Again, the numbers are up (dating during COVID is complicated)

What's been on your mind about your love life? Send your own letter (or update) to [email protected] or fill out this form.

Dear Meredith,

Since COVID started, I haven't gone on too many dates. I went on a few dates last year after getting vaccinated. However, after reading about all the breakthrough infections and about vaccinated people getting long COVID, I stopped dating. I'm now extremely cautious. I wear a mask in public and avoid dining in restaurants and places with crowds. It seems like this will go on for a while.

How will I be able to date again in this environment? If I go on dates, I'll have to eat in restaurants and go to places with crowds. I'll have to be mask-free in public. This is all part of dating. It's unavoidable. So how can one date in these circumstances?

Thank you.

– Dating during COVID

There are people out there who have to be more cautious about COVID than others. Some are high-risk or live around high-risk people. Some just want to avoid getting sick, which is OK. You are not alone in this.

Some thoughts:

1. I don't see why dating requires crowds. Dating can involve walks, outdoor meals, visiting someone's home when you're comfortable, etc. It doesn't have to be a concert at Patriot Place (I'm placing you around Boston for this answer).
2. Dating can involve masks. I mean, not for kissing. But let's say you walk through South Station with a date, maybe to get to a beer garden on the Greenway (maybe during a less crowded hour), and you notice there are a lot of people, so you put on a mask. Not a big deal.
3. I am still encouraging people to have Zoom/FaceTime dates. A lot of people wouldn't have considered having them before COVID (if they even knew of Zoom), but now this kind of screen time seems like a great step toward dinner. You can be comfortable in your own home, wearing the leisure pants of your choosing. You don't have to worry about how to get home or who's paying. It can be spontaneous and fun. Ask people for that kind of first date and go from there.
4. Everyone's comfort level is so different. Some of the best people in my life start the planning process with the question, "What's comfortable for you?" What a great way to say, "Hey, I know we're all in different places with this. Where can we meet in the middle?" Use that line.
5. I think part of the confusion with COVID is that even the people who describe themselves as careful have their own rules about what that means. I told someone I went to my favorite salad bar, and this person was like, "You went to a salad bar???" The thought of a shared bar of food freaked them out. It does not freak me out. I wore a mask, got that salad, and ate it – and it was perfect.
I flew on a plane before some friends were willing. I feel weird about taking a mask off in an empty parking garage, but I will sit two feet from someone at an outdoor restaurant. I can't match all of my feelings to the science ... and my rules change by the week.
The point is, a lot of people are like this – just feeling it out. You want someone who understands that and can have empathy. If someone rejects you because they have no interest in dealing with these questions, they're not right for you anyway. And that's OK.

Get on the apps (or whatever you use to date) and be honest about who you are, what you like, what makes you great, and, also, what makes you comfortable. Then listen and make decisions. That's all you can do.

– Meredith

Readers? Those who are dating more right now: what questions come up? What dates have you had? How do people talk about comfort?