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Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Before the pandemic happened and before all hell broke loose, I was just a girl who believed in storybook romance. The organic development of a relationship—with all the tension, the kilig, the slow burn—was my blueprint. I never sought anything instant because, like a true blue hopeless romantic, love is a slow but sure process.

Then Coronavirus came into the picture. The opportunity of meeting people in real life vanished so suddenly. I was really going for the whole meet cute thing—bumping into someone in the hallway, meeting eyes with a boy through the empty slots of the bookshelf, sharing an umbrella with a stranger during a rainy day. Call it whatever you like—cliché, fantasy, delusion, an unattainable hope—but, to me, it’s a moment worth dreaming of.

I was raised by romantic comedies and chick flicks. Amanda Bynes (before her downfall) was a constant presence during my teenage years. Her films were my personal favorites especially She’s The Man (not her most popular but has a large cult following).

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Image: Channing Tatum and Amanda Bynes in She’s The Man

The natural development between the characters in these films is the framework. This ideology has been solidified in my head for so long that when the pandemic happened and the dynamics of romance suddenly changed (for the better? or worse?), I almost had a whiplash.

How do I deal with this? Do I follow the current of the river? Or do I stick to the original track towards my destination?

I followed the current of the river. But the river is much more different now. Love, as I knew it, has adapted to the workings of virtually-driven relationships. I went into dating apps, much to my dismay, for the sake of having new interpersonal connections. I knew that there is only a slight chance of meeting a person there with serious intentions but I still carried a hopeful mindset with me.

But the stories were right. People came and went so fast. Several of them left undesirable marks in my heart. But most of them were just strangers and the memories of them were almost like a blur.

Leaving people on “read” is so normalized to the point where it became something to brag about with friends. The act of love bombing someone without actually pursuing them is something that I never knew could exist until the recent past. Even the simple act of courting is barely present in these fast-paced, whirlwind relationships.

To simply put it, a storybook romance was not possible on Tinder and Bumble.

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Image by Brian Rea | The New York Times

The craving for instant romance is the trend these days. I can definitely vouch for that for I have had firsthand experience on the matter. Maybe it’s because of the pressure from my peers (all of them are taken now and half of them have found their partners this pandemic), the fear of missing out on the latest couple dance on Tiktok (I have an unhealthy obsession with the app lately, okay?), or the whole possibility of me dying too soon (because of COVID, duh) without experiencing the love that was promised by Ms. Bynes.

All of these things boil down to one thing: This era is not for the hopeless romantics.

It’s certainly disappointing (for idealists like me) to look at the modern version of love and relationship, but it’s fine. It worked for other people — their instant romances became their endgame. They experienced the magic of love even at this time of uncertainty. So, don’t give up, there is still a window of hope for people looking for love on the internet.

But, as for me, my dreams of a cliché love story are put on hold because love is a game I don’t want to play in this time of Coronavirus.

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