Tomorrow, February 14, will be just like any Valentine’s Day. Except for the whole ongoing-Covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-with-the-potentially-airborne-virus-that-can-kill-you stuff.
Now that we are almost a year into the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, you’ve probably had an opportunity to experience nearly every major Holiday a bit differently. Whether it’s been Thanksgiving on November 26, the Fourth of July on the Fourth of July, or Talk Like A Pirate Day on September 19, “arrrgh” may have been the operative word when trying to figure out what to do with each passing Holiday. And Valentine’s Day may seem especially difficult because it’s the day that you are supposed to celebrate romance or get closer to someone else. After all, staying six feet (or one Denzel because Denzel Washington is about six feet tall) apart from one another at all times may not seem that romantic, unless, of course, Denzel is actually there too.
Nonetheless, you can still enjoy Valentine’s Day. It is not necessarily the day to drown your sorrows in cookies n’ cream and lament either being single or separated from your lover. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does offer some general “Holiday Tips” for the Winter and some more specific suggestions on how to “Have a Safer Valentine’s Day.” For example, the CDC does say that “the safest way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is gathering virtually or with people who live with you,” which should rule out the “find a bunch of strangers and play Twister option.” Your approach to Valentine’s Day may depend on your romantic status, whether you have a partner who already lives with you, a significant other who has been apart, no one that you call a significant other, or a bunch of imaginary hedgehogs that regularly feed you compliments. Thus, you may view Valentine’s Day as a day that you must reaffirm your love or not be alone. Regardless, here are 10 things to keep in mind on a day that’s spawned many advertisements and rom-coms:
1. Don’t spend Valentine’s Day in person with someone you do not know already.
It’s Valentine’s Day, not Hookup Day. Groundhog’s Day is probably more in line with Hookup Day, because that’s the first you think of when an animal comes out of a hole, right? Granted, there can be the strong desire to not be alone during Valentine’s Day, which can make you particularly vulnerable to do something that you normally wouldn’t. Like swiping right on everything that doesn’t involve a disinfectant towelette. Or overlooking on a dating app things that typically may be red flags like the guy carrying a harpoon on his bio picture or using a pick up line like “are you a cat? because I like fill in the blank.” The Covid-19 pandemic is not the time to go on an in-person date where you have to say, “oh, what’s your name again?”
Instead, if you are going to meet someone in person, make sure that you already know the person reasonably well. It’s especially important to understand his or her approach to the pandemic. Listen carefully if he or she mentions the word “hoax” and is not talking about his or her genitals. (Actually, in general, talking about his or her genitals may not be the best sign before a first date.) Should you get the impression that your potential date actually believes the Covid-19 coronavirus and the pandemic to be a “hoax,” you may want to cancel. Such an attitude may suggest that the person will not take precautions like social distancing and hand hygiene seriously.
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More specifically, prior to the daye, go over the precautions that you will mutually take. Get to know his or her viewpoints. This will help you better understand the other person’s views towards important subjects such as science and politics. When it comes to what you put into your mouth and dating (or both at the same time), more information can help. It should be the right kind of information though, the kind that can help you get a sense about your compatibility. Learning about potential key differences as soon as possible can be a tremendous time saver. For example, you may be against storming the U.S. Capitol while wearing a Viking hat and animal pelts.
2. Maintain social distancing if the other person is not already in your social bubble, even if the person has gotten the Covid-19 vaccine or been tested for Covid-19.
Say you already know the person and that person realizes that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) is real and spectacular, potentially spectacularly bad, that is. You may feel comfortable then going on an in-person date. However, unless that person is already living with you, maintain precautions throughout the date. Don’t trust someone telling you that he or she “feels” uninfected. A Covid-19 coronavirus infection is not the same as liking a Taylor Swift song or covering yourself with glitter. You can’t go by feeling alone. The only way to tell whether you are infectious is to get a Covid-19 test for the virus. Even then, a test will only tell whether you are contagious at that particular moment. The virus could still be multiplying inside your body and not have made an appearance, because the incubation period for a SARS-CoV2 can be between two and 14 days.
