Photo by Molly Oleson

When the lockdown orders came down last March, Mission Local reported that lovers were in crisis. Some said their roommates prohibited them from having their partners spend the night. Others were unsure how to advance their romantic lives while limiting Covid-19 transmission. Some needed casual sex and could not get it anymore. 

But, following up with some of them a year later, it’s clear that love has found a way. 

Abigail, a 35-year-old career coach, told us in last March that she moved in with a man who she had only been dating for six weeks — and it could have been a disaster. But a year later? 

“I could see myself in a marriage with Michael, and possibly having a family with him,” she said. “It’s a conversation we’ve had together.” 

The pandemic helped: She and Michael could get to know each other on a deeper level without the “distractions” of city life. Going out with friends — which would ordinarily take precedence over a new boyfriend — became out of the question. 

“It allowed us to ground ourselves in the relationship, get to know each other and what we appreciate about each other,” Abigail said. “It was kind of a fast-forward experience we had over the last 11 months or so.” 

As lockdown orders swept major cities across the country last spring, so too did tales of “turbo relationships,” in which couples like Abi and Michael decided to fast-track a major relationship milestone: moving in together (and all the tests that come with that). The stories are so common that they have become a 2020 trope: Even this reporter moved in with his significant other earlier than he would have ordinarily. (And, yes, it’s going great.) 

But not everyone would describe their experience as “accelerated.”

“Erin,” a San Francisco resident we interviewed in March, said that rather than speeding up the dating process, pandemic life actually dialed down the heat in the initial phases of dating. 

“I love the pace of dating in the pandemic, because it slows things down,” she said. 

Erin was the first to admit she “changed her tune” about first-date phone calls and distanced walks, which she initially thought could be “kind of awkward.” Now, she prefers it. She hopes a slower style of dating will become normal after the pandemic ends, but she’s afraid that it won’t, as “I won’t have an excuse to move slow.”

The pandemic has also prompted some to look inward. “Jeremy,” a tech worker who said in March he was “actively seeing or hooking up with” 10 different people before the lockdown orders, has gone steady (more or less) with one partner. 

He “patched things up” with a woman he had been seeing on and off for several years. And in late September they traveled to New Jersey, then Montana, and now Colorado. “I think I’ve gotten a lot closer to her,” he said, though he still sounded conflicted. 

“On the one hand, I care for her a lot,” he said. On the other hand, his natural “inclination” is a life of promiscuity, and he still “passively” checks his dating apps, something he said “might be really stupid.” 

“I’m still processing it,” he said, explaining that it’s unclear whether he’ll go back to serial dating when life returns to normal. 

For Joe, a Mission District resident we first interviewed last March, the pandemic meant the end of one relationship and the beginning of another. His living situation had prevented him from seeing his girlfriend, and a breakdown in communication followed. 

“While it kind of accelerated people’s relationship’s in a good way, it accelerated ours toward the end,” he said, noting “the pandemic added obstacles to things that were already tenuous” about their monthslong bond. 

But it wasn’t long before he found someone new. The first few dates were a little awkward, he said — four of the same: getting beers and talking at Dolores Park. The rules were different: there was no “physical flirting” — subtle touches that test the waters. Instead, after the fourth date, there was a “conversation” to “get on the same page.”

And then, boom: “The first time I touched her, we were having sex.” 

Since then, he said, she mostly comes over to his house to hang out in his room and, more or less, “Netflix and Chill.”

He added: “This is what dating looks like now.”

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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