Anisha Saigal fell in love during the pandemic in the most unexpected way.
Every generalised statement about being in love is true. The poetry starts to make sense; the love songs seem personal, enough for you to believe that the lyrics were personally penned down for you and your beau. Even the cringe love quotes and cute memes on socials start to look “relatable” when you’re in love.
I didn’t think I’d ever feel this way; given my relationship history brimming with copious amounts of frustrating situationships and my own cynicism stemming from bad experiences with men on dating apps, I had no hope in this regard especially with a raging pandemic outside.
Then, I met Ziggy.
By met, I mean, we met online. On Twitter dot com.
My pre-pandemic self would have flinched hard at this declaration and rightfully so, it is cringeworthy to admit you’ve forged a deep emotional and intimate connection with someone you have never met. At 30, when your peers are married and planning children and/or pets, you’re busy wanking to videos of your e-boyfriend cumming. It is, then, fair to ask if I think this is a dating reality TV experimental show on Netflix?
No, it is not.
It is a fact universally acknowledged that strange things went down globally in the last few years. Between 2020 and ongoing 2022, we opened our screens, homes and hearts to employers for work from home, friends for Houseparty and lovers to Twitter. Being “online” meant being present and living in the moment and the physicality was replaced with being virtually present. Everything about my relationship is real, but somehow, the details of my relationship differ from that of my friends. While we maybe in the same room as our partners, chilling, my beloved is in my room on a screen and yours might be on your bed.
They always say, it takes the right time with the right person to make you fall in love. In my case, I got to know Ziggy better when he was fighting through COVID-19 in the second wave. We had befriended each other on a Formula One group chat (thank you, Sir Lewis Hamilton) and had since been conversing privately on conversations about the sport. Over the subsequent weeks of recovery, I found myself at ease talking to him and exchanging banal details about my day while listening to him. The butterflies in my gut felt equally compelling as the weight on my chest each time Ziggy’s name flashed as a notification on my phone. Each notification chime from him felt like a success in a cyber-Pavlovian experiment of falling in love harder.
I would be lying if I said I was comfortable laying my feelings on the table to him. For one, I sounded like a delusional freak in love with a man who I did not know outside of the internet and for the other, the caution stories of people around the world who had been scammed had flashed as a warning enough to stop and reflect on my actions of oversharing my life several times through the course. The only thing that offered hope in this situation was that Ziggy was on the same page as me. He too shared my guilt of finding love online and was equally terrified of me being a con artist. However, nobody wants to pull a con that long, or so I hope.
What helped us is that we tried to forge socially distant intimacy via e-sex. We are probably the same kind of twisted in the head to actually enjoy sexting and teasing each other through when we could be putting in effort in finding someone around us to do this with. In process of getting to each other’s body better, we learnt more about ourselves and our preferences. We shared the filthiest thoughts and kinks with each other that neither of us have been previously able to do. In a way, the internet acts as a filter in reducing judgement and it’s easy to be yourself against a screen than being vulnerable in front of someone physically when you’re naked.
I understand for both of us this is far from ideal, but the physical intimacy that we share makes the emotional relationship stronger. While we are self-aware about the insanity of this situation, the logistics of making an intercultural long-distance relationship work during a global pandemic isn’t exactly a piece of cake either.
As a civilisation, if we have learnt anything from fighting through a pandemic, it is that we don’t exactly have the luxury to physically share lives with people when we’re in a lockdown. Through our friendship and the subsequent relationship, Ziggy was there to listen to me through the bad days of fighting and good days of sharing love. Taking account of our feelings took significant amount of emotional labour and working through issues on both our parts to make these revelations be.
Being in a romantic relationship typically translates to mutually agreeing on sharing a support system filled with love and care, no questions asked, round the clock. How is it that we have to restrict it to doing this only in the physical realm especially when you can’t take the risk of meeting new people day in and out? If our bodies have adapted to conducting work online and having parties online, how are we limiting love to a physical understanding of it and calling it “legit” only when it is conducted in person?
In a way, a long-distance pandemic relationship sounds like a CDC approved simulator for real life relationships during a global health emergency. While the world has opened up for everyone outside to meet, date and fuck (in no specific order), I am still holding on tightly to my pandemic partner in crime. We are communicative (cause how else can you forge a relationship across time-zones), have a great sex life (Amish approved) and love each other like no one else has. It may come with the expiry date of one of us moving on with the real life at the end of COVID-19 but for now, this feels like homecoming.[/restrict]