Right now, getting vaccinated is not enough either. It’s still not clear whether the available Covid-19 vaccines will prevent someone from carrying and shedding the virus. Plus, nothing in life is 100%, except for perhaps avocado toast bringing joy. The effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine is at most in the 90% range, perhaps lower. That means that you can still get Covid-19 even though you are vaccinated. Although the vaccine can lower your risk, we are currently in the height of the pandemic in the U.S.
3. Try to wear face masks as much as you can.
Yes, it may seem like face masks can dampen the mood or make it more difficult to you to get know each other better. You may feel limited to saying stuff like, “Your eyes sparkle like a tiara in the sun. Your hair, your vast amount of uncut hair, ten-months-worth of hair, is simply beautiful. Then there are your eyebrows, which are wonderful, like the delicate tails of a cat. Although, I realize that you are not a cat. Or using the Zoom filter of a cat, since we are in person. And that forehead, wow that forehead. Not to mention the very top of the bridge of your nose.” Sure, seeing a person’s entire face can give your better sense of his or her reaction to you, such sticking a tongue out at you while you say anything. But they do say that the eyes are the window to the soul, not the mouth or the nostrils.
Moreover, maybe you can remove your face masks when further away from each other. Or see each other’s entire faces via Zoom or some other video app. Ultimately, what matters is what the other person says and does. Even though the setting may be boring, the conversation doesn’t have to be so. For example, any setting will allow you to discuss why it is better to fly rhinos upside down:
Of course, you probably will have to remove your face masks to eat, unless you have decided to eat at the “Everything Through a Straw” restaurant. You cannot push fettuccini or hot dogs through a face mask. Since talking, especially while eating, could spray droplets and hot dog fragments, it’s a good idea to maintain at least a Denzel distance throughout the date, even when wearing a face mask.
4. Choose your venue carefully and plan.
These days, winging it is not the best thing to do. Unless you are talking about chicken wings, which happen to be in short supply as I have described for Forbes, and you and your date both like chicken wings.
Instead, treat your date a little like the Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean schedule a halftime show as in, “I will head off to the bathroom right now. In meantime, here is The Weeknd singing his hit song ‘Can’t Feel My Face,’ along with a bunch of dancers who look like they’ve been to the emergency room. After that The Weeknd will be wandering throughout the restaurant”:
Instead, it means doing a little planning. Make sure that you understand where you are going to go and the accompanying risks. Try to reduce your risks of getting infected. Danger may be your middle name but don’t put yourself and your date in harm’s way. Avoid places with large crowds, tight spacing, and choirs singing. Don’t go to locations where face mask wearing is not encouraged.
Call potential venues in advance to get a sense of their precautions. Ask them their social distancing, face mask, and disinfecting policies. If their answers are like “what virus” or “we don’t have specific precautions,” stay away. Good precautions include regularly disinfecting all services, maintaining enough spacing between customers, between staff, and between staff and customers, wearing face masks, and making sure that no staff are sick. Although regularly checking staff for elevated body temperatures and symptom alone cannot rule out infections, it can help reduce the risk.
Outdoor locations are better than indoor locations. For example, the CDC recommends having a picnic outside. Of course, sub-freezing weather and your toes and fingers falling off could ruin the mood. For example, this is not a great conversation to have during a date: “Dua, could you pass me the brie over there? Dua? Dua? Are you frozen again?” Being frozen on Zoom is one thing. Being actually frozen is another.
There are ways of warming the environment besides your wonderful smile. Heat lamps can make the outside more hospitable. These can work well for dining establishments or other potential date locations, although trying to bring one of those heat lamps on a carriage ride can be a bit awkward. Make sure that the heating arrangement is not a fire hazard. Setting your surroundings on fire can help with the temperature, but there are other issues with doing so.
Think of what may go wrong with a venue before choosing and going to it. Ice skating can be fun. But remember, should your date fall, someone has to pick him or her up off the ice. Leaving your date sprawled out on the ice and just going home is not good form.
