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Love in the Time of Corona | Single Files


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Graphic by Irina Ratsek for Yellow Scene

Although Fermina Daza may have erased Florentino Ariza from her memory, he had obsessed over her and their long, troubled love affair that had ended fifty-one years, nine months, and four days before the story opened. That’s the beginning of Love in the Time of Cholera, the classic from Gabriel García Márquez, Colombian. Cholera is listed by the World Health Organization as the “forgotten pandemic”, pointing out that, “[m]any people think of cholera as a 19th century disease. This is true for high-income countries. But elsewhere, cholera never went away. The current pandemic – the 7th that has been recorded – has been ongoing since 1961. It is the world’s longest running pandemic.”

It’s stunning to realize we’ve had a global pandemic ongoing since 1817. That’s over 2 centuries. Sr. Márquez’s novel came out in 1985, 36 years ago, but it’s set approximately between 1880 and the early 1930s. Love was found even then; before modern medicine. Are we still finding love today? Are you? I believe, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, love will find a way.

While the world has been in our current, newest, global pandemic for just over one year (the first known US case was January 20, 2020), love has flourished. Not to sound pessimistic, but love has also died. Depends on whom you ask.

I asked a lot of people, and I got so many replies I was stunned. I was stunned, not only by the willingness to share, but by the diversity of responses: in love, broken hearted, barely survived…

But first, let’s consider the impact of major world events on love and it’s secondary outcomes. Baby boomers, for example, dropped 76.4 million babies during that 22-year period, which comprised about one-quarter of the U.S. population at the time.

Winter, though not necessarily a calamity event, is known less for interest in excursions and more for cuddling under covers. Love is found where warmth is. Did you know the most common birth months for new babies is July-October, according to UnityPoint.org. July is 9 months after October (start of the Fall cool down) and October is 9 months after February (the traditional end of winter). Smithsonianmag.com points out that “There’s evidence of seasonal reproduction all the way back to the 1800s.” Really? Do tell…

“It turns out reproduction is seasonal across all living organisms,” says Smithsonian, “from plants, to insects, to reptiles, to birds and mammals – including human beings. The ultimate explanation for this phenomenon is an evolutionary one… Organisms have evolved strategies to reproduce at the time of year that will maximize their lifetime reproductive success.”

Lest we get lost in cisheterosexual ideas, which are not rigid laws, here’s a reminder that humans and nature exist on the LGBTQIA spectrum. There is evidence of the same survival instincts regardless of gender or sexuality, of cuddling and finding warmth with warm bodies around you, regardless of whether a baby is on the way. In fact, queer animal couples have been seen adopting babies or carrying for abandoned eggs, or just existing together.

Babies are not – necessarily, anymore – the ultimate or only endpoint of companionship. If you ask the Denver-based 20s/30s Singles Facebook group, most folks just wanna hook up for the night, have someone to hold, and maybe a beer pong partner. Damnit, I’m in. Before I get lost in the casual hookup, let’s hear from those who responded to my query about love in the time of COVID.

Most names have been given an abbreviation to respect anonymity. Edited for clarity and length.

 

Self Love and Singles

I left a toxic relationship right before the pandemic and started telling myself “I love you” in the mirror every morning.

We can start with the casual fun, my perennial location. E told me that, the “First couple months [of the pandemic] I was dating someone. Ended up not being worth it. And I’ve been back on my BS since. Hookups and being single af [as fu*k].” What a great place to start.

Pardis

My friend Pardis (real name) chimed in with, “I left a toxic relationship right before the pandemic and started telling myself “I love you” in the mirror every morning. About a year later and I can confidently say I believe it. That’s my love story.” That’s a beautiful thing. Makes me wonder how you’ve practiced self love during the pandemic, whether or not you’re in a relationship.

W had a lot to say, starting with, “I left my ex in July after he cheated on me and tried to call it polyamory.” I’ve been there, with a woman I offered a poly relationship up front, knowing we were about to do long distance. She cheated and asked to go poly. I declined. She wasn’t asking for a poly relationship, but a get out of consequences for cheating free card.

