By Gina Castro
Dating in itself is an absolute pain. Approaching someone at a bar is almost archaic these days and navigating the sea of online dating apps can lead to a barrage of questions like is this match looking for hookups, a relationship or just a free dinner? And when you add quarantine to the mix, your dating life could become even drier than the Sahara Desert, or get the spice that’d make you feel “like a virgin touched for the very first time.” Madonna said it, not me. Anyhoo, yes. We’re talking about dating during quarantine. If you think about it, Netflix had us preparing for social distancing love affairs months before CDC. Its reality shows Love is Blind and Too Hot to Handle both limit physical interaction to strengthen emotional connections. So for many of the people we spoke with, limited physical interaction helped them make a genuine connection with someone. While for others, the taboo around physical interactions, due to social distancing, made meeting in-person more erotic, sorry CDC. We asked Pensacola for its quarantine dating stories either wholesome or tragic, and boy oh boy did Pensacola deliver. The majority of the people who shared their stories with us chose to be anonymous. This article calls for quite a bit of unpacking, so follow us on social media @DowntownCrowd to join the conversation! And from the wise words of Pornhub, remember that the safest sex you can have during quarantine is with yourself.
Social Distancing? I don’t know her.
Two years ago, Andrea went through a pretty rough break up. Since then, she’s spent her time being a bartender in popular downtown bars and describes her dating life as “pretty much non-existent.” Then cupid, also known as quarantine, inspired our girl to try her hand at online dating. “Once all of this started happening, I was like well there isn’t anything else to do, so I might as well get online and see what happens,” Andrea said.
But what Andrea didn’t know was that dating during quarantine was going to give her the opportunity to connect with a love interest on a deeper level. A typical date for Andrea before the pandemic consisted of meeting someone at a bar and having a few drinks together. “Alcohol was always involved. Obviously, I’m in the service industry, but it was always around my dating life, so it’s been nice not relying on alcohol to have a connection with someone,” Andrea explained.
So, she made a Tinder account and put herself out there.
“I ended up matching with this girl. We talked for three weeks via FacetTime,” Andrea said. “We decided to meet up at the Bay Bluffs Park and just have a Scrabble date with coffee.”
Okay, so as wholesome as this first date is, it’s quite risky to do nonessential activities during quarantine. It probably made the big guy upstairs a tad mad, too. By the “big guy upstairs” we mean the CDC.
Andrea and her date, we’ll call her Jess, had an amazing first date. So, they went on several more outdoor dates from hiking the UWF trails to chilling in Jess’ Jeep hammock at the beach. In short, this love affair is classic Nicholas Sparks but like if he were a good writer.
Although Andrea and Jess’ exclusive relationship doesn’t have a title yet, their connection has become deep and meaningful to Andrea. “This is a good, gradual connection. I definitely think that this is growing a little bit quicker than I would normally do because we have been talking everyday over the phone.” Andrea explained. “Normally, I wouldn’t talk to someone for two days because the social interaction was too much.”
Even though the shut down is over and popular date spots are gradually reopening, Andrea and Jess decided to keep their relationship simple. “Rather than going out to places, we’re going hiking again,” Andrea said. “It’s been really nice being out in nature and having nature fuel the dates.”
We’re happy to know that even during a global pandemic, love wins.
Maybe I’m Manic, Maybe It’s Quarantine, Maybe It’s Maybelline
This Corona Courtship is, well, messy. It involves a pregnant woman, celibacy and a whole lot of pettiness. Paula Sessions, a plumber, has been single since Sept. 23, 2019. This story starts with a quick trip to her cousin’s house in the middle of February. “There was this girl there. As I walked by, she was like ‘OMG hi, you’re so beautiful.’ I was like ‘Girl, thank you so much. You better stop because I’m gay as hell,’” Sessions recalled. “I left just like that because I always have to make some kind of exit.” But what seemed like an insignificant encounter later blossomed into a two month affair.
“Everybody who is single kinda gets lonely during quarantine, right? Facebook has this dating mode, so I tried it. The same girl was on there and we matched,” Sessions said.
Five minutes into chatting on Facebook Dating, Sessions and Alexis, which is a fake name to keep the ex anonymous, were vibing and planning their next meeting. “We had a lot of the same interests. That’s what really pulled me in,” Sessions said. “She was able to hold a conversation, she was beautiful, she was of color. It was everything I could want.”