Keep in mind that the venue is just the venue. The main objective is to get to know each other and spend time together. Be creative. You can still learn more about your date fifty paces apart in a park.
5. Consider a remote Valentine’s date or celebration.
These days there are plenty of video platforms and other virtual ways to connect or get together. In fact, remote ways of connecting can actually allow you to get to know someone even better than in-person meetings. Such remote ways can cut down on the distractions, the noise, the stuff that makes it more difficult to see the other person for who he or she really is. It can be like removing the packaging and the advertising. Video methods like Zoom can force you to maintain eye contact and a conversation.
To jump start a conversation over Zoom, consider pre-selecting topics and offering options to the other person (or people for a group get0-together). For example, the conversation can be about desserts, current affairs, or movies such as “cake” or “Covid” or “Commando”, depending on how you are inclined. Note, when discussing Commando make sure you clarify whether it is about the movie or something else. Otherwise, there could be some nasty surprises.
Another option is sending things to people. One suggestion from the CDC is to “make Valentine cards or decorations and drop them off to loved ones.” Sending food can be a way of showing affection or support too. Make sure what you send is appropriate though. For example, sending an upside-down rhino may send the wrong message.
6. Think carefully and use these criteria before having sex.
Remember the Seinfeld episode where the Elaine character had to determine whether someone was “sponge-worthy” before having sex with him. That’s because a shortage of the contraceptive sponge meant that she couldn’t just leap into bed with anyone. The need to ration forced her to establish criteria.
Similarly, determine your criteria for doing two person push-ups, taking a trip to pound town, opening the gates of Mordor, visiting the Bat cave, or whatever euphemism you use for having sex. Sex is not something to take lightly. There’s always the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, the walk of shame, and getting involved with the wrong person. Add to that now the risk of getting Covid-19.
Therefore, before choosing to have sex with someone, consider quarantining for 14 days first. That means each of you stays separate from other people for over one Scaramucci. As comedian Shaun Breidbart said, “In 2021 ‘Safe Sex’ means sex with your lover after not coming within 10 feet of anyone else for the last two weeks.”
Tell each other your Covid-19 risk factors. Hearing that the other person stormed the Capitol building on January 6 suggests that he or she may not be too serious about Covid-19 precautions.
Additionally, the pandemic can further complicate what you may normally do prior to the “mattress dance.” For example, you may typically want to know your potential partner’s sexually transmitted infection (STI) status, especially if he or she has been sexually active. Otherwise, sex may be like playing super-gonorrhea roulette or Wheel of Chlamydia. However, the pandemic has made getting STI tests more difficult. Testing services are still available but make sure they are legit. Beware of scams. As the CDC describes on their website, “there are currently no FDA-cleared self-tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis, the most commonly reported STDs in the U.S. However, there are options for ‘at-home specimen collection,’ which allows a patient to collect their own vaginal, rectal or oral specimen or blood sample and take or mail it to a lab for testing. There is an FDA-approved HIV self-test.” Don’t opt for a place that seems to sell many different things such as, “along with your spanakopita, would you like a syphilis test?” Instead, call you doctor or local health department to get advice on where and how to get STI-testing.
7. Practice safe sex.
I have written before for Forbes about how to have safe sex during the pandemic. Yes, masturbation is safer than sex involving more than one person, assuming that you wash your hands and your hands don’t go off doing things when you are not looking. Standard contraceptive devices like condoms or intrauterine devices (IUDs) will not protect you against the Covid-19 coronavirus. The virus is mainly transmitted though reparatory droplets going into your mouth and nose. Wearing a condom over your face shouldn’t be an option either.
