Finding and experiencing Love inthe Time of Corona.
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We are collecting stories of the heart from behind quarantined walls. What is it really like to love in the time of the coronavirus? Are you separated from the one you love? Stuck with the one you don’t? Have you fallen in love? Whether you’re single, dating, married or on the brink of divorce, we want to hear your story. If you are interested in sharing your story, please use the button below to e-mail us your story along with the answers to the questions below.
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Love in the Time of Corona
What a difference a few weeks makes in the time of coronavirus for the thousands of us single girls used to casually swiping right and left.
It’s 4pm on a Thursday, or is it Wednesday, and I have just made sweet passionate love to Simon for the 20th time in six days. Note: Simon is not my boyfriend. I met him on Bumble a couple months ago. We’d meet once every week or so, for a low-commitment date such as trying out a new restaurant conveniently next to my office, or catching a fellow actor friend’s show already on my to-do list, with occasional flirty text messages in between. I loved Simon’s thick Australian accent. I loved how big his hands are. But what I really loved about him was he was completely accommodating and put zero pressure on me. If he suggested a get-together and I responded with, “Let’s decide in a couple of days,” he was fine with that. If ever I felt I was in the driving seat of a relationship, this was it.
So when Simon showed up at my apartment, as ominous news reports of quarantine and self-isolation and possible death loomed, armed with three duffel bags stuffed with clothes and frozen meat, I thought, “Oh, how cute, I guess it’s good to be prepared,” approaching his entry with the casual, go-with-the-flow vibe I’ve spent the last two years cultivating as a single woman in New York City. I’d refined the skill of nudging dates out of my apartment before morning light. I hadn’t allowed myself to expect too much from any man, preferring to proclaim my girlfriends as my true soulmates and men as handy for dinner or a concert or a hook-up.
That was then, and this is now. When the world feels like it could be ending at any moment, worrying there could be someone better out there seems ignorant and even ridiculous when there’s a sweet, loving, kind man right in front of me.
Admittedly, it’s odd to have a man I don’t know well see me in a time when there’s no time for games or pretenses. Simon keeps telling me how beautiful I am, and I haven’t worn makeup in weeks. My go-to quarantine fashion statement is a grey hoodie. There are no parties to take him too, or work to impress him. It’s just us. A man and a woman experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event together.
Even our personal lives seem lined up. We’re both middle-aged parents, and our lives normally revolve around our kids, but his middle school-aged children are with their mom enjoying a mountainside rental in Utah and my 18- and 20-year-old sons are happily stuck in The Bahamas with their dad and friends. Everyone seems to be on the same page; everyone’s content to be where they are. Normal parenting trials and tribulations haven’t factored into our bubble.
Is this connection, forged by zero other options, what builds love in some arranged marriages? In India, for example, as many as 90 percent of marriages are arranged, but under one in 1,000 marriages end in divorce. In a Psychology Today article, Utpal Dholakia, Ph.D., suggests three factors may be in play to explain why Indian arranged marriages find success. One is “relinquishing difficult aspects of the choice;” parents or elders screen potential partners. Two is “choice with relatively little deliberation;” research suggests for complex decisions, it’s better when people go with their gut feeling. And third is “starting the relationship with lower expectations.” All right, so my parents obviously didn’t set up Simon and I, but when he showed up at my door, I definitely “relinquished difficult aspects of the choice.” And I didn’t deliberate much. Our relationship was already built on relatively low expectations, or low demands of each other.
When there’s no parade of other choices, is that what makes love possible? Or am I in some dating version of The Breakfast Club; when detention is over, will I go back to my old self?
Was he sent to wake me up to my own need for personal growth? Why not accept love rather than question it? If my issues were intimacy, fear of getting too close, exposing my vulnerabilities for fear of getting hurt, or even fear of love itself, isn’t this the perfect time to step up and see if I can act differently, love differently? I have nothing to lose if the world is going to end. What if I used this time for self-reflection, for clarifying my priorities and identifying what it is I really, truly want in this life: love, and connection?
As I’m the founder of Pink Wisdom, a women’s relationship advice website, I’m very into communication games and guess who was not only willing but actually wanted to play them as well? You guessed it. I landed on “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love,” based on a study by psychologist Arthur Aron. It’s an exercise for any two people who want to nurture a relationship, although it bears a reputation for inciting love. We’re currently on question 28; the exercise is brilliantly designed, with the questions acting spring boards for other topics. They’ve given us talking points, and yes, helped us get to know each other deeper.
