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Mask on for first kiss?

Dating during the current pandemic wasn't all thrills for Shandrie Lewis. Though she has since established a relationship with a new boyfriend, those months on the dating scene were not fun, what with the protocols for washing hands, wearing masks, and of course the unfathomable strangeness of the Internet.
1901 covid dating sup CC
Ah, the halcyon days of dating. This was a scene from a 2019 Date n'Dash event held in Edmonton. Things have changed dramatically, and not necessarily for the better during the current pandemic, a few local observers noted. FACEBOOK/Supplied

The dating scene has always been a place of intrigue and adventure — read: danger, with the prospect of finding untold treasure — to say the least.

Throw a nasty pandemic into the atmosphere and suddenly the prospect of dating surely has pushed new romance into the realm of the plot of a good spy novel where everyone is wondering who the good guy is, who the bad guy is, and how you tell the difference when everyone has a mask on.

People need human connection, so many singles have had to up their social intelligence game to simply meet new people for the express purpose of finding love and relationships.

St. Albert resident Shandrie Lewis is one such intrepid dater. Divorced with children means she already had to have her guard up pre-COVID during her five-year adventure in dating. Her experiences have given her a particularly astute sense of observing the human condition.

“What I've noticed is the same issues with dating in general have always been there: the struggle with the need for connection, and adult connection. It's been very magnified, I would say, in the last 18 months, just for some obvious reasons, like not being able to physically meet people or have now the topic of vaccinations [as] the new taboo political/religion conversation,” she began.

“Even more so is how the pandemic has changed people's ability to even be in a relationship or to even be in a place where they are physically, mentally, emotionally healthy enough to even be in a relationship.”

She noted that the number of users on dating apps has seen an uptick, as has the divorce rate. This second statistic highlights how the pandemic has put greater and less manageable stress on more people. This also offers a glimpse into the new people coming into the world of dating.

She said all of this has turned the singles scene into a new kind of gong show.

“I feel like that's really been the bigger struggle. People are already struggling right now as it is, as a human. When you factor in somebody's trying to also be in a relationship at the same time or start a new relationship, a lot of people, I believe, don't even have the ability or even the coping mechanisms to be in a place where they can successfully be in a relationship. So there's a lot more unhealthy coping mechanisms that people are using: drugs, and drinking, and whatnot. I wonder what the dating landscape is going to be like going forward.”

Connie O'Boyle wonders about that as well. The organizer of speed dating events through Date n' Dash explained there have been many ups and downs throughout these last two years.

“As far as dating at this time, we had some breakthroughs when things were getting opened up again and I was able to start events,” she offered, continuing, “and then masks [needed] to be worn. That kinda upset some people. They didn't like having to keep them on.

“Then it was the vaccine passport and that weeded out some of the single people that were unvaxed and people didn't have to ask that tough question anymore. It was giving people a bit more confidence.”

She successfully hosted a Newlywed Game-type event called Know Your Mate in November. It went well, she said, and she’s looking forward to hosting another one along with a Dating Game in February.

Hope is the operative word, she said.

“Now, everything is up in the air with Omicron wreaking havoc in Alberta.”

While there is no end in sight for the pandemic, it must end at some point. It must also seem like a longer stretch of time for those who are out there trying to find mates and romantic partners.

After her interview, Lewis noted that she had established a new relationship. Still, she feels like the current state of the world has offered an opportunity for many people to reflect and take some time to work on themselves to be better people. That, she said, is the best way to survive and find success on the dating scene.

"A lot of people ... haven't actually put the work into themselves to prepare themselves to be in a healthy, functional relationship. Unfortunately, that's just the times right now," she said.

"Nothing will go back to normal in any aspect of the world right now. I just hope that people figure out a way to live happy, healthy lives in the current world that we are in. It'll always be changing, and I think we need to learn how to move and change with it without losing emotional intelligence along the way, and be able to just function in a healthy way."

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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