There is no lube or gel that can kill the Covid-19 coronavirus to the point where you can’t get infected. Smearing yourself with hand sanitizer won’t help. Putting disinfectant on your body is a bad idea. And for Pete’s (or Pam’s) sake, carefully read the label on anything that you use:
8. Understand what Valentine’s Day really means and your goals.
It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture during Valentine’s Day. “Valentine’s Days like other holidays are fraught with expectations,” explained Susan Birne-Stone, PhD, LCSW, who is a therapist and talk show producer and host based in New York City. “During the best of times, Valentine’s Day often results in disappointments. For too many this day has come to represent how much we are loved, appreciated, and cared for. Using one day as a measure is not only invalid but can be dangerous for our relationships.”
Valentine’s Day can take on too much of identity of its own. Other Holidays such as National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day, which was on January 25, can be much easier and straightforward. Just because you forgot to celebrate January 25, doesn’t mean that you don’t appreciate bubble wrap. Bubble wrap doesn’t say to you, “where were you that day?”
“Ask yourself, ‘what do I really want for Valentine’s Day? What do I want to experience, feel, think,” Birne-Stone suggested. “What will actually give me that? A gift, a conversation, words, physical touch, from whom? Be specific and concrete as possible.”
9. Be with other people and show your love to others, especially if you are single.
If you are single, Valentine’s Day can be known as “The Day That Is Not Good” or “The Day That You Are Reminded That You Don’t Have a Significant Other” or the “Day That It Seems Like Everyone in the World Is Paired Up.”
“We’re always talking about how to handle Valentine’s Day normally because it feels to people who don’t have Valentines like they’re left to help ridiculed less than etc.,” said Jessica Broitman, PhD, a practicing psychoanalyst in Berkeley, California. “So it’s often a time to understand that there are different kinds and love and all variations have value. It’s a particularly difficult time for people who are alone in that it emphasizes their lack of partner and makes them feel other not as good.”
Even the name “significant other” can make you feel insignificant if you don’t have a partner. That can’t be further from the truth. There should be plenty of uncoupled people to spend time with on Valentine’s Day. Or perhaps some couples could celebrate with you.
Of course, sitting around in your home repeating, “no one is calling me, no one is calling me, no one is calling me,” is not going to get an invite unless you are telepathic or consider robo-calls to fit the bill. Therefore, take imitative and tell others that you want support. “If it is realistic, ask for what you want,” advises Birne-Stone. “No one, NO ONE, can read your mind. If it is the surprise that makes you happy, provide five options that others can choose from.”
Keep in mind that the options should not include something like mask-less mosh pit. Birne-Stone wanted to remind everyone that “Valentine’s Day is about love. Love during a pandemic means protecting yourself and others from getting sick. It is not very loving or romantic if the gift you give on Valentines day results in illness a few days later.”
10. Practice self-care
Use Valentine’s Day to practice self-love. This doesn’t mean that you should make sure that the sex toy has enough batteries. Nah, in this case, self-love means looking out for number one. Er, let me re-phrase that. It means taking care of yourself.
As Broitman emphasized, “aside from the self-love metaphors that are sexual it’s a really good day to treat yourself in the way you would like to be treated so particular self-care around doing things to help you remember who you are and what’s important to you and what makes you feel good.”
She added, “For some people that could be buying a special dinner or making a special dinner for themselves or it could be buying a favorite avocado treat or chocolate treat.” Did she say avocado treat?
“For some it could be doing something called for others, like volunteering at a vaccine site,” Broitman continued. “It’s the most important thing is to remember that your value was not based on whether or not you have a partner but it’s on who you are as a person how you treat others around you and how you treat yourself with kindness and respect we would hope.”
Ultimately, remember that Valentine’s Day is just one day out of an entire year. As Breidbart indicated, you could wait until we’re passed this worst part of the pandemic and have a “combination Valentine’s Day and Flag Day.” That could bring new meaning to the word flagpole.
Regardless, keep in mind that on February 15 at 12:01 am, it will no longer be Valentine’s Day. It will be Singles Awareness Day, a day designed to remind people that there’s not a single thing wrong with being single. Unless you are a greeting card manufacturer or a flower shop, what matters is not what you do on Valentine’s Day, but what you do the other 364 days of the year.