But the exercise wasn’t the only way for me to recognize the high-value man in front of me. Turns out Simon has quite a few desirable qualities beyond his bedroom expertise. He lives by a code of empathy and compassion. Like, for real. He grew up on a working farm and majored in agriculture in college, and has spent hours pruning my backyard. He can fix a toilet. He gained survival skills working at a safari. He’s a gourmet chef (literally), passionate about homemade soups. He indulges me in daily games of Scrabble and Backgammon. He is clean and smells good and chops wood and tells hilarious stories that leave me laughing so hard my side hurts. He lifts me up and spins me around; physically and emotionally. His self-proclaimed goals are to give and to love. While I’m constantly texting my girlfriends, he’s trading jokes with his mates. And all through this he treats me as if I’m some kind of movie star paying attention to a background actor, like he can’t believe his luck. It feels amazing to be a team and fight the world together; all those things I had decided I don’t need but in fact I do need.
As I cozied up with Simon, my phone still lit up with texts from other guys I’d been dating, and I kept wondering what it would be like to be with them instead. I also wondered if Simon was staying in contact with the other women. So I asked, and Simon answered honestly, and offered to let me read the messages. His gesture made me feel completely secure in his desire for me, yet provided that competitive edge I seem to crave when dating men. I began to realize I must treat this one with care, and not let his kindness go unappreciated.
We’re now three weeks into this quarantine hook-up, and as I’m snuggled inside Simon’s warm, toned arms, he whispers, “I’m falling in love with you, Alison.” The question is: will I allow myself to fall in love with Simon?
They say miracles often arrive in disguise. They say growth is sometimes forced upon us. They say a lot of this and more. But what I say is…Simon, let’s go back to bed, and enjoy the moment together.
A Love Travelogue
My Instagram page describes me as an Art Advisor, Native New Yorker and World Traveler. I am not the world traveler these days while the world is hunkered down in quarantine. I fondly remember jumping on a plane every month flying off to Brussels, Paris, Miami, Mexico City, Milan and so on. Coming home was equally as exciting, as I happily made plans for the next trip. Oh those were the days.
Flashback May 2019 -I am in Paris for my godson Bruno’s confirmation at L’Eglise Saint Sulpice in the 6th arrondissement. I had the honor of accompanying him to the alter to take his vows. I pinched myself thinking how lucky I was to have this experience in one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in Paris. But I am getting away from myself here. One night I was swiping on Tinder and muttering to myself that this would be the last time before going off line for a break. Suddenly a very handsome man appears with an eagerness to meet me. I told him I had an hour for him the day before I was set to leave for New York and it was a very lucky hour!
We met at Café Coste at the Carre du Louvre. We chatted, talking about the usual – place of birth, upbringing, work, family and interests. There was a certain ease I had not felt in a long time. We liked each other and I could feel that immediately. As we parted we promised to keep in touch. Fast forward two weeks later he was in New York to see me.
Our second date was a five day visit. It started at Simon and The Whale on Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street. It was a hot summer night. I walked over from my apartment and he flew in from Paris. When I saw him standing in front of the restaurant my heart melted. We gave each other the warmest smiles from afar and our first hug made me feel cozy and exactly where I should be. Any nervousness I felt dissipated immediately. I felt drawn to this this tall, athletic, strapping Frenchman. It was as if we had known each other forever. We had dinner, saw a dance performance and it all kept flowing with such ease. We were tourists in my hometown visiting Central Park, Tavern on the Green, the 9/11 Memorial, Gallagher’s Steak House (one of his favorite places). We went to my house in Sag Harbor and discovered that we shared an intense love for the beach. He tried to teach me how to play tennis with such patience and love.
Two weeks later he was back and I was impressed with how he kept showing up and how I continued to fall for him. We planned to meet somewhere every month and explore places we had not been. We both love to travel just as much as we love the ocean. We met in Paris, went to Brugge for a romantic weekend, then off to a wedding at a chateau in Pepinster, Belgium. He was back in Sag Harbor for August. We took an excursion up to Newport to explore the mansions and an exhibition of the sculptor Nicolas Party. I joined him and his cousin for the famous walk of Saint Jaques de Compostella – nine days of hiking in the Southwest of France. Back and forth between Paris and New York so many times in between. We had planned to meet in Dallas in April for an art fair then explore parts of Texas. The coronavirus put a stop to our romantic travel adventures.
Now we find ourselves unable to make plans and we continue to hope that I will be able to board the plane for Paris on May 24 to continue our hiking towards Santiago de Compostella in Spain. In the meantime we are a part of each other’s lives from afar on an hourly basis. I wake up to a good morning every day and he wakes up to my humorous messages and pictures. We laugh about how our relationship might have been doomed if FaceTime did not exist. We share music, films, both silly and serious stories, we dance, we eat together, we share all the routines of our day in confinement and most of all our bond has grown stronger and stronger each day. He keeps me grounded in this upside down world. We both feel loved. Neither of us are alone. It is travel of another kind.
We do not know exactly when we will see each other again but what we do know is it will be a long awaited and sweet reunion.