I want to date, but people aren’t following COVID rules

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Today's letter could be paired with this one. Winter 2020 dating is not easy.

Meredith,

I've been divorced for 15 years. I've used dating websites, for the most part, and have had a couple of nice relationships over time. At 62, I'm not sure what I want. I've learned to enjoy my independence. I don't know if I want to marry someone again, but at this point in my life I'm not putting the horse before the cart, just trying to find someone to build a relationship with and see where it goes.

It's hard, of course, and I'm pretty picky. I run and workout, keep in pretty good shape, and I've been called attractive, but I wouldn't compare myself to George Clooney or anything. I date within my age range. With my daughter out of the house, dating and meeting new people has become a part of my social life. So here's the quandary: COVID has made things 100 times more difficult. I've drastically cut back, but it's the COVID conversation I can't seem to find my way around. I'm careful – my family did not meet for Thanksgiving, nor will we meet for Christmas. I wear my mask inside. On the few dates I've been on, we maintained social distancing. It's weird, uncomfortable, difficult.

The most difficult part though is when I'm interacting with someone new. I've told them in words that I try to stay safe, that I've limited my personal interactions to the grocery store clerks for the most part. They come back and tell me how they just had friends over for the football game and cooked up a feast. One person I spoke to has her sister and brother-in-law visiting and her children coming over for dinner with them. I don't want to sound pompous or sit on my high horse, but if she's not acting safely, do I want to bother at all? Or is there a conversation to be had about this so no one feels offended? How do you discuss the elephant in the room in a healthy way? Who knows? Maybe for the most part she acts appropriately, and this is just an aberration. I guess I'm just wondering where to go from here when the subject comes up.

– Dinner Guests


Don’t worry about offending anyone. I talked to this wonderful sex writer at the start of the pandemic about how to have complicated conversations about COVID-19 concerns and boundaries. She was pretty clear about being clear. Her big question – the one she recommends we ask a potential partner (or even friends and family who want to hang out) – is: "What would that look like to you?" If someone wants you over for Christmas dinner and they swear it's safe, asking them what the whole experience looks like will give you a sense of whether you can participate. It also gives you the language to tell them what part of the night won't work for you. As in, "I'm not comfortable seeing people whose routines I don't know."

I'd ask these potential dates what their days look like, and if what you hear doesn't sound safe, explain why (politely) and negotiate – or move on. You can tell them what you require; if it's isolation for a week and a COVID test, make that known. If it's a virtual date instead of an in-person dinner, that's OK too. Maybe there's a compromise. If not, no big loss. You don't know them.

Please understand that COVID is limiting; there's no way around that. There are probably a lot of people who aren't on apps at all because they figure it's better to wait for a vaccine. The people who are on the apps might not be able to make you a priority right now. Maybe they're isolating so they can see one family member. They might not use their safe practices to see someone they don't even know.

My advice is to accept that this means you date a lot less. Stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel, which seems to be coming. Also, have those FaceTime or Zoom dates if you can. It's a new kind of old-fashioned courtship, and it's something to do.

– Meredith

Readers? Any advice on navigating this and having difficult conversations?