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Hesitant To Date Again, Even Post-Vaccination? You're Not Alone.

Putting yourself out there is hard. Going on an in-person date after a year of online-only socialization? Some are saying that's even harder.
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Putting yourself out there is hard. Going on an in-person date after a year of online-only socialization? Some are saying that's even harder.

As vaccinations are making it safer to leave the house, many people are considering re-entering the dating arena. Last week, the White House announced a partnership with dating apps to create a feature that allows users to sort matches by vaccination status as part of the Biden administration's July 4 vaccination goals.

Millions of people had to adjust to online dating and apps this past year.

"It was the only option," says Drew Millegan of McMinnville, Ore. He says there was definitely an adjustment period, as he wasn't much of a texter before the pandemic. But he had to learn fast — and now he's even using emojis.

"I guess, if you can call it a skill, I've improved my communication skills over the dating apps over the pandemic," Millegan says. "Which is an interesting side effect."

Nate Rathjen of Leesburg, Va., enjoyed the time-saving function of video dates. He got to talk to matches face-to-face, without a commute.

"That was awesome, because they're first dates," Rathjen says. "You don't really know how they're gonna go, and you could have just spent three hours for nothing."

But with more and more people getting vaccinated, there's less of an excuse to date from home. It's time to actually meet up in person. And even though the health risks are fading, for some people, the barrier is more emotional.

Tammy in San Diego says her transition back to in-person dating has been an awkward one.

"I just went on a date yesterday from a dating app and felt like it went pretty well," she says. But she also noticed several lulls in the conversation.

"Pre-pandemic, when I was seeing people much more regularly, I would be able to bring up another topic of conversation quickly," she says. "But my mind isn't firing on all cylinders as quickly as it used to. So I definitely think it'll take some time for me to be able to socialize as well as I was before."

Damona Hoffman, a dating coach for the online dating site OkCupid, says that even though the desire to connect in person is there, the confidence might not be.

"People are open to dating again but they're still a little bit cautious," she says. "There's still a little bit of hesitancy about just moving offline and throwing caution to the wind."

And after more than a year of solitude and distance from others, that hesitation goes beyond trading apps for in-person dating. Some people are feeling stuck altogether.

"The fear of dating is real," Hoffman says, "and I never want to dismiss that: not being practiced, not feeling like you're in your best skin and able to put your best foot forward right now because we have been so isolated."

But, she says, those people are not as alone as they think — at least, metaphorically.

"You have to remember that everybody else is in the same boat. Dating really is a learned skill," she says. "It's like riding a bike. So once you get back out there and you start having conversations and feeling the butterflies again and making real connections, it will feel more familiar."

Hoffman's advice?

"You just have to start," she says.

Awkward is good; it's human. We've all been through the same thing this year.

"Just go for it," Hoffman says. "And know that everybody else is re-learning along with you."

Even before the pandemic, dating and romance have always come with their own risks: rejection, intimacy, meeting scary relatives. It can be tempting to forego the process altogether. (And there's nothing wrong with being single!) But if it's plain old fear holding you back, just remember: no risk, no reward.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Audie Cornish
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.