Hello, Young Lovers: Romance in Quarantine

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Issue 17, Volume 110

By Clara Shapiro 

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The law of the land—six feet apart, ya hear—goes hard on young lovers. Toodeloo to the age of shared milkshakes. Adieu to prom. And kissing? Even on the cheek? Fuhgettaboutit.

Romantic withdrawal is hitting hard. “We really miss hugging each other [a] lot,” junior couple Julian Cunningham and Reilly Amera wrote in a joint email interview. “Sometimes, especially during such tough times as we’re currently facing, the greatest thing someone needs in the world is a really good hug, and not having that for the last two and a half months has been really tough.”

Quarantine feels like less of a blow to couples whose parents are more lax with social distancing rules. “My parents have basically determined that as long as we're outside and six feet apart at all times, the risk of infecting each other is very low,” senior Alex Nobert said. She and her boyfriend, junior Jonathan Schneiderman, stick to outdoor dates these days: “We have started to meet in the park for a picnic between classes every once in a while, which is also a good way, for me at least, to take a break from work and therefore foster productivity.”

But for the couples who can’t hang out in the flesh, staying close is a bit trickier. Zoom and FaceTime dates can be unsatisfying. “When we were with each other in person, it wasn't awkward at all if we fell silent for a bit, but now, during our daily video calls, there is a bit more of a need to continuously talk, which can sometimes lead to us getting a bit [burned] out from calling,” Cunningham and Amera said. Junior Stella Oh is also discovering the limitations of an online relationship: “It’s harder to read each other through text and open up about our thoughts and feelings. Some topics are just easier to talk about in person rather than through text.” One of Oh (and her girlfriend)’s biggest worries about a quarantine romance is that the physical distance will also translate to an emotional distance that will be impossible to bridge. “I start spiraling into this hole of unreasonable worries and insecurities such as her feelings for me fading and even my feelings for her fading, which is very possible […] especially during quarantine, as much as I don’t want to admit it.”

And for some (ex) couples, these concerns have proved valid. Quarantine stretches relationships. The ones that aren’t elastic enough snap.

“The breakup was, unsurprisingly, crap,” an anonymous sophomore, “Zachary Shen,” wrote in an email interview. “She [his girlfriend] claims that she ended it because we couldn't see each other anymore and it was awkward, but I'm still skeptical of that.” Frustratingly for Shen, it was during quarantine that he began to truly appreciate his ex-girlfriend’s best qualities: “Being separated from my girlfriend showed me how much I liked her for her personality and accomplishments and not just for her looks, and it made me realize that maybe I wanted something more serious.”

But being single in quarantine may not be the worst thing. It’s a chance to hone the art of emoji-flirting. It’s a chance to watch some movies and fall for a new celebrity crush. Like, say, Lily James. “My celebrity crush is Lily James,” sophomore Daniel Yu confessed over email. “I discovered my celebrity crush during quarantine and since then my heart has been heating up whenever I watch a show or movie she appears in.”

But whether you’re smitten with a starlet or just a standard plebeian, no better time than now to carpe diem a crush. An anonymous freshman has had her eye on her crush for over two months and only now decided to pounce. “I tried DMing him using the Spongebob TikTok audio,” she said. “I probably would have never DMed him in the first place if not for sheer boredom from quarantine.”

But not everybody is looking for new love. A lot of going-steady couples are just looking for ways of preserving their preexisting relationships in quarantine, not starting new ones. For these folks, guidance counselor Paul Goldsman has advice. “My advice to couples during a quarantine is that they need to talk about how they plan to communicate,” he said in an email interview. Goldsman suggests setting a daily, pre-appointed time for couples to talk to one another: “Creating a time each day for a ‘check-in’ would be healthy, as it allows both parties to have something to look forward to.”

So stay close, Stuyvesant smoochers. But not that close.