'I've Been Single Too Long': In-Person Dating Is Picking Up In The D.C. Region DCist spoke with singles in the D.C. area about how their return to in-person dating is going and what they're looking for in a relationship.
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'I've Been Single Too Long': In-Person Dating Is Picking Up In The D.C. Region

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Sarah, 46, recalls a recent date where she met a guy from a dating app for drinks on the balcony of his apartment. The date went fine: they had an unremarkable conversation, Sarah says, until she was getting ready to leave.

"He's like, 'you seem really tense, why don't you just take your bra off?'"

Sarah, who asked to be referred to by her first name to candidly discuss her personal life, is divorced and not looking for anything in particular — but she definitely wasn't expecting that.

"I was like 'are you fucking kidding?' that is just not what you say."

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With 70% of people in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia at least partially vaccinated and all remaining pandemic restrictions now lifted, in-person dating is picking back up in the D.C. region. But the dating landscape has changed dramatically since March 2020 — as have people's expectations of what dating should look like.

DCist spoke with singles in the D.C. area about how their return to in-person dating is going, what they're seeing when they go out, and what they're looking for in a relationship.

Sarah has been on a few dates since she got her Johnson & Johnson vaccine on March 20 (she waited four weeks after getting the shot to meet people in person). For the most part, she says they've gone well, minus "bra guy." She hasn't been dating actively since October 2019 and says she's been surprised by how much of the conversation around meeting someone now centers on consent.

She recently got drinks with someone she met a couple of years ago, and he asked if he could kiss her as they were getting ready to leave. Sarah says she felt uncomfortable making physical contact after the past year and a half and told him no, which did not dissuade him from going out on future dates with her.

Sarah said she felt that this type of consideration for her boundaries, sexual and otherwise, may signal a new focus on consent inspired by navigating social boundaries throughout the pandemic.

"I grew up in an age of 'no means no,' but was also kind of grasping for what we could do or say about consent," she says. "Now, in the age of progressive consent, [talking about consent] actually can be very sexy."

Coco Briscoe, 39, has been single for approximately four years and wants a long-term relationship. She's the creator and protagonist of "Dating D.C." — a popular Instagram and TikTok channel that chronicles her journey to find a serious relationship, with tips and tricks for dating in the region along the way.

"Coming out of the pandemic, I was like, 'you know, I've been single too long and I'm really ready for something,'" Briscoe says. "And if I want it, I'm going to have to really maybe work for it."

Briscoe says she goes on anywhere from one to four dates a week. She updates her followers on how her dates went, what they did, what was good, and what was bad, hoping it'll help people get comfortable with in-person meetups again.

"I've been a little overwhelmed with the amount of messages I have gotten from women saying 'how do I write a profile?' or 'how do I approach men on dating apps?'"

Briscoe says it's been particularly difficult to find people interested in a long-term relationship these days. She's had a few instances where she felt a real connection with someone before they ultimately said they were interested in seeing other people.

"Tons of people are now on dating apps because they broke up during quarantine because they and their partner were going crazy with each other cooped up, so now they want to get out and just meet new people," Briscoe says.

Marcus, who asked to be referred to by his first name to candidly discuss his personal life, is also looking to get into a serious relationship. He says he's happy to go out and meet people even if it doesn't end in a second date. He and Briscoe actually went on a date, but they decided to stay friends.

Marcus works for the federal government and was among the first batch of people to receive the vaccine in the D.C. area. Come January, after he got his second dose, he says he hit the ground running.

"I was just kind of waiting for everyone else to catch up and get the vaccine as well," he says. "It was a time where, I'm looking to and open to dating and having that experience, but people didn't feel comfortable because they weren't yet vaccinated."

Since then, he's been on approximately 16 dates with people he met in person and on dating apps. He says his comfort level is essentially back to pre-pandemic times, but he understands that other people aren't there yet. Marcus still talks to people on the apps but says there's a limit to how long he'll entertain a relationship online that doesn't end in an in-person meet-up.

"I'm not going to lie, after a while when you're talking to other people and they're willing to meet, that kind of person gets lost and the rest of them," he says.

In his experience, Marcus says people who aren't fully comfortable meeting in person or who take too long before scheduling a date on the apps are somewhat at a disadvantage from those in the singles crowd who are ready to meet in person.

"I'm able to meet this person, like intimately, personally, get to know them, laugh in person versus we're just looking at words, you know?" he says.

Erin, 25, started dating again last month after doing some virtual dates during the pandemic (she also asked to be referred to by her first name to openly discuss her personal life). Erin had pursued a friends-with-benefits relationship while working abroad with the Peace Corps in March 2020 — but that ended when the two were evacuated to different places as the pandemic took hold. She then spent six months at home with her parents and took a mental health break from dating before moving back to D.C. in September.

Erin identifies as pansexual and says dating apps were helpful when she was meeting people with shared sexual preferences in college — these days not so much. She prefers meeting people in person or through friends, so when she did get back on the apps after moving to D.C., it just wasn't working out.

"I wasn't in a place where I was getting anything out of just talking to people without actually spending time with them," she says.

Plus, Erin says she's still trying to figure out just what the hell happened in the last year and a half.

"Mental health will be a really important aspect of whatever next relationship I get myself into, only because I have zero clue how the isolation has impacted me," she says.

Erin says dating has gone really well for her so far: she recently met a woman for pizza and drinks outside, but says they didn't really communicate about what to do if they hit it off and decided to go back to one of their places.

"Then as we got to talking and knowing each other more she told me she brought her vaccine card," Erin says. "She brought it with her just as a comfortability thing, like she wanted to make sure that I knew that she was actually vaccinated and it wasn't a big deal. That surprised me. I was not expecting that."

Though she's had a good experience re-entering the local dating scene, Erin says she's in no rush to join the crowd of people diving into the local singles pool again.

"I don't know if you've heard jokes about D.C. dating being like the cicadas — everybody's out ready to go screaming," she says. "I don't know if I hop on that train specifically, but I definitely am looking for [something] more casual at the moment."

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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