which is that I wasn’t feeling it. The thought of hurting this guy’s feelings made me really anxious for whatever reason, but I have no idea how to let someone down easy.

I also identified my uncool habit of stringing certain people along. They shoot their shot, I typically shoot them down. When I am manic, I reciprocate. I came clean with myself and with them with what I was doing. I no longer seek their attention to fuel my manic episodes (for the most part).

I have also successfully stayed clear from unhinged men. Everyone knows that this is my type. It has become apparent that two unhinged people do not join forces to make one stable relationship. I get it…No duh, dummy! Instead of seeking someone to join me in my chaos, I understand that a calm and grounding energy will be good for me. For my own sanity, I can no longer afford to ignore red flags and bullshit.

For the first time in my adult life, I have a healthy social life, hobbies, and routines. I’ve learned how to advocate for myself, not just in dating, but in all my relationships. I learned how not to settle and maybe that’s because a part of me is still holding out hope that it will be just like the movies.

My one year crash course in dating got me out of my comfort zone, which forced me to grow. Through all of it, I have learned how important it is to work on self-love and self-care. More importantly, that it is not selfish to do this. I know this is something everyone tells you. It’s one of those cliche things the world tells you about love and one of the things I had to learn through trial and error. Maybe my mental illness is to blame, maybe my trauma, or maybe my plain old stupidity.

I’ve been successfully focusing on myself since the start of 2021. I made it through a season without a situationship–no Spring 2021 or Spring 2.0. With summer coming, maybe I will have hot girl summer or a Summer 2.0 situationship. Either way, I’m going to keep having fun.

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