Guest Column: Dating Online Series. Social Distancing! by Ms. Jennifer

I was looking forward to my date with Michael. He had a conference at Tulane University last Wednesday on diversity and some guy from the White House was going to be there. Should I be impressed?  Still, he was the kinda guy that intrigued me. Smart, connected, tolerant – at least on the surface. Because of this meeting we switched our date to Friday. Friday morning when I checked my Tinder account he was gone.  I checked again.  He unmatched us without an explanation. Perhaps he was undercover, whatever that means today. Who knows or cares? 

By this time last week every American had heard of the Corona virus, but if you didn’t feel comfortable meeting couldn’t you say that?  Maybe a walk in the park, six feet apart? Next.

But what is next?  Online dating, like the rest of the world, has come to a screeching halt.  There is absolutely no activity anymore which means no more bullshit, but what about connecting with each other?  What is it going to be like for us humans to “social distance” or  even reconcile a mandatory quarantine?

I know I need human connection/contact, but now I am supposed to stay home.  I suppose like any major stress we will see the various shades of person’s temper and emotional agility. 

My dad is suddenly screaming “quality pee?” and demands “yes or no?”  He just successfully pissed in his urinal rather than on the floor so this is a major accomplishment and the reason he must be excited.  Is this any more nuts than the people hoarding toilet-paper?  It never even dawned on me to hoard toilet paper the last time I was at the store (five days ago).  Other than walking my dog, I have not been out of the house in five days.  Is toilet paper the first thing on your mind when you think about not walking in the world for days, weeks or?

I bought up all the almond milk when I was there, but now realize in a few days I’m going to be out.  I haven’t been too concerned, but it’s in the back of my mind somewhere. Actually, the pace has grown slower and that’s a good thing.  I’ve reached out to friends to see how they are doing.  I’m starting to get the paperwork done that I’ve been avoiding (although last night I got distracted and watched American Idol which was way more fun) and still trying to get insulation in the attic and knobs on the doors. With the distraction of dating gone, I’ve hunkered down, like numberless other people on the planet and wondering how can we stop hording toilet paper and start loving each other (at a distance). The bars on Bourbon street are all closed.  When was the last time that happened?    

I have to get creative here and stay connected.  But how?  Maybe the question should be “What can I do to help?”  Rather than the “I’ve got mine” mentality and selling bottles of Hand Sanitizer for 100.00 for an ounce.  We aren’t an island here and yet we must keep a six-foot distance so we are going to have to think outside the box.  Let’s not use Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, as a role model. He suggested to people making $15.00 an hour at Whole Foods to donate their sick time to co-workers.  Doesn’t he have enough money to pay his employees in case, or should I say, when they get sick?

Is the leadership in this country promoting “help your neighbor” or stockpile whatever? 

Yesterday after a six-week gap, the (VA) Veterans Administration started back their services.  I’d grown so desperate for help that I contacted and enrolled my dad in hospice.  I know what that means (six months or less prognosis) but honestly I didn’t care because I was holding on by a thread.  I realize if someone else started wiping his ass I might be able to not hate him.  You don’t want to hate the person you love.  It’s not good.   I want to be able to get back to playing music or, asking him how he’s doing this morning, or do you want something to drink, rather than wishing he was dead.  Now, my dad, the poet, is saying over and over again “fart cart.”   I live in insanity… it’s just the outside world is starting to reflect the insanity of my daily life.  Maybe it’s made me more prepared?  

Still, I was not too proud to beg when the new agency started back pedaling (after finally getting VA authorization) “no one could predict a national emergency,” but the business manager came through and someone came yesterday.  My dad already has one leg in the grave, if he gets the virus from me, I will surely kill him and despite my thoughts of doing just that, I don’t really want that hanging over my head.  So no more dating for me.  Can I afford not to have my groceries delivered? I’m fortunate to ask that question.

Still there’s some light!   Ironically, there are two much younger men who have been very attentive.  Mr. 45 (number 1) is texting me daily and sometimes we talk on the phone for hours.  Just getting to know each other and he’s always offering his help.  Initially. I  kept my distance (before the virus, due to my  robust cynicism), mostly to protect myself, but also I didn’t want to date a guy who drives a truck (I feel shame admitting this), but I also don’t want to date a fat guy (this guy’s body is sublime) so I have preferences apparently like everyone else.  Mr. 45 year (number 2) is also black, drives a truck, and is hot.  Funny coincidence.  Since we can’t touch each other I don’t have to deal with my issues around sex. It’s taken the pressure off and at the same time I’m starving for touch.  

I know I’m not alone. I know that’s what is missing we need to touch each other physically and emotionally.  We need to wake up to each other and not look at sex as a power move.  Like hunting you “bag the deer” or “bang the chick.”  Will this pandemic allow us to re-discover our humanity and the innocence of touch?  Will we find ways of connecting with each other because we are brought to our knees and everything suddenly becomes more in focus?  This is an opportunity to reach out to our neighbors and ask them what they need (toilet paper?) rather than only thinking about ourselves. 

That’s the shift we need to make here despite the so-called leadership. I live next to a fire station.  I didn’t think I would like that when I moved in, but I’ve come to see how vital those “first responders” are (Mr. 45 number 2 is a first responder and works in a food bank and tells me not to worry I can come there and avoid the empty grocery stores)…we need to look at their sacrifice and commitment and learn from them.  How many times has my neighbor come over here and picked my dad off the floor?   When was the last time?  Sadly, today.  I think it’s time to bring them some more chocolate chip cookies.   

So I look around.  See who needs help.  Start writing letters, calling friends, checking on neighbors.  That’s what I’m going to do anyway.  By the time this is over life will be different.  Can I have a black boyfriend who is 16 years younger than me?   Mr. 45 (number 1) seems to be offering that.  Part of me still cares what people think.  Not that he’s black, but that I’m so much older than him.  But doesn’t this really get back to if you’re happy who gives a shit?  Like if two men or two women love each other why wouldn’t we celebrate this love?  Anyway, I will keep you posted on how things evolve.

Meanwhile, I want to start walking the streets and simply saying “hello.”   I mean I can’t right now.  I need to sleep for a month and I always need someone here, but maybe as things settle down and my help becomes more consistent, and I grow less weary, I can do that. I want to hug people (and sing to them), but I will have to use my words.  “You doing-okay over there?”   I think what we have to offer (beside toilet paper or a loaf of bread) is our hearts and song.     

So, I offer my heart. I want to sing from my balcony!

See you on the road….and the next time I start to freak out about what’s going on I’m going to remember “fart cart” and know despite the madness we will somehow survive.  And for those who don’t, my sincere condolences.  A friend of mine lost his friend (the second fatality in Louisiana) a guy he went to high school with. This is real and yet love is greater than death, right?