Being Single While in Quarantine Is Hard, But It's Also Enlightening

Being single while isolating can lead to self-reflection, self-love, and possibly even romance.

When I realized that going into quarantine alone was going to be necessary, I immediately went into strategy mode. I spent a lot of last year single and self-isolating by choice, and it led me down a dark hole that I vowed never to re-enter. So I followed the advice of mental health experts: I created a new routine; I've been doing online power yoga classes every day; I've been mindful about my drinking habits; and I've stayed socially connected with people, including doing virtual dating events. Generally speaking, I feel OK.

Sure, I have my moments. I try not to think about the fact that I'm physically alone in the center of a pandemic, or that I rented a box-sized room with a hole in the wall in the middle of Manhattan precisely so as to not self-isolate. I try to mitigate the feelings of jealousy I experience when I see all the Instagram posts of families having fun at home, or imagine couples in quarantine sharing a romantic bottle of wine together in their private backyards. I know they all have their own problems and are just trying to make the best of things—like me—and that, by and large, I am lucky so far.

But still, sometimes I feel like I am being punished for not getting married and moving to the suburbs. It's as if I didn't listen closely enough to all those sexist '90s movies about career women realizing "having it all" means having a family. Sometimes, it seems like I'm living out a sad quarantine remake of Sex and the City.

Some of my fellow single friends are handling this much better than I am, and are not only surviving but thriving. One said that she's seen a very significant uptick in the quality and quantity of her online dating matches since the self-quarantining began.

"Usually, you'll get on an app and match with someone, and spend a night sending each other some light banter to just vet that the other person isn't a total weirdo, but then it quickly goes to the 'Let's just meet for a drink and get it over with' stage," she said. "It seems that guys are playing the long game. They've been asking me how I'm doing or asking for chicken recipes. One guy even offered to virtually paint me. Another asked to go for a walk for a first date when this was over, which under normal circumstances, I would say sounds way too sober and stressful, but now I find it kind of endearing. It's like we're reverting to a purer form of dating."

Maybe, I thought, this pandemic has actually opened up new possibilities for romance: people falling in love online through FaceTime, old lovers reconnecting on Zoom, new couples walking six feet apart in the park like they're in a Jane Austen novel. I can only imagine the number of indie movie scripts that will come out of this.

My friend also noted that this was a "rare time of simplicity in the millennial/Gen Z chapter," one that forces us to consider whether we're actually connecting with each other when we're out Instagramming everything at the bars and restaurants we can't go to now. It echoes the wise words of my yoga instructor who said that this was a "great time to rethink your habits."

For me, though, it means questioning whether or not the feminist rationale behind my lifestyle actually reflects my deeper wants. As another friend of mine, actress and comedian Nikki Lowe, put it, "I had kinda convinced myself that being alone forever was gonna be fine for me. It's not. I am lonely and craving someone to talk to in the flesh… but also really glad I'm not with someone solely out of convenience and don't have kids!"

Waiting it out for the right person or simply settling for someone decent who you can tolerate being around has been the ultimate millennial sex and dating question for a while, but it's never felt more pressing than it does right now.

"I've realized that I've focused so much on professional gains over the last few years that I let my personal life fall by the wayside, so I'm trying to focus more on that," professional photographer Charles King told me.

Two-and-a-half weeks into self-isolation, I've been surprised to find that I actually kind of like quarantining alone. Free from all of the noise and distractions, I feel more creatively inspired than ever, almost like I'm on a strange pandemic writer's retreat. I've actually had time to sit on the windowsill with a cup of tea and self-reflect. And scheduling FaceTime sessions really separates the convenient plus-ones in your life from the people you actually love talking to.

Like so many of us, I've also spent hours and hours online, truly touched by the way people have come together with memes, videos, heartwarming stories, and so forth, to let everyone know we're all struggling and we're all in this together. In many ways, even though I'm by myself, I feel less alone and more at peace with myself than ever.

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more