The title says it all. But does it? We need to live this “new normal” life because of the virus that is rapidly spreading throughout the world, but how do we do that? I was “over” this whole COVID-19 after the first few days. It’s no vacation just because I couldn’t go into the office.
At home, I have to juggle being a full-time employee while simultaneously being a full-time mommy and wife. Plus, did you know that Pesach is very quickly approaching? Not that there would ever be a good time for this to happen, but Erev Pesach is the worst time. Stores are jammed with people buying chametz and Pesachdik food, so some shelves are bare (until they restock – thank you, trick drivers and grocery workers).
But there is no shortage of people in the stores buying “essentials” for now and for Pesach. There are a few stores limiting the number of customers in at one time (for good reason). I was one of three people allowed into one store today but not allowed to move away from the front door; a clerk had to get my items. Half of those venturing outside are wearing masks and gloves. I was yelled at in a supermarket for asking a woman to move her wagon up to the register. “Social distancing!” she yelled at me. I kindly reminded her, “They said six to eight feet, not 20 feet. Move your wagon and stop being extra crazy.” Weddings are being canceled (my assistant’s wedding was scheduled for March 30), as well as bar mitzvahs (my nephew’s which was scheduled for Shabbos HaGadol). This is life now? It’s hard to believe. It’s 2020 in America! I also can’t believe that the United States wasn’t more prepared for this, because Hollywood has been putting out films of worldwide viruses, illnesses, and plagues for as long as I can remember. Movies like our new reality have been around since the 1990s, so why weren’t we better prepared?
That is a topic for another columnist to write about. I write about dating. So how are we supposed to date in times when we aren’t supposed to come into contact with others? I kid you not, I spent more time researching this article than I have most others, and I also tried to do some creative thinking and imagine what I would do in times like this if I was still single. I’ve read articles, listened to (hundreds of hours of) the news – and I think I have some ideas for those of you in the parshah who don’t want to take a two, three, four-month hiatus from dating. We all want to be safe, but date in this new reality, because it looks like things will be like this at least for the next couple of months. So we roll with the punches, right? We adjust because we can’t stop living life. People must continue to date and marry. As always, you can take my advice or not. I’m just trying to bring some levity to an otherwise serious and at times depressing reality.
Now that all social gathering places such as malls, restaurants, batting cages, arcades, bars, most parks, Starbucks (take-out only), miniature golf, etc. have been ordered closed and people told not to congregate in groups, how can those in the parshah date? How can one spend some quality time and get to know someone without spending any quality time together in the same room at all? And to the person who joked that chasidim don’t have this issue because they meet once and then months later meet again under the chupah; that is not a funny joke in any way.
Call me crazy, but dating in today’s world, the world that began in late February 2020, at times reminds me of the “olden days,” when people had courtships and wrote letters and poems to each other. It’s reminiscent of when people communicated through the pen and paper before meeting in person. So, let’s build on that concept and take it into the technological age.
You can call and text someone you have started dating, or even someone you just agreed to date, but won’t be seeing for a while because of our self-isolating, social distancing. You can even FaceTime or video-chat with them. I would have loved the opportunity to video-chat-date. I would have a nice sweater or blouse on. My hair and makeup would be all done, but under the table I’d have on my pajama pants and slippers instead of Spanx and three-inch heels. But all kidding aside, this could work out if the people want it to. We must adjust and roll with what life throws at us or be left behind and isolating ourselves from all!
A date can last hours, you can take walks, play games, eat, etc. How can you spend hours on the computer with someone? Well, if you have already been dating a while and have developed feelings for each other, then there is no problem. You would jump at any chance to see the person. But for a new couple, you can’t spend hours talking on the computer. You want to get to know the person and see his/her personality. For those couples, there are different things you can do while video-chatting or on FaceTime:
- You can play games. It can be either a board or word game. Either one of you or both of you can sit with the game in front of you and take turns rolling/spinning and moving your piece around the board. You can play word games or something like “Twenty Questions” or “Two Truths, One Lie.” If you don’t know how to play that game, I’ll explain: You tell two true things about yourself and one lie to your date. Your date has to guess which is the lie. I’ll provide an example: In order to get preferential treatment on a date, I told the employee at the venue we were at that I had been ranked as 14th best teenage golfer in the world when I was a teenager, OR I rode in the back of a police cruiser with my friends, OR I received the same score on all three regents exams in one year. Which is the one lie? (If you want the answer, email me.)
- You can share your favorite Top Ten lists. Agree to create a Top Ten list of favorite food, songs, places to go on vacation, movies, etc. and discuss it.
- You can watch a television or movie together. It sounds odd, but it could be done. Turn on the TV or movie at the same time and watch it together. You can comment on it as you would at the movies or during commercials.
