The dramatic impact of the lockdown on our social lives has led to many discussions about reassessing the nature and face of dating, especially among gay men.
One of the recurring jokes of the harder levels of lockdown was how many people were in multiple ‘talking stages’ of dating and that as soon as we went into Level 1 or out of lockdown, these would likely not amount to anything. I had hoped otherwise.
Dating for gay men is hard. If we are not struggling with identity issues, it’s internalised homophobia and other challenges. If we are not dealing with various oppressions, we are trying to appease society; to be palatable and acceptable. Lockdown did not make things any easier.
The period found me licking the wounds of a broken heart and sweeping out the pieces of a bruised ego after yet another failed courtship. Following a whirlwind affair and very public displays of affection, a certain gentleman and I ended things. Then I was ‘blessed’ with the lockdown in which to mourn and get over it. Which I did.
Many of my fellow single comrades went into lockdown amid a variety of ‘situationships’. My friend Timothy* called in a guy who came and lived with him for about a month. At the end of that time, my dear friend was feeling claustrophobic and had to find a way to escape.
I laughed at this predictable scenario as I could have easily told him that it was going to happen. But it somewhat understandably stemmed from a fear of being locked down in our homes by ourselves for a period that we sensed could be longer than the initial 21 days that were announced.
Another friend, Given*, had finally found himself a handsome guy to start dating just a few weeks before we went into lockdown. He tells me that, despite the passion they shared, they were not able to see each other at all during this time. This strained their new courtship. (Distance does not always make the heart grow fonder, gentlemen.)
One of my closest friends, Kelvin*, also realised during the lockdown that the guy he’d been dating for a few months was not quite the man he thought he was. Things between them dwindled until they both agreed to call it quits.
These are but some of the few examples of gay men who found themselves in dilemmas of the heart during the lockdown, which did not help their situations. If anything, it devastated their relationships.
The lockdown, however, also gave us air to breathe and the opportunity to change old patterns. Because we could not congregate in clubs and restaurants and we had to be careful who we were with out of fear of exposure to Covid-19, we were forced to date from the comfort of our homes and phones.
We could, I believed, slowly get to know one another, exploring and sharing the parts of our personalities that can be showcased virtually and be creative about entertaining one another and keeping things interesting.
After my breakup, I eventually found the courage to start talking to other men – and I’m still talking. It would seem many of us are just fine with endless talking with no intention of a physical date or more. We continue to talk, call, text and video call, and talk.
I thought this period would allow us to find better ways of meeting potential mates and, ultimately, when the hard lockdown was lifted we’d move forward with new partners we’d connected with in a way we hadn’t done before. But, it seems we are still stuck in the hurtful and dangerous ways of the old.
I am still single, still talking and at this point have little hope of doing more than that. Maybe I have to accept that that’s where we are as a collective. Perhaps when the lockdown (or the pandemic) ends, I will advance from talking to actually doing things that lovers do, even if it’s just meeting at a restaurant to share a meal.
* Not their real names