Sessions was head over heels for Alexis even when Sessions found out, a few weeks into their relationship, that Alexis was in the third trimester of her pregnancy and had two children. “Again, quarantine is messing me up. I needed love and attention,” Sessions explained.
Since Sessions is celibate, she and Alexis weren’t intimate. However, that doesn’t mean Alexis wasn’t intimate with her boyfriend. Did we forget to mention that Alexis has a boyfriend, too? Pregnant women need love, too.
Unfazed by the peculiarity of her quarantine romance, Sessions introduced her new girlfriend to her longtime friends at a Starbucks drive thru, and needless to say, they were shocked. “Who let me get into a relationship like that? I did. I can’t blame nobody,” Sessions said. “Maybe I’m manic, maybe it’s quarantine, maybe it’s Maybelline.”
Sessions and Alexis’ relationship came to a crashing halt when they got into a heated argument over Alexis’ secrecy. “I guess it was those pregnancy hormones. I don’t know,” Sessions continued. “Either way, we had an argument. She was yelling, throwing stuff at my car, slamming my car door, so I dropped her off back home.”
The two didn’t talk for a few days. Even though Sessions had no interest in continuing the relationship, she sent Alexis a text in hopes that the two would meet and Sessions could retrieve the books she left at Alexis’ home.
“And then she brought up the argument, and I was like ‘Why are you bringing it up old stuff?’ I don’t like that kind of energy. I unfollowed her everywhere and messaged her ‘Look, I’m just going to be single now, but I’m wishing you well,’” Sessions explained. “This was maybe a day or two before her baby was born, so I don’t know if that’s a bad thing to do, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. So I cut her off.”
As for the books Sessions left behind, she plans to cut her losses and download them illegally. The Internet is a blessing and a curse, y’all. Don’t worry about Sessions though. She is doing well and hasn’t lost hope in online dating.
Not All Heroes Wear Capes
Our next dating story is about a woman in the Pensacola art scene. Before quarantine, Riley was seeing only Sarah, who she met at the Pensacola Beach Pride Weekend. “We agreed we would just be friends with benefits because we don’t have enough life in common to date,” Riley said. “And then quarantine started happening, and we had to decide if we were going to continue sleeping with each other or not. We decided that two people is better than 10 people.” So, Riley and Sarah continued being friends with benefits.
I think we can all agree there is some solid logic backing up our pals Riley and Sarah, but if CDC did a vibe check on you two, we doubt you’d pass.
Anyhoo, things are about to get spicy. Apparently having one quarantine booty call wasn’t enough for Riley, so she added about four or five maybe six lovers to the mix. “Since quarantine, my life’s motto has changed from ‘Be a slut. Do what you want’ to ‘Do what you want, but do what the CDC wants you to do,’” Riley said.
Obviously, Riley’s CDC is a lot cooler than ours because hers let her break quarantine like a lot. But it was technically for a cause, so we guess it’s Gucci? We’ll let you decide.
Riley has been having a flirtatious relationship with Allison, who is bi-curious, for the past two years. Riley, being the generous person she is, decided to help this poor girl figure it out.
“I broke quarantine and I was like ‘I’m coming to your beach condo and we’re going to sort this out.’ We had a good time, but she still likes men,” Riley said.
Still filled with generosity, Riley decided to help another poor soul. We’ll call this one Hot Nurse. Hot Nurse is a trans man living in a mansion in Mobile, AL. The two met on Tinder. Despite being a literal hot nurse with stacks to back it up, Hot Nurse was having a hard time getting with the ladies because he works in a hospital during a pandemic. But a tall drink of water is still a tall drink of water for our girl Riley. “We’ve talked every day. We’ve almost become friends,” Riley said. After a romantic turned steamy Facetime, the two agreed to meet in person.
During all of this, Riley and Sarah were doing their regular hookups. “I was telling her about him and showing photos, and she was like ‘You know, I’ve never been with a trans man before, but he’s really attractive,’” Riley told us. So, Heroine Riley agreed to take on another case. This time it’s a twofer.
Sarah had never been with a trans man and Hot Nurse had never been in a ménage à trois (look that bad boy up when you get the chance). One night, the three played a version of telephone. Hot Nurse would send Riley a relatively spicy photo, which Riley would then forward to Sarah. Sarah would then send an equally risque photo to Riley to then share with Hot Nurse. “I’ve had [ménage à trois] before, but I’ve never been a digital curator of nudes.” And there you have it folks: a virtual ménage à trois. Thanks for introducing us to the new wave, Riley.
