Ask Allie: Covid Lonely? Don’t Despair!

by Sarah Rutledge Fischer

Dear Allie,

I’ve been a good boy and have been home safe and solo during quarantine. Let me tell you, it has gotten boring and lonely. I miss hanging out with my friends, flirting, even going on dates. Aside from video chats and phone calls, it is hard for a gay guy to date in the life of the ‘Rona. I don’t really like the apps and find myself going down endless chats and no-gos. Got any tips?

Missing a Wink from a Stranger


Dear WINK,

You may be alone, but you are certainly not alone in this struggle. The social isolation that has been a necessary response to Ms. ‘Rona has been especially hard on people who live alone. So, let’s explore some of what you are probably missing from those fun, flirty nights and see if we can keep you going until Ms. ‘Rona is long gone.

One of the things you are probably missing more than you realize is conversation with strangers. As a culture, we tend to discount casual interactions with strangers, deeming them awkward, but studies show that short interactions with strangers leave people feeling happier and more connected. You may be spending more time at home these days, but when you do go out, put away your phone and talk with the people around you. Even if it feels awkward, it might also leave you feeling less isolated for the rest of the day.

And speaking of connections with strangers, spontaneity is probably something you are missing in your dating life these days. Online dating has advantages, but browsing a profile lacks the mystery and excitement of meeting the eye of an attractive stranger across the bar. One entertaining, if unpredictable, way to satisfy the need for an occasional sexy flirtation is to use one of the global video chat services like Omeagle or Chatroulette. Both of these services have a well- deserved reputation for unsolicited sexual content (Allie encountered three, ahem, eggplants before enjoying a flirty conversation with a very attractive and fully clothed Frenchman.), so user beware.

Once you’ve had your fill of random video contacts, you might want to return to your online dating options to seek real connection. When you’re online dating, the endless chats can all start to feel the same. So instead of staying on the surface, try going deep. Once you’ve decided that you might click with someone, instead of the usual questions and awkward flirtations, propose asking each other the famous 36 questions set forth by psychologist Arthur Aron ( Designed to be answered in order by two people sitting face to face, the questions begin light and build in intensity, with the goal of encouraging vulnerability and building intimacy. It might go nowhere, but it will certainly be more interesting than the usual dating app chat.

Now, the last topic is a bit touchy. Okay, very touchy. Okay, it’s touch—physical touch. Gentle physical touch does a ton of good for our bodies and minds—from lowering the effects of stress to triggering the release of oxytocin and cortisol. Touch deprivation, which can result from long periods of not being touched, can result in increased feelings of anxiety and depression, difficulty sleeping, and heightened stress.

But what can you do when touching someone who isn’t already a part of your immediate circle is dangerous? You give yourself the sensations of touch that your body needs. For sexual touch, this means that when you masturbate, rather than falling into your regular routine, slow down and pay attention to the sensations of your skin. Outside of sexual touch, even taking time to mindfully rub a gentle hand across your own arm or down your own neck can trigger the physiological benefits of touch. (According to a 2017 study, the ideal touching speed is between 3 and 5 centimeters per second.) Mindfulness of touch sensations can also help–pay attention to the feeling of your foot against the ground or the coolness of water as it flows down your throat. Embrace other tactile comforts such as a taking a hot bath, using a weighted blanket, or snuggling with a pet.

None of this is a substitute for the joy of spending time out in the world with beloved friends and attractive strangers. But for now, it just might get you through until Ms. ‘Rona is gone. At the very least, it should get you started.

Your friend,

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