How An ‘Old‑School’ Dater Found Meaningful Communication Through Texting
In this 10-part series, we explore how Indians are embracing digital connections under the Covid19 lockdown in the absence of in-person intimacy. Here, 28-year-old Varsha describes how the lockdown enabled her to shift to old-school texting while meeting new people online.
As it started dawning upon us that [the lockdown] is going to go on for a long time, it kind of increased the urge to have someone to talk to. I did have dating apps earlier, too, but now, I was looking at it in a much more serious way. I was extremely bored, and I was craving for some warmth. I thought, maybe, if I invest enough time into it, I’ll find someone, and it will be one of those once-in-a-lifetime stories. And, I did speak to a few people. But, it was all very on-and-off. Everyone had their own coping mechanisms, basically. So, a lot of times, I would have conversations, and on their own, naturally, the conversations would stop also. There is one instance I can recollect… It didn’t end on a bad note; we just naturally stopped responding. But in general, I was taking things more seriously. I could talk more because I had more time to kill. Somehow, I was hopeful under lockdown — it sounds strange, I know.
I have always really liked texting — you have your own sweet time to decide and write; when it comes to talking, you don’t really get to frame your thoughts, or think as much as you want to before you speak. I’ve met guys in person [before lockdown], and you discuss each other’s likes and preferences, but after a while, it can get monotonous if you don’t know what to ask next. Of course, it varies from person to person also. But, when it’s really new, and you don’t know the person too well, and you run out of things to say, you start wondering whether it was even a fruitful date or just some by-the-way one. But now, you can take your own sweet time. Also, earlier, there was always this bond that if you’ve been speaking for a month, you should meet. But I’m very old school, and I really want that spark to ignite. And now, I don’t really need to justify why I’m not meeting them. So, surprisingly, this lockdown has kind of worked in my favor.
When it comes to texting under lockdown, there’s no answer to “What’s up?” So, that’s something we never discuss. During the lockdown, I started speaking to this guy, and surprisingly, we ask very… maybe, I should call it deep, or meaningful, questions? We have time, and we also have composure. I mean, I find myself in a good place to answer questions like: “What makes you proud of yourself?” or “What made you smile today?” This is something that someone had never asked me before. Normally, people discuss likes and dislikes, but this question, actually, made me go back and think of an answer. There are so few instances these days that make us smile. I would also never ask these questions before, but now, I’ve started enjoying these questions and asking them too. And, neither one of us feels like we’re invading into the other person’s life. So, I feel, under lockdown, we are not discussing the periphery of things — we are not discussing the weather, or how our day was; we all know the day was boring, and the weather is pathetic. We discuss them, more than what’s around them. I’m definitely sharing more about my life. And, I think that is exactly what intimacy is: there are no inhibitions when you are talking to them. Under lockdown, we are trying to know the person more. I think this has become a blessing, in fact.
During the pandemic, I feel grief is normalized. If the person feels upset, or uncomfortable, or low, we are allowing them to be upset. You get an idea from their messages that they aren’t in the best of their moods, and you don’t really make a fuss about it, or keep poking them with questions like, “What’s happening? What’s happening?” And I feel this should continue. We do make efforts to make things lighter sometimes though by discussing random silly things, or sending each other short videos. But earlier, we weren’t given the space to feel sad at all. There was this unsaid assumption that if the person is not feeling well, it becomes my duty and my responsibility to make them get well.
The other day, he switched jobs. And he texted me saying that he won’t be online for the next two days because he had to finish some handover. Then after that, there were the UEFA finals going on. So he told me, “I will appear lost, but I’m not lost, and don’t consider that I’m ghosting.” I mean, we are just texting each other; we’ve not, like, dated for long, and he’s not answerable or anything yet. But, these little-little things, when they make the effort to tell you, and reassure you, it helps keep the spark going. The trust also depends on whether the person is around when you need them. There are several low moments under this lockdown, and it is neither possible nor safe to just come, like, and hug, and say, “Oh, we don’t care, and we’ll be there for each other.” But still, how you manage to be there, shows a lot. It’s also a reassurance that if he can stick around during these times, he’ll definitely be there, when I’m being my goofy self. Also, we know each other’s exact addresses, which I don’t think I would’ve asked for before the pandemic. But, since we know each other’s address now, we are exchanging gifts.
There is obviously no comparison to how you feel when you meet a person, so I did feel that it might be a little challenging to keep the spark alive under lockdown. There are limitations, right, when you are just texting people? We don’t really even talk [on the phone] much; we are usually just texting. So I did feel that this might end up being a short-term thing. But surprisingly, because the conversations have been so deep and insightful, right now I feel that this may last and hopefully, when things get better, and physical intimacy becomes safe and possible, that might also happen. I don’t know… Maybe, words are magical, and words are beautiful, and if you feel that ‘mental connect,’ physical also follows. And, maybe, this ‘mental connect’ has ensured that the spark is there. It doesn’t feel like there’s something missing. That [meeting] part will also come into the picture when it’s supposed to.
This project was done in partnership with Tinder India.