Rosie Green: Are my hugs tearing us apart?

‘I would have lost my virginity if it wasn’t for the pandemic.’ So said a friend’s 17-year-old son, who believes his romantic progress has been curtailed by Covid.

He’s got a point. He has missed his prom, post-exams festival and first illegal pint in a pub – the latter would no doubt (in his mind anyway) have led to a cider-fuelled kiss with his lower-sixth crush. Poor chap.

Rosie Green
David Venni

I may not have suffered such levels of frustration, but the virus has done its best to derail my post-divorce romantic journey, too.

While all the smug marrieds were posting about the joys of spending so much time at home together, co-working and sourdough making, those of us looking for love were somewhat stymied by the two-metre rule.

I met my boyfriend in the latter stages of the pandemic (well, I hope it’s the latter stages) and our first dates were outside in the bitter tundra that was a home counties pub garden. Think SAS survival chic: thermals, gloves, 11 layers and hoods up. I could swear there
were icicles on my lashes by pudding.

At least I didn’t have to go on ‘walking dates’ like my friend Nancy. In scenes reminiscent of Austen, she would spend hours wandering around potential beaus’ estates (though due to her urban location said estates were more ‘housing’ than ‘country’). One man arrived in skin-tight, snow-wash denim jeans. I knew Covid causes loss of taste, but come on.

However, I’m not here to talk about the physical barriers – the increased personal
space requirements or the fact you practically have to provide a negative lateral flow test before leaning in for a first kiss. I’m talking about how the gulf in your Covid attitudes can cause friction in a relationship or, more specifically, in my relationship.

It’s a major player in romantic success right now because it’s such a big and divisive subject. How compliant are you to the rules? Are you risk averse and will happily sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice while you wash your hands? Or do you refuse to sign up to the track and trace app and go raving at the first opportunity? In 2022, your attitude to Covid protocols needs to be pretty high up on your dating checklist. As important as your views on Brexit, Marmite and Meghan vs Kate. Alongside your dating preferences, should you now have to submit a Covid cautiousness rating?

On that scale my boyfriend and I are not at the extreme ends, but there’s definitely a sizeable gulf. He’s not exactly in a hazmat suit 24/7 and I’m not an anti-vaxxer with a penchant for licking every stranger I meet, but we are not entirely Covid compatible. I’m a hugger: a person who sticks within the guidance but eats out, mingles and kisses hello if allowed to. Caution is not my middle name. He, on the other hand, avoids large social gatherings and gets through hand sanitiser like Donald Trump does spray tan. He calls me ‘the vector’.

We are not alone. Many of my friends say that their differing take on the rules and levels of vigilance is a straining point. Relationship experts say this is because either the strong survival instincts in the Covid cautious or the craving for human connection in extroverts crowd out our capacity for higher-level skills like empathy or compassion. So we judge more harshly and skip more quickly to anger and frustration.

One takes the moral high ground, while the other pushes back about being judged. You slip into annoying roles where one of you feels like the parent, the other a child. Then there’s the fact that we all bend our own rules to suit our own purposes: I won’t go to that party but I will go on holiday.

It’s a bit like eco consciousness. I realise I pick and choose my actions – the guilt kills me if I need to buy a plastic bag at the supermarket but then I’ll happily skip off to Greece on a CO2-belching 747.

Anyway, back to us.

He has started keeping spare masks about his person for when I forget mine and I will submit to being sanitised. I now seek out date venues with ventilation. We are slowly becoming more aligned on our views. Going forward if we diverge dramatically I can always suggest we hug it out.

Oh sorry, I forgot…