A pandemic is the perfect time to be in a committed relationship. You can socially distance together, share your potential sequester space and, most of all, not have to face the all-consuming fear of loneliness during a time when meeting people is near impossible.
For those aforementioned reasons and from my own observations, I hypothesize that people are currently more inclined to settle down with someone they met pre-COVID-19, even if the relationship might not be the perfect fit. This unique period of time might have profound impacts on monogamy for decades to come and could even influence the traits that people look for in their significant others in the future.
The month of March is fast approaching. The fateful few weeks when the world changed also marks the last time it was safe to casually date. The looming anniversary of the pandemic has made me reflect on what my dating life was like before everything went virtual. Do I regret not finding a serious partner before finding someone became unachievable? Not really. I’ve learned a lot about myself this past year, and I wouldn’t have been able to do so without a forced hiatus from dating and hookup culture.
Around this time a year ago, I would spend the Berkeley rate of $8 on an Uber at midnight to hang out with a guy who could probably name, at most, two to three facts about me. I’ve grown to know that a good rule of thumb is to never spend money on someone who doesn’t know your last name. That specific nighttime experience wasn’t particularly fun, but I was partly drawn to it because the idea of someone wanting to spend time with me over whatever else they have going on that night was enticing. The attention is nice, and if your friends are all doing it too, why not also do the walk of shame back to your dorm the next morning with a funny story to tell?
For me, hookup culture became something that was toxic and unfulfilling — but I wasn’t finding success dating, either. As a college freshman, I wasn’t really looking to date, and between classes, club meetings and other things that kept me busy, I didn’t find anyone I was interested in.
I regret the way I approached dating and hookups when school was still in person. The mistake I made was thinking that I had to take part in a culture that left me in an emotional deficit rather than gain emotional maturity. I gave time and energy to hookup culture when I should have been focusing on my individual self-growth.
The pandemic sent me home from school. Weekend nights going out with friends turned into nights spent aimlessly scrolling through TikTok. I came to terms with the fact that in my first year of college, I didn’t meet anyone I actually wanted to date. This sounds cliche, but in order to be happy in a relationship, you have to first be happy with yourself. Quarantine taught me that when I’m alone, I can channel the energy I would have spent obsessively stalking my crush’s ex-girlfriend’s Instagram profile into searching for internships or picking up a productive hobby.
When you’re forced to take a break from things that used to seem like the most important thing in the world, you learn more about why you cared about those things in the first place. Spending most of spring and summer in my hometown — states away from the warm and sunny Berkeley and cooped up indoors to avoid the frigid Utah weather — made it unrealistic for me to even think about dating. With the possibility of meeting someone completely off the table, I began to realize that for me, hookup culture was just a distraction from aspects of myself I wasn’t fully comfortable with.
Insecurities, such as my desire for attention in order to validate my satisfaction with myself as a person, were motivating my drive to participate in hookup culture. As much as other people can find fulfillment in meaningless hookups, my interest in one-night stands didn’t come from a healthy place.
Over the course of this pandemic, I’ve done a lot of introspection that’s led me to a deeper understanding of my own self-worth and what I want out of a relationship. I’ve learned that it’s important not to value yourself based on whether or not someone is interested in hooking up with you. For me, measuring your own merit at the standard of hooking up isn’t a useful metric. Hookup culture is not worth investing energy into if I don’t get something, such as happiness, in return.
Time off from hookup culture and the bubble of college dating has prepared me for when classes return to in-person instruction. I’ll hold myself to a higher standard, but I’ll also keep an open mind and allow myself to experience everything the pandemic has kept me from.