New Straits Times
Finding love is hard during the pandemic
Y AY! The Covid-19 vaccines are dripping into all lands and coursing through many veins. We must love that it’s finally happening. But is love really happening? Your first love, I mean.
Take a step back in time to 2019. Imagine, you are introduced to a soul in a cosy restaurant whose walls have been newly whitewashed and covered with posters of this food and that. Both of you talk a bit, laugh a lot. And meet again. Affection is fertilised and love realised.
You get married. Or maybe not. To meet, to be with one another. This has been our way. Did not Romeo, who was looking for Rosaline, meet Juliet at the ball and not merely in a dream?
Believe me, a shared plate of golden fried chicken, or a shared bench under the silvery moon, does more for romance than a Facebook page can ever hope to accomplish. But in this soiled environment — pandemic and restrictions and masks — how may love be seeded?
You do not meet new people at the office, at places of worship, at gatherings and at parties. You do not go to college, have lunch or dinner with new friends, and drive to the beach with them.
Now more than two people are allowed to sit at a restaurant table, and talk about each other in between munching this and that. But your mind and mum will surely tell you not to take the gamble, especially with someone you’ve just got to know in this time of trouble.
Going to the cinema to watch a movie and to sneak a peek when she/he smiles, and to hold hands when things on the screen go vile, are for now merely stories from the archives. Not stories to be lived. At least, not until the virus leaves.
You think these that I mentioned are inconsequential to the kindling of romance? Well then, I shall enlist Romeo to my cause. In Act 2, Scene 2, in Capulet’s fruit garden, the son of Lord Montague delivers a moving soliloquy: “See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O, that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek!”
How prettily put by the tragic prince of romance. It’s not enough to see her. He needs to be with her. To touch her.
Incidentally, T he
Economist, not a newspaper about love, says “humans need touch to form close relationships”. A survey of hundreds of adults “in 2014 suggested that being deprived of touch was linked to loneliness, depression, stress” and all those other horrid disorders.
I think it’s not nearly enough to rely on a myriad of apps, some of them seedy, to fight loneliness. And on social media to find love. To do that is to have noodle soup without the soup. Dry the meal becomes, dry as dust the love succumbs.
Heh heh. But I am not being practical, aren’t I? University Malaya’s The Community and Sustainability Centre director, Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin, may think so too. He tells me the dearth of studies on ‘unborn relationships’ — a result of the pandemic — makes it hard for scientists to draw conclusions.
“However, from clinical experience, i.e. conversations with patients who are single or have recently had a break-up, it is indeed more difficult than in the past (to foster relationships). The pool of individuals we can meet has become smaller.”
He suggests that people are trying to find a way out using dating apps. (Aargh! I shudder.)
“Another method is introductions. But without the usual public places to meet — libraries, clubs, to name a few. If there is a connection, they may go on to the next level, i.e. email, WhatsApp or social media,” Dr Amer adds.
Sigh. I guess there is no other way in this situation that is less than gay. We make do in the now with ‘plastic’ romances from screen and text, and wait one more year for something substantial from lunch and touch.
A little like what the folks did during the great wars of the 20th century, when life and love ran away, and bombs and doom held sway.
Dr Amer makes an interesting observation, though. Most of the time, we chance upon a relationship. It is not something we can will out of thin air. “So it would be wiser instead to use this opportunity to work on oneself — mentally, physically or even socially.”
I think I have to agree with his counsel. When enough people have the vaccine coursing through their veins, perhaps we may have this discussion again.