I asked W about the drama and she was completely blunt, telling me, “so, basically, we were together for almost seven years.. We met online in [another state] in 2014. In 2016 we moved to be closer to his family. A lot of sh*t happened, [including] family being killed by a local pd, had a kid, etc. Apparently at some point he formed a secret relationship with a person who we had known for at least two years, and was supposed to be both of our friend.” Talk about tea. Do go on!

“This person was coming over and hanging out with us…, and I thought, ‘oh cool, he’s finally making friends’. Turns out he wanted to be poly with this person, but didn’t want to be intimate with me anymore, and basically told me he wanted me to be his live-in child care and housekeeper. I said ‘fu*k that’ and he told me that I was being the opposite of my values (he said he had to have her sleep over at the house with him or he would try to have non consensual interactions with me), etc. I decided to leave.

I had almost no money, his car and my kiddo. I was fortunate enough to find work, safe housemates and a great place to live and bring up my kiddo. I’m poor af and trying to find better work, but at least now I’m getting divorced from him and my kiddo will have at least one stable parent and environment to count on.”

Avaeda

Avaeda (real name) told me with a surprising amount of brutal honesty that, “the last relationships I had [sic] been in I was literally almost killed. Was codependent and struggled to get on my own two feet. Been single for a WHILE but the pandemic allowed me to slow down enough to really enjoy single life and myself. Self love is legit the BEST love (aside from pets, nothing tops the fur babies)  [emphases hers].” It was the first response that really delved into dangerous territory so I asked for clarity.

She offered, again, piercing honesty (trigger warning, violence): “he held a knife to my throat, raped me, and held me hostage for like six hours and threatened to gut my then three month old in front of me. That happened years ago and my last relationship didn’t end up much better. But that’s why I’m enjoying the single life. Self love is the best love. I’ve been single almost four years now to work and focus on myself and my kids. Completely celibate going on two and a half years. Right now [during the pandemic] there are no next steps ????? It’s not something I’m actively pursuing but I’m open to things happening if the right person came along.”

Finally, to close couples with a more robust conversation than we’ve had thus far, we interviewed a local activist, friend, and bada*s who does work across the Front Range, and even travels for actions, as a member of the Colorado Brown Berets. We’ll call her Mad.

“When the pandemic started I was actually married,” she begins the tale. “My marriage was really toxic and, one night, one of our fights got so bad that the next day he moved out. My divorce was finalized in October [2019]”. Relationships – even the potential – have “changed a lot over the last year. I kinda jumped into a monogamous relationship too fast (Summer 2020) and that lasted a couple months. Since then I’ve been in flirtations with a few people; but I have a follow through issue I’m trying to work through. It’s been really hard to navigate a dating path, especially while trying to avoid mistakes of my past. I also really am working on a goal of being polyamorous. It seems to make the most sense, but admittedly, I’ve been known to have a jealous streak so I’m working through that first lol.”

I asked Mad, what does love mean for you? She says that, “the pandemic has given me a lot of time to reflect on love, and that’s how I came to believe polyamory makes more sense than monogamy. Love for me means feeling care and admiration for someone in your whole mind (and body, if it’s romantic love). It comes with so many different expressions, like from good morning texts to falling asleep together to holding space for one another, that it makes sense to me to share it with more than one person. My ideas of love from the start of the pandemic up until now have changed almost 180 degrees in terms of being really forgiving of the human condition, too, both with others and myself.”

Mad deserves love. I realized that from our interactions, and from our conversation where she was feeling blue wondering if she’d ever find it. I can understand ‘cause I feel the same way about my own love life. I asked her if she’s dating now? She’s not.

“I’m not actively dating,” she tells me, actively being the operative word. “Sometimes I get butterflies, but I really don’t leave my house except for activism and trips, which aren’t good conditions to meet someone to start dating lol. (It’s important that who I date is active in their community, but I mean activism not being a good place to meet people, because that’s the last thing on my mind at protest, ya know?) Also, I’m unsure that I’m ready to get back out there, which is probably a sign that I’m not. I love having a crush, because it’s so safe. It’s like all of the pros of dating, but none of the pressure.”

