BY DANIELLE BRODY
Ninety-two percent of western Queens singles say that dating is harder during the pandemic, according to an informal poll conducted through BORO Magazine’s Instagram stories in January.
That’s because dating nowadays involves health concerns, socially distanced dates and, often, delays in meeting in person. But, despite the complications, Astoria singles are still trying to make connections.
Jackie Krol, a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, said it’s challenging for people to navigate how to get close, be safe and avoid contracting COVID-19.
“People are realizing that is possible, but it does make dating more difficult,” said Krol, who is based in Manhattan and sees Astoria patients virtually.
Longtime Astoria resident Justin Finley said there are “no easy answers” to the best way to date during the pandemic.
Finley said there are now a lot more considerations when deciding how to date. He gets tested regularly and, before a date, will ask women how often they get tested and the size of their social circle.
“There’s a new level of consent conversation with COVID,” he said. “If we didn’t talk about it, it’d be awkward because someone isn’t acknowledging what’s happening.”
He has always preferred meeting women in person and has still managed to do so while following CDC guidelines.
This summer, after meeting a woman at the Irish Whiskey Bar, they went on a socially distanced date, which included walking and drinking outside in Astoria.
“In the summer it was easier to get out of the house,” he said. “Everyone was craving conversation and human contact.”
In an Astoria Reddit group, users shared their experiences of dating during COVID-19. Some users, echoing Finley, said it was easier to date during the warmer months when outdoor activities were possible.
While some were still trying to date, no matter the weather, others had given up on dating during the pandemic. Some said they were waiting until vaccines are distributed to begin dating again.
One Astoria Reddit user who goes by Jay, who like Finley has met people in person during the pandemic, told BORO, “With most things closed and it being winter, most dates just happen in one of our houses.”
Astoria resident Amanda Servedio meets matches at bars with outdoor seating. She recently went to The Bonnie, which has heat lamps and dividers between tables. She recommended following the Instagram account @covid.date.spots to find more outdoor date locations across NYC, including western Queens restaurants Nino’s AQ, DiWine and Jora RestoBar. Queens residents on Reddit also recommend Amylos Taverna, Tru, Telly’s Taverna, Agnanti and Tufino Pizzeria.
Serevdio, who uses Tinder, Bumble and Hinge to meet people, said she’s also been going on a lot of virtual dates.
“I’ve done more phone calls and FaceTime ‘dates’ this year than I ever have in the past,” she said.
Before the pandemic, Astoria resident Nadia Galpern met men in person at singles events, at bars and online. Now, she’s relying on various digital platforms, such as Hinge, Bumble and Ship, an app that lets your friends help you find matches. Galpern tends to text matches via the apps before moving on to video calls.
She is also active on singles Facebook groups for Jews like Corona Crushes and MeetJew Post-Grad Dating, which has a matchmaking feature. Members can fill out a form with information and preferences, and the group administrators send a weekly email of matches with their email or social media profile.
“Sometimes I slide into DMs,” Galpern said.
She’s also tried virtual speed dating on apps like Filter Off, but said she often ends up connecting with men who don’t live in New York.
One benefit of starting with a video date is that it has saved Galpern from bad in-person dates. Once, she had a quick, spontaneous video chat with a match she’d planned on meeting in person. They didn’t hit it off, so she canceled the date.
“If you can’t have a four-minute conversation, then how are you going to have an hour or so date?” she said.
Psychotherapist Krol, who often discusses dating with her clients, noticed that some people will take more time to get to know each other virtually before meeting up offline. For those who are meeting virtually, she suggests treating those dates like regular, in-person dates, such as getting dressed up to show the other person you put in effort and care.
“You can get a little excited for it, get yourself in that kind of mood, excited to meet the person as if you’re going out with them,” she added.
Planning an activity or even having drinks or coffee while you’re video chatting can make it feel more like a date, not just a conversation with a friend, Krol said.
“People can open up quicker when they are virtually dating than they normally would offline – people’s walls are kind of torn down,” she said. “There’s more of a sense of comfort opening up to people through text or the phone. It feels less risky to them.”
She’s also noticed people are committing faster than they normally would. This could be because they’re connecting more deeply or more quickly online. Plus, health considerations could be a factor; many people don’t want to date multiple partners anymore, she said.
Woodside resident Rita met people online and in person before the pandemic. She met her boyfriend through Tinder in March, the week after the city shut down. Since they’re both active, their first date began in a park in Queens — “we goofed around on the monkey bars,” she said — and continued with a walk back to her apartment. In the spring, they’d often make each other dinner at their respective apartments, and as it got warmer, dates included bike rides and outings at the park and the beach.
Ironically, the pandemic could have some benefits for those who are dating. Rita said it may have reduced the amount of “game-playing” and wondering where she stood. And, because she couldn’t socialize as much as she normally would, she was able to spend more quality time with her boyfriend. Plus, she wasn’t as worried that he’d be dating other people in the beginning of their relationship.
“[The pandemic] forced me to be patient and removed a lot of toxicity,” she said.