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Yes, this article will be about my ye olde heart and the trials and tribulations of navigating modern-day romance, not only in the world of swipe lefts and split-second first impressions but also love in the time of lockdown.
We cut to February 2020, pre-lockdown, when life as we knew it involved hitting Sugar at the weekends, popping over to your mates’ house for a brew to break any social boundaries you had, and being able to go to your favourite charity shop to raid the bookshelves.
In the mood for ‘getting back out there’ and fuelled after a girl’s night out, I downloaded Bumble and, within a few days, I’d matched with a lad living in Preston. After a couple of weeks chatting, we decided to meet up, and quite frankly hit it off after an 8-hour first date. And so followed a month of drinks, meals out, movie nights and days trawling around our respective cities. It was like all the rom-coms said it would be.
Then lo and behold, a global pandemic strikes.
Not only did my sole form of entertainment outside of my flat become my daily government-mandated walk but any form of social contact with those you don’t live with dried up like a milkshake on a hot summer’s day.
Despite talking for a few weeks following our last meeting (coincidentally the day Boris announced the UK lockdown), myself and this respective gentleman, let’s call him Mr S, decided to part ways.
My qualm, and yes, I am getting to one, is this:
I can be told one hundred times that these are ‘strange and uncertain times.’ Hell, that might as well be our national motto at the moment given how many emails I’ve received that begin with ‘these are strange and uncertain times’ and ‘we’re all in the same boat.’ But does this negate from the fact that I was left heartbroken by this?
I know of a lot of people who have experienced the end of a relationship since the pandemic and subsequent lockdown began – perhaps, in some cases, it needed to end, perhaps it was a show of the weakness of the relationship that the possibility of long-distance or not seeing each other for a while was too difficult, or maybe for some they were just looking for an excuse to end it.
But those who have experienced the end of the beginning of a relationship? For me, that is much stranger, and almost as hard to deal with as a breakup after a considerable amount of time. The beginning of a relationship holds promise, excitement, and butterflies in your stomach as well as the anticipation of a first kiss. The excitement of getting to know each other, of your heart jumping when your phone bleeps or of watching your flatmates tease you when you come back late from a date.
After Mr S and I parted ways, I caught myself thinking about what we would be now.
Would we have been in a relationship?
Or would we have fizzled out after a few dates?
The answers to these questions will remain unanswered and leave another emotional lack in the void that this pandemic has managed to create. The worst part, like most things in these ‘strange and uncertain times’, was the uncertainty. What could have been? And myself being me and being a particular fan of romance stories, I started to romanticise the situation.
The pandemic has hit pause on every aspect of life I held dear, including my relationship with Mr S, or at least in this case it seems the tape has stopped.
To some, this article may seem like the ramblings of a romantic 20-year-old and ‘the one that got away’ and you would be right, but its also an article on what life is like for me and I imagine for others. The ache for potential is there, the promise of what could have been still lingers, the excitement of a new relationship cut short and the possibility of love with someone amazing, taken away.
There’s a quote in the film, Letters to Juliet:
“‘What’ and ‘If’ are two words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of their life.”
What if? What if?
For me, life after this pandemic and the lockdown, as I’m sure will be the case for many, will be haunted by these two non-threatening words.
What if I had have done my exams?
What if I’d still been able to see my friends?
What if I’d still been in Lancaster rather than going home?
What if me and Mr S had continued to see each other?
This article is emotionally cathartic for me. In SCAN, I’ve always wanted to write about something real, something that matters to me and to others and to make an impact, to write something that affects other people.
The economic and physical impact of this pandemic will naturally take precedent in people’s concerns but consider the emotional and psychological effect of months without social contact, of lost opportunities to meet friends, to date, to get to know people and to allow yourself to fall in love again. In times like these, we tend to value our emotional health less than our physical health and so whilst this is an issue, it’s hard to stop this sounding horrendously superficial.
I understand that right now, there are bigger things to worry about than the failure of an early relationship, but ‘when you’re young and in love’ as The Marvelettes would sing, these things matter a great deal, especially when they leave you with promises unfulfilled.
And though this may seem trivial in the times we live in, doesn’t it make you miss a world where matters such as these were enough to keep us up at night?