And finally, Mad, what’s your plan for love – whether finding or keeping what you have – going forward?

“I’m very open to the possibility of finding love. I’m just trying to do self work in the meantime, so that when it happens, I’m ready.”

Next up: Couples, Recently Coupled, and Married

In this section we look at a few friends that got together during the pandemic, as well as those that have been together – dating or married – and are faithfully carrying on. We’ll begin internationally because, first, that angle is fun and as yet unexplored and, second, it’s one of only three men who replied (all of whom are in this category). Leave it to the women to be emotionally vulnerable and honest about love in the time of COVID.

Pim (right) with his partner

Pim (real name) is a friend I met in Utrecht, NL, while living abroad in Europe. He and I met in a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) class. A great guy, he became a wonderful international friend as I settled back into America in 2016 and he went on to do English language work in Ecuador and Colombia. He invited me down to Colombia when he was there, and I almost went if not for this job at Yellow Scene.

He tells me, in the vein of Hollywood meets unrequited love facing insurmountable odds as global catastrophes bear down, romance novel type drama that, “I met my girlfriend a couple of years ago at a party in Ecuador. We were both in a relationship but we clicked and became friends. I left the country for a job in Colombia but after two years I was back in Ecuador and we got together. But family matters intervened and I went back to The Netherlands for a while. We met up for New Year in Istanbul and made plans to live together in Spain or Greece or wherever. Then COVID hit us: borders closed, jobs disappeared and hope became a lifeline for our relationship. Europe closed up but I found a job in Cuenca, Ecuador, permitting me to leave, finally. Since December we are together again, taking care of each other and determined to stay together til the end of times.” If anything in these pages gives you hope, let it be this. And this is possible here in Colorado, too, given the amount of people that move here.

R used to work at a strip club and we became friends. She’s braided my hair and we’ve gone out to party. I know her boyfriend. She was crystal clear: “My bae and I opened up our relationship to keep it spicy.” Ok, and what happened, I asked her. Well, she tells me, “we’ve been a couple for just over five years and we’ve been struggling during the pandemic. We’re both ‘essential’ so we’ve been working through this mess and our schedules don’t line up anymore. So we’ve adopted a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. He still hasn’t gotten laid though and my DMs are overflowing with simps.”

AR told me that she’s, “in an open relationship but haven’t had any new lovers since the pandemic because I’ve been taking COVID really seriously and don’t want to expose them and their other partner to more people. But a previous lover and close friend from California just moved into my house and it’s TENSE.” How is it tense, AR? Let us know. We’re crawling with anticipation. “It’s tense,” she tells me, “because we both wanna be intimate but they moved in more long term and that sounds too complicated for me. I didn’t cut anyone off because of the pandemic, all of my other lovers besides my partner live in other states and we haven’t had an opportunity for a safe visit unfortunately. One day soon I think it will be okay to do, but it’s mostly been my comfort level restricting that with how big the pod is.”

Safety first is something I can support. Remember early in the article where I cut off a threesome pod because members didn’t take my health seriously enough. Interestingly, the third person we brought into that specific situation has reached out, as recently as the time of this writing, to get back in a bed with me. I think I’ll hold off and see what else is out there.

Jessica and Nick

Jessica and Nick (real names) have been very upfront about relationship struggles. Jessica often posts on her well-followed Facebook profile about their stresses, their ups and downs, their therapy sessions. She offers a hopeful look at what the pandemic can bring to a struggling couple, saying, “As soon as COVID hit, I joked to my friends, ‘this will either result in divorce or help Nick and me work through our issues.’ Happily, it’s the latter and while not everything is fixed, we are in a much better place than we were at the beginning of 2020.” Don’t you love the honesty? That’s how love survives.

“I don’t know that we’re going to make it – f o r e v e r – but where I was thinking, ‘this relationship may be over,’ I now think, “this is a rich and strong relationship that still has potential.”