Some people volunteer while others use what their mama gave them. You know what they say, idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Keep on doing what you’re doing, Riley.
When you hear the phrase “drive by” the first thing to come to mind is typically death, but after hearing about Angie’s wholesome drive thru dates during quarantine, we figured this title is a good combination of danger and sweet. Angie is a bad mamajama. She works in the Navy as an air traffic controller. Crazily enough, Angie is the only person we spoke with who actually followed social distancing guidelines. And guess what, CDC– she’s still single. “I’ve already had to get tested for COVID one time and it hurt. I don’t want to put myself in any situation where I had to get testing done again,” Angie said. “My dad is elderly and sick, so I didn’t want to take any chances of catching anything that I might bring home to him. I would rather be safe than sorry.”
Yet, Angie still wanted to go on dates with her Tinder matches, so she thought outside of the box. She discovered that the restaurant The Hangar American Grill, located in Milton, was doing weekly drive-in movies, so her and her date sat in their own vehicles, had their food sent to them and enjoyed a CDC approved first date.
Angie and Tom, Dick and Harry had several physically distant dates. Just to be clear, Angie didn’t date like all three of these guys on one date, but she is dating a couple of dudes and Tom, Dick and Harry just flows. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Since Angie and one of the Dicks both own Jeeps, they parked their Jeeps at the beach and laid in their own Jeep hammocks, at a respectable 11 feet apart.
Even though Angie and her dates were physically distant, she felt closer to them on an emotional level than she did with her dates before quarantine. “I’ve gotten to know them a lot better than we normally would have. Normally, we would meet up in person, go get dinner or get drinks,” Angie said. “I usually never talked to them after that. But with this, I’m forced to talk to them a lot more beforehand.”
Dating during quarantine has even changed what she is looking for in a connection. “Before I wasn’t so hung up on if they could hold long conversations. It was always a good thing that we could talk to each other and have things in common,” Angie explained. “Now it’s become very relevant to me. If a person were doing only small talk and we ran out of things to talk about, I stopped talking to them. I responded to those who were actually able to hold a conversation, so I think dating like this has been a lot better than before.”
One of the guys Angie is dating, we’ll call him Brad, could potentially become a more serious love interest depending on how long he is stationed in Pensacola. “We’ve talked about when things open up, we’ll go out and explore because [Brad] hasn’t actually gone out and explored yet.”
Hopefully COVID-19 continues to work in Angie’s favor and prevents Brad from leaving Pensacola too soon. If not, she still has the other guys.
The Trial Run
Our last story is of a sprouting long distance relationship thrown into the chaos of COVID-19. While other lovers spent the many days of isolation in each other’s arms, Cate and Trish were forced to find comfort in each other’s texts. Cate is an air traffic controller in the Navy. Each year, she spends months in Pensacola for training, but her real home is Oak Harbor, Washington. While in Oak Harbor, Cate matched with a lassie an hour and a half away in Seattle. To Cate, Trish was enchanting. Not only is Trish smokin hot but she also leads an incredible career as a tattoo artist.
But they both knew this romance wasn’t going to be all rainbows and kittens. Cate’s lengthy stays in Pensacola was one thing, but Trish’s fruitful career made her split her time in Seattle and New York. “It’s one of those things, especially being in the navy, I’ve prepared for, but I still wasn’t prepared,” Cate said. “I haven’t been in a relationship for a long time. It’s just weird to not be able to do those little things that you take for granted in a relationship.”
Cate hasn’t been in a relationship since she joined the Navy, which was seven years ago. She’s also never been in a long distance relationship but Trish has.
Although not seeing each other has been an early test on their relationship, it’s also somewhat of a gift. “It’s definitely changed the way I look at dating. This is kind of forcing us to go about it in a new way,” Cate explained. “I never would have considered downloading an app to watch a movie together hundreds of miles away from each other.”
Cate and Trish have found new ways to connect like sharing long texts about their feelings to one another, having dinner together over FaceTime and cozying up with a good movie miles apart.
Quarantine put a strain on their budding relationship but it also helped them test the waters on their long distance love affair before committing to an official relationship. “I feel close to her. It’s nice to be able to cultivate that from a distance,” Cate said. “When this is all over, I have something to look forward to. It’s better than waiting for my schedule to go back to normal.”
Well, Cate and Trish, we wish you both nothing but the best!