Social distancing made me realize how much I took physical affection for granted.
By Ana Salazar
Art by Cristhian Ramírez
A two-hour phone call with six of my friends ended up with me downloading Tinder.
It was day four of quarantine, and we were cackling over the app making its Passport feature free due to COVID-19. Its users were sent a notification stating how “Social distancing [didn’t] have to mean disconnecting.” And were encouraged to use the, once premium, feature to get in touch with people around the globe.
At the time, I didn’t have the app on my phone. I’ve, personally, never been keen on online dating. My most successful romance stories have blossomed from not-so-subtle approaches. And I don’t necessarily enjoy messaging people I barely know. However, listening to my friends talk about the men in Paris and Seattle enthralled me.
So, for the fifth, or seventh, or fifteenth time, I downloaded Tinder. At first, it all seemed like a game. My friends and I were trying to find each other or taking screenshots of overly-confident, douchey bios. That was until I decided to drop a pin in New York City. Where I thought it’d be funny to find my friends who live there. Unsurprisingly, there’s a tremendous amount of men ages 22-29 within a five-mile radius of Bed-Stuy, so I figured I’d explore. This is where Ben (that’s not his name) comes in.
Ben, drastically, stood out from the rest in looks and humor. I remember swiping right on him instantly and freaking out about matching fifteen minutes later. The first words he ever said to me were along the lines of “this is just what I needed, to be enthralled with a girl in Texas.” It was heartbreakingly funny, but not enough to keep my fingers off the keyboard.
The conversation we had that night flowed as if we had known each other for years. We didn’t necessarily discuss our emotional traumas or family histories. But we did enough to end up with each other’s phone numbers within the hour.
So, who exactly is Ben?
For starters, Ben is a creative who is both diligent and motivated. We have similar tastes in music and movies. His jokes never fail to make me laugh to the point of snorting. And he calls me every night.
My attraction to him grew at a comical rate. So much so, that I deleted Tinder a week after we matched.
It was amazing.
Ever since then, we’ve opened up about each other’s childhoods, told our friends and families about one another, and have even talked about former lovers. Not to mention, we started using pet-names.
I felt my feelings for him solidifying when I found myself ignoring other men. I’ve been officially single for nearly two years now. I did see some men in the meantime, some more serious than others. But none of them made me want to decline new, flirtatious advances like he was.
Being able to tell an ex-boyfriend, a former fling, and a stranger on Instagram, “I’m sorry, but I’m talking to someone,” was exciting. I hadn’t done it in so long. Let alone for a guy I had never met before.
Which did make me question, “Was he that special, or was this just quarantine-mania?”
The funny thing about my relationship with Ben is that it genuinely feels like a relationship. My former, out-of-state love interests would FaceTime me and text me just as much as Ben does. But none of them would ever text me “good morning” and “goodnight.” Or ask me if I wanted to watch a movie at the same time as them.
Ben made remember what it felt like to be in a healthy relationship. I realized I had been looking at dating solely as a vessel for sex. And that I had been looking at sex as a casual, surface-level form of intimacy. I never intended to perceive genuine, romantic behavior in such a poor manner. I just hadn’t experienced it in a while.
So, do you need a Tinder Passport, long-distance relationship to mend your tarnished perception of love? Of course not.
I never intended for this to unravel the way it did. Even though I sometimes stumble upon some undesired feelings, I do not think of this relationship with bitterness. My feelings for Ben are currently at an all-time high. And, for obvious reasons, I can’t fully express them.
Social distancing made me realize how much I took physical affection for granted. Which makes sense, in a way. The majority of us were used to it. Fortunately, I’ve been able to focus on the value of verbal affection and emotional intelligence in the meantime.
Ben has treated me in such a way that has encouraged me to morph into a better version of myself. Not just because I feel like he deserves that. But because I deserve it as well.
I feel lucky for having been able to stumble upon such a wonderful person. Especially during a time where it’s hard to stay hopeful.
So to answer my previous question, Ben is that special. I’m eternally grateful for the amount of effort he’s put into making me feel appreciated. Whether that is through an impromptu phone-call, or being asked if I can pause my version of Forget Paris because his buffered.
The situation I’m currently in is difficult but never bothersome. Ben and I have both been in long-distance relationships before, so it’s not like this is new to us. I know I’ll eventually meet him, and kiss him, and talk to him in person, and it will feel like a movie. But for now, all we can do is wait – and I’m more than OK with that.