I asked for more info because it felt like a lot to unpack. She tells me, “We both have jobs that require us to be out of the house, so it’s easy to get disconnected and avoid fully resolving conflicts. Being in the house all the time has given us time to connect daily and doesn’t allow us to avoid resolving issues.” It reminds me of the old adage to never go to bed angry.

But what issues are at the fore? “Where to start? Hahaha. Issues range from your basic development as people, overcoming past trauma, hurts & habits, to raising kids & over the last three years, helping our kid survive deep personal trauma and abuse, which has led to suicidality and multiple hospitalizations.”

Love survives, I would say, especially in dark times. It must. Indeed, she says, “We are okay. We are all still alive – which is a miracle. COVID has given us time to be together, to be here for each other, and to take care of each other. I think we see each other differently than before and have a deeper appreciation.”

AC tells me the same thing as JC, that the pandemic has helped. “My wife and I are stronger than ever and so grateful we are going through this with each other. And turns out more time together allowed me to move quickly through issues of trust I didn’t even know I had and become even more vulnerable, connected, and in love with her.”

“I’ve done so much work on myself,” she says. “All I can literally see is that it was more time together. I’m guessing I had trust issues from past trauma, but I didn’t even recognize I did until I felt myself open up in ways I hadn’t before with her. It was all out of my view and consciousness. Our commitment to each other was solid from the start – we actively work on us, but this was on another level. We both just kept showing up for each other. And she’s so good at loving me for me, it’s almost unbelievable. Luck, work, reflection, commitment.”

AM is a local lawyer. She is excited about love, having found someone during the pandemic. How? “My partner and I met on Tinder during the pandemic a couple months after I left a violent DV relationship beginning of last year. We did the virtual contact until we felt ‘ok this could be serious let’s meet in person’ and we have been essentially inseparable ever since (in a healthy way, lol). He has supported me through three surgeries last year on top of the baggage I’m working through. I can’t help but wonder if the lockdown helped our relationship in two ways. First in establishing a real connection before meeting in person, and second in the fact that quarantining with someone can ramp up a relationship – for us in a good way. I couldn’t be luckier or happier that it worked out the way it did.”

The first three months [of the pandemic I] had two weeks of threesomes with five women, alternating…

Coleen and Matthew

We’ll end couples with Matthew and Coleen. Coleen works at a law firm and Matthew is the National Sales Director for CO Lift Hemp Company. I knew him before that. He’s instrumental in a lot of projects I spearhead, including our Everyone Deserves Tacos events to feed the unhoused across the Front Range. Matthew opens up with a lighthearted, if seriously interesting, origin story, saying, “The first three months [of the pandemic I] had two weeks of threesomes with five women, alternating who wasn’t working and whatnot. [Then I] joined the Denver 20s/30s activities group on FB, [went to an event and] walked behind Coleen climbing a mountain… them pink shorts hit. A couple of socially distant activities and meetings later, we started doing a thang!”

And that “thang” continues. Coleen is clear that, “I support all of this! Crazy fun sex is great. I was in a S/D (sub/dom) relationship for a bit and it was fun but not what I really needed in my life, so I went out to look for something more and found it.” She explains that she, “took some time to cultivate some friendships and was working on myself by joining a FB group. Wasn’t looking for anything but went on a couple dates with a few people. They didn’t work out but I got a couple of friends out of it. Then I went on a hike and a few casual events and kept telling Matt no for about a month or two. He was very persistent but respectful so eventually I came around and we are still together”.

Determination being the key to the story, we love that they found love.

That’s it, folks. Love has, is, and will continue to find a way. For those who’ve lost love, we hope you hold out hope because love will find you when you’re ready. For those who are avoiding it, may your time alone be a time of growth and fulfilled individual passion. For the couples – both ongoing and newly found – may your love grow and the horniest (I mean lovingest) holiday be one of fondness and closeness. For the married couples, we wish you bliss, contentment, and the right amount of space to navigate.

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