Pitfalls to avoid for post-vaccine dating

Vaccines are available to anyone over 16, so let's make some plans!

Spring is here, and hopefully mass vaccinations too. With warm weather and the ability to be around others again, one thing on a lot of peoples’ minds is what they’ll do when they finally can do things again. What will you do when things go back to “normal,” whatever that means? Speaking of going back to normal, are you ready to go places with someone special? I know I am; I’ve been on exactly one date since March 2020.

I know I’m not alone in this. Singles who were ready to mingle have found it difficult to get out and about with a significant other amidst the pandemic. Not to mention the married-with-kids people who are struggling to even have a libido—sorry, too personal? What I'm really saying is, it's safe-ish enough to start thinking about actually going on dates again! This is huge!

As I hopefully bid goodbye to my dateless and eventless life, I’ll share with you some common pitfalls of post-pandemic dating, because let’s face it, none of us are the same as we were in the before times. Can any of us honestly say that our preferences or priorities haven’t changed within the past year? The past year has affected my dating preferences, at least.

It occurred to me that it’s also possible I’m so excited about having the ability to actually do anything, I might get ahead of myself and forget that post-pandemic dating requires some out-of-the-box thinking. You know, because some of us have regressed to more childish social skills, only this time the cooties are real!

For the sake of your future dates, read through these BAD SUGGESTIONS to save yourself from a wasted first night out on the town after getting vaccinated.

Going someplace crowded

Although I miss seeing people (a moment of silence for us extroverts, please), I won’t feel normal in a crowd for the foreseeable future. Even back when I used to go to concerts and enjoy the exhilaration of the crowd, I never conceived of the sheer amount of bacteria and pathogens that existed in a crowded arena. The other day I considered flying somewhere this summer and even that had me hyperventilating. 

A gym date might have been a thing once, but then everyone is breathing and sweating and otherwise exerting themselves and oh my gosh I think a gym date has always been ludicrous. My husband and I prefer to snack the night away, personally. We find it really keeps the romance alive.

Bottom line, just don’t go where heavy breathing/sweating is what everyone is doing, unless orgies are your thing. Vaccine or no, wear protection please.

Going shopping

Pre-2020, it wasn’t uncommon to hit up a popular mall and grocer with your significant other to window shop before browsing the specialty cheeses for a romantic night of charcuterie and chill. While the shopping portion of that date used to be an exciting preamble to a great night, it’s now just a stressful necessity before you both are searching for comfort in cheese until you’re physically ill.

Who among us doesn’t feel a romantic twinge at the thought of a shopping spree for the delicious chips, dips, and cookie butter at Trader Joe’s? But, as necessity made shopping one of the few destinations of the last 12 months, it’s no longer a good option if you want to have a good time. 

Malls and quaint mom and pop shops don’t feel enjoyable anymore due to our collective agoraphobia. I’m going to take a moment to also mourn the loss of free samples at Costco. In days of old, starving college students—not me of course, but some people—used to borrow their parents’ Costco card for a cheap date of “lunch” at Costco. Now you just see the sample sitting in a glass cage of emotion while you dream of bygone days where you could literally fill up on samples like it was the wind beneath your wings. Rather than going on a low-key window shopping or Costco cafe date, any form of shopping now sounds like a nightmare.

At least for me, shopping is now a get-in, get-out experience where I sanitize my hands multiple times and try not to stand too close to anyone while throwing things in my cart so I can get the heck out of there. This is all only before I get to the self-checkout and see how harried and crazed I look in the cameras. Not exactly ideal date circumstances.

Food that’s fast

No offense to Arby’s or its compadres, but I’m a little fatigued of fast food. The pandemic has certainly made me lower my standards for a quick bite to eat. For instance, I used to have Cafe Rio about once a month, but the past year pushed things to once a week. No shade here, but a person can only have a pork barbacoa burrito so many times. The last thing I need on a fun first night out is a reminder of how my current eating habits resemble that of a 20-something bachelor who owns multiple gaming chairs. 

I’ve found that instead of choosing one of the exhausted takeout go-tos, it’s better to support local restaurants. Millie’s Burgers offers fast-ish food that’s quality, or you can always go for fresh and local with Copper Common, Pago, or Stoneground Italian Kitchen. For me, anywhere that isn’t my kitchen or one of our overused takeout spots will wow me. Which brings me to the next post-pandemic date pitfall...

Staying in to cook

This normally would be an appealing date idea to me, especially if my date was doing the cooking (just wearing an apron, anyone?). But staying in and cooking is basically all we did this year. Remember when your existence wasn’t just figuring out what to make for dinner until you died? Me neither. The real travesty is that “let’s stay in” just doesn’t have the magic it used to, even coming from someone who is obsessed with wearing two blankets and watching Netflix on the couch every evening.

“Netflix and chill” will soon be replaced with “go somewhere and do something” and the thing you end up doing is up to you, whether that’s an activity or each other.

Sticking with screen time

As a parent of young children, when I get free time, I’m on a screen. Maybe I should find healthier ways to utilize my me-time, but I find trash TV and snacking to be so soothing. Whether it’s TV or video games that speak to you, maybe try to avoid screen time for your first post-pandemic date. It might seem like the easy solution for the age-old “what should we do?” question, but you can do better than the cliché dinner-and-a-movie-date. 

I, and humanity as a whole, need to collectively open up our minds to options other than screen time. I know this is hard, since that’s been the option for entertainment for, well, the last 13 months. But branch out. With Zoom fatigue and ramping up screen usage to keep up with the past year’s news, the screen break is much needed. Sure, you could go catch a movie—but human connection and something off the very beaten pandemic path should be the goal here.

Here’s what you should do

Explore a National Park; go on a hike, take in the views, and hit up a popular watering hole there. My husband and I did this in Moab, and I can’t tell you how helpful it was to be out in a wide open space.

There’s no escaping a pandemic (or the resulting trauma, for that matter), but going somewhere where you can see the sky comes pretty darn close. 

If you prefer to stay in your own city, take a private tour of a historical building or landmark—ghost tours in SLC are always a hoot. If spooky isn’t your style, walk to the nearest park and learn to play pickleball. I hear all the cool kids are doing it these days.

Try reawakening your creative side by taking your S/O to a paint night. As the weather warms, you could attend an outdoor concert or go for a walk together. Even though I took more walks during the pandemic than ever before, I hope it continues into normal life. Don’t underestimate the romance of holding hands and taking a stroll! It’s all about creating a moment of connection; I’m convinced that’s what we all need right now.

One surefire way to impress your date is taking them to a new (and Hive Mind-vetted) bakery or restaurant—like donuts at the Chubby Baker covered by our lovely writer Kia or dumplings from Hong Kong Tea House reviewed by the amazing Anneke Garcia here.

If even the idea of a dinner date overwhelms you, some takeout dessert might be just what you need, because you can still enjoy the comfort of your home, but it feels luxurious and special. This is actually what we did for our anniversary a couple weeks ago after we froze our butts off eating dinner on a restaurant patio, because safety first.

The return to normal dating will probably be anything but normal, but at least you can avoid the most common pitfalls listed in this piece. Because we all deserve better in 2021.