Arlington bachelor Barry Grogan was in Miami for work when the coronavirus outbreak began spiraling out of control. The finance consultant had been traveling there weekly for a project, but that quickly came to a halt. He wasn’t surprised, though: The Ireland native (who moved here five years ago) had been following the news in Europe. “Seeing what was happening there, I felt it was only a matter of time until our lives here would change,” he says.
Since then, his typical daily routine has transformed. Rather than jumping on a jet, he’s working from his makeshift apartment office; he ordered a desk, chair and computer monitor. (His company instituted work-from-home guidelines and advised against nonessential travel.) A drink out in Arlington on Friday nights has turned into a brew on the couch with his housemate, a “pretty tolerable lad.” And dating is on pause.
“[Being single] right now isn’t the greatest place to be,” he says. “Perhaps, if I realized several months ago that the cuffing season [slang for finding a romantic partner heading into winter] to end all cuffing seasons was coming, then things would be different.” He finds the idea of video dates less than appealing. “Dating apps are a great way to chitchat and line up future in-person dates, but that video element sounds a bit creepy. I don’t know, ask me in a month.”
He has, however, spent more time connecting with people from here to Ireland than in the past—Zoom happy hours, online poker with pals and digital trivia nights with family. “Nothing beats meeting up in person, but regularly connecting in these ways reduces that feeling of being isolated from the outside world.”
He’s also become more adept in his kitchen. “I’d hate to tell you when the last time my oven went on before this pandemic, but it’s been a rewarding way to test out my culinary skills.”
As for staying sane? “I’ve made it a point to get out of the house even just for 30 minutes for a run, walk or trip to the store,” he says. “I went a couple of days early on without leaving the house, and cabin fever really sets in.” He admits that it’s getting increasingly difficult as the weeks go on: That’s why he’s valued fostering relationships digitally. “I’ve connected with so many people who, for one reason or another, our contact has dwindled,” he says. “I’ve learned that although you may not have spoken in a long time, the bond you once had was … always there.” He’s also prioritizing time to catch up with people frequently in the future. And once life resumes, a dinner with friends is at the top of his list—plus some personal travel. “Being as far away from family as I am with everything going on has been tough,” he finishes. “A trip home to Ireland will happen pretty soon after things get back to normal.”
The DC region has the highest population of single people in the country at 70% (according to Census data), which means many people are staying at home alone or with roommates. According to Tinder, conversations on the dating app are up about 20% since the pandemic began and, on March 29, the popular matchmaker had its busiest day in its history—with more than 3 billion swipes globally, as people searched for love while staying at home.
This post originally appeared in our June/July 2020 print issue. For more on Northern Virginia, subscribe to our weekly newsletters.