BY KEVIN MILLER
Hi! My name is Kevin, and I just moved back to North Carolina after a 15-year hiatus. West Asheville is now home to me, my two dogs and the worst dating scene since the bubonic plague.
No one said dating is easy. It’s one of the most written and sung about topics for a reason. Yet there’s not a ton of precedent for dating during a pandemic. The last time I checked, Dan Savage and Cheryl Strayed weren’t around during the Black Death or Spanish flu. Most of us single folks are in uncharted territory.
But, why, does it seem, is dating in Asheville as a new arrival during COVID-19 so particularly hard?
To channel Sacha Baron Cohen, I am a straight, cisgender, white male, and for that, I apologize. I acknowledge my dating life will be very different than many in the community due to my race, sexual preference and gender. Additionally, after 10 years in a relationship, I’m not looking for anything serious. I’m mostly interested in having fun, meeting cool people and, of course, getting laid. Also, let’s just roll on the assumption I’m not an ax murderer and don’t have a third eye.
Does it all hinge on Tinder?
How does a new arrival meet people during the worst pandemic in modern history? Most bars and restaurants in Asheville are at limited capacity, strongly discourage intertable mingling and close around 9 p.m. That leaves dating apps, of course. Or at least, that’s what worked in the Big Apple. So dating apps, it is! Or maybe it isn’t.
My first complaint is the chat-to-meet ratio. Most people seem more interested in gaining a new pen pal than a new partner. Why does one join an app if not to meet people? I’m using Tinder (known for fostering hookups), Hinge (more of a young professional crowd) and Bumble (the woman makes the first move). The process for me has typically been match, chat, meet up. Seems simple enough.
However, there seems to be a misunderstanding of how to use the apps in AVL. I’ve never met so many people looking for self-validation. I’ll match, we’ll chat for a day or two, and then when I want to meet up — or at the very least, exchange numbers — I’m told, “I’m not meeting new people right now” or “I don’t feel comfortable meeting strangers.” OK, what are we doing here, Karen? Was my distaste for olives really that interesting? Was the picture of me playing banjo with a mask on really that inspiring? There are plenty of ways to pass the time without involving my bruised ego. Might I suggest trolling recent arrivals to town on Asheville Riff-Raff? Or calling a friend?
I understand this isn’t Brooklyn, a place where you can swipe at 3 p.m., go on a date by 7 and be locking lips by 10. Was it wrong of me to expect the same out of the apps in Asheville? It looks like it. Perhaps it’s more conservative down here or maybe my aesthetic doesn’t hit the same south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Regardless, big city tactics aren’t working for me in my new home.
Is IRL a real thing anymore?
So, the apps suck. The other approach is just talking to people in real life. First, let’s state the obvious — masks make this an awkward proposition. There are a lot of butterfaces getting away with murder right now. How am I supposed to appropriately judge someone’s attractiveness with half their face covered? What if she has the top face of Gal Gadot but the bottom face of Glenn Quagmire? Until that mask comes off, it’s hard to tell.
If you’re not that shallow, maybe you feel it’s truly what’s inside that counts. Great! Now you just have to approach someone during a pandemic when guidelines state to actually not do that at all! The CDC advises the public to limit interactions with strangers, stay 6 feet away from people and to choose safe social activities. So even if you have the chutzpah to approach a table of strangers, don’t get too close, don’t take off your mask, and, of course, don’t touch. Essentially, hitting on a stranger is a violation of CDC protocol and a general “screw you” to everyone trying to stay safe while living their lives. Simply put, I think it’s rude to approach strangers right now.
Friends of friends?
So at this point, you’re either commiserating or figuring out the best way to cancel me. Either way, glad you’re still here!
Normally, I’d say the best way to meet real people who you actually have something in common with is through friends. Your current friends’ single friends are often your best bet for meeting like-minded folk. Of course, if you live in Asheville, everyone is friends with everyone, so maybe that’s not the best idea. For example, despite all the roadblocks, I’ve been on dates with three women since I moved to the area. To my complete surprise, at some point in the dates, I discover they all know each other. This has never happened to me in NYC. I was shocked and, to put it bluntly, kind of embarrassed. It made me look superthirsty — which I am.
Clearly, dating is hard in general. Dating during pandemic? Even harder. Dating during a pandemic in Asheville? Wut? So in an effort to minimize the spread of COVID and to decrease my own depression, I’m going to pause all dating efforts. The apps are a sham, approaching strangers in real life seems to be in bad form, and I have no friends to introduce me to their hot single roommates. So for now, it’s just me, my two amazing dogs and this unused bearskin rug. Come say hi! Actually, don’t. And can you put your mask over your nose, please?
Kevin Miller is a musician and writer based in West Asheville. He lives with his dogs Elma and Nui. Do you have a poop bag he could borrow?