According to a new study from the website WalletHub.com, New Mexico is the number-one worst state in the country for singles. This probably doesn't surprise anyone who lives here, but by taking elements such as dating costs and the populace into account, WalletHub was able to scientifically determine that it's rough out there. Throw something nutty like an international pandemic into the mix, and the whole rigamarole becomes a whole lot worse. Questions loom: Have you already met that special someone? Should you lower your standards? Is running back to an ex because we might all die basically the last respite of the damned? All of that is real. Too real.
So, I reached out to some folks in Santa Fe and Albuquerque to see how things have been going in the love department over the last year. Are the stories kind of funny and sad? Yes! Are they maybe a little hopeful? Also yes. Names have been redacted to protect the innocent (read: those hoping to have sex again at some point).
"I went out the weekend before lockdown with the mission of having in-case-this-is-the-end-of-the-world sex," says one Santa Fe massage therapist. "I was feeling like it really could be my last shot at having some for a long time.…I found it, but it was not good, not fun and I would have been fine if the world ended without having that."
Turns out our anonymous sex–seeker discovered through social media that her last bang, so to speak, was a rabid -anti-masker, anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist. But wait—there's more. Later that spring, she matched on Tinder with an out-of-state film worker who'd come to New Mexico for work. Before they had a chance to meet, however, someone on his crew tested positive for COVID-19, sending him back east. Still, she says, they stayed in touch and planned to meet if and when he returned. That did end up happening, but, she says, "I legit couldn't think of what to do."
Not comfortable hitting a restaurant or bar, or even having someone from who-knows-where in her home or car, the anonymous dater finally settled on a walk, only to learn her out-of-stater's boss wasn't allowing crew out of their hotel except for work, which, she says, "I understand, but needless to say, we never met."
Even worse, old flames and ancient Tinder matches started coming out of the woodwork with vaguely honeyed words for our mystery massage therapist. Whether this was about mortality concerns or that good old-fashioned assumption that we could probably bone our exes with minimal effort, especially when the world's crumbling, none can say.
"My girlfriends and I started calling it 'Look What the Quarantine Dragged In," she tells SFR. "I remember one Tinder match was in Texas, and I asked if they were still on lockdown. He said, 'Yeah, but they said it's okay for you to come here.' I think lockdown to a lot of them was just an opportunity to hook up. I've had married exes reach out, men who have blocked me reach out.…I've had a lot of men talking to themselves in my DMs and getting very aggressive because I don't respond."
For one Albuquerque 30-something, however, the DMs have actually worked out OK.
"Obviously respect people's space," he says, "but if you're able to start up a convo, there's a chance something more isn't too far behind."
A musician and social media expert by trade, our ABQ mystery guy has been dating during the pandemic, but just one person.
"I tried dating apps with no luck, but I've actually had a lot of luck with just talking to people I already knew over social media," he says, also pointing out how dating someone he already knows was an easier situation to trust. "I've met up with two different people, but am seeing one of them exclusively now—both had to be tested regularly for work, so there were no worries since I feel like having known them a bit before helped minimize that possibility."
That social media plan seems to work alright for some, as does the Facebook Dating component (who knew FB has a dating component?). One anonymous Santa Fe 40-something tells SFR she's been using it for about a year, and that after viewing hundreds of profiles and only meeting up with a couple dudes who didn't prove to be good matches, she found a suitor in Denver with whom she connected immediately.
"I usually find someone I may be interested in, chat for a bit on Facebook Dating, then take it to Facebook Messenger for the ease and options on the app. If they are worthy, I might add them limited as friends then, after a time, phone number, Skype, eventually meet in person, etc.," she explains. "I am very picky. I am 44, divorced 16 years with 2 older teenagers, so I try to be cautious, but open-minded—I have high standards because I bring a lot to the table. I have done the hard work and have reached a certain level, and I am looking for the same."
This one's a COVID case investigator and contact tracer for the state's Department of Health, so you know she's taking it extra seriously.
"I know and teach COVID protocol all day long," she says. "[There are] basic public health guidelines that have been around for decades."
So what about that guy in Denver? After connecting via Facebook Dating, they took the romance to Skype, where they could lay eyes on one another.
"In the first three days we were both feeling what I would consider love at first sight," she