- For those who have been dating a person for a period, send that person something. Apparently, Amazon, UPS, and USPS are “essential workers” (thank G-d), so they are still on the job. I’m not saying to send anything expensive, but send that person a book from Amazon on a topic he/she is interested in, or something you can both read, then discuss, like a private book club. Do you know what his or her favorite breakfast cereal is? Send it. Get creative. It will show that you care and are really doing your best in these trying times. Maybe you can order the person pizza or a sandwich and order the same for yourself, and eat while chatting with each other as on a real date.
- I have access to a dating profile on a frum dating website. I’m not going into detail about how or why; just know that my husband is aware of it. Except for an email from the website administrators regarding video-dating/chatting and a quick “how to” explanation of it, this email is sent at least once a day, and they really haven’t provided ideas on how to date during this time of social distancing. I logged in to my account, clicked on my emails, and there wasn’t an email even addressing the issue in my own mailbox – nothing, nada. The only email or mention of it is in the email blasts they send out. They don’t even send that same email to personal accounts on the site. As of the day that I am writing this article, there was no information on coronavirus or what the site was doing for their customers (I am paying a large amount of money for monthly membership) during these abnormal times. I searched the website and found nothing. I could be wrong. Maybe I missed a section, but nothing was clearly visible to me (again, at the time this article was written). On the other hand, I know that one of the secular sites waved its “Passport Fee.” That’s when you must pay extra to connect with singles in cities other than your own. I think it was smart to do that, because people are not allowed to travel, or should I say highly discouraged from traveling, to different cities (hence the reason I will be spending Pesach at home this year, and not with my sister in Baltimore as per the usual). This website is trying to help and even encourage its members to date during this social distancing time. When I see the right thing being done, no matter what religion or race, I give credit. Hey, Jewish sites, lower your rates, because people are only able to video-chat. It may even increase membership if people hear there is a temporary discount. Some of your customers are taking a financial hit because they can’t work; why not lower rates by 20 percent, because it’s 2020 or something like that. Thank you for the tips that you emailed me; but none of what was written in the email was “stop the presses” shocking or something that any normal person could not think of. I could have written the email myself.
I have written about ups and down in a marriage and choosing the right person who will be supportive through the rough times. Even if you aren’t affected with the physical symptoms of coronavirus, we are all feelings its effects. Of course you love your spouse; but now you are literally spending 24/7 with him or her (and your children). You may go out for a walk or a quick run to the store, but you are now living the life you wished during the beginning stages of your marriage: “I want to spend every waking moment with you, every day, for the rest of my life.” Welcome to the rest of your life! Being together is great, but we all need our space. Nothing is wrong with going on a walk alone or reading a book in another room (all of this is, of course, if your young or adolescent children allow you to do so). You will now find out what type of person you are married to. Is he or she anxious, pessimistic, always in need of reassurance, not able to handle this crisis? Or does this person try to distract you for even a few minutes and make you smile and laugh? I wonder: In nine months will there be many births? But how many divorces will there be because all the “quality family time” was detrimental to the family?
For those of you living alone and working from home, you may crave interaction with someone other than co-workers. You may love your family, but how many times can you video-chat with siblings? It’s part of our DNA to want to interact with others. Social interactions are not just limited to co-workers, friends, and family members. Think of every time you come into contact with another during the day: paying the cashier for your morning coffee, bumping into someone in a store and apologizing, passing people in the street, even standing with strangers on the street corner waiting for the light to change. We may not realize it, but we are among people and interacting in some way all day long. But now, we are forced not to. Please do not take the warnings of mayors, governors, the Surgeon General, and the President to extremes and not talk to anyone and totally self-isolate – not even going for a walk around the corner, if you are symptom-free, of course. It’s easy to fall into a depression and stay in bed all day. I remember people complimenting me after my mother suddenly passed away and I returned to work after the birth of my daughter. Many told me they’d be in bed under the covers crying. I said to each one of those people: “Who has the time to stay in bed? I gave birth right after I got up from shiv’ah. The baby needed me. I had to go back to work because my family needs money for food, rent, etc. I might be depressed, but I don’t have time to stay in bed.”
You know what? Now I could make the time to stay in bed if I wanted to. My kids are home, but so is my husband. I can call it “Delayed Mourning,” but that would be detrimental for a number of reasons. I wake the kids up in the morning, serve breakfast, dress them, then it’s time for online school for my daughter, then some sort of activity afterwards for her so I can attempt to do my own work, if my one-year-old is being agreeable and napping. Try to keep physically and mentally busy. Keeping yourself mentally busy is also good advice; play word games, cards, Candy Crush or Angry Birds if you must, but don’t just listen to the doom and gloom of the news.
I wish all of you safety and good health. I hope my next article can have more humor in it and I can publish an email or my thoughts on a specific dating issue. We need to take our minds off all of this, even for a few seconds.
Hatzlachah, in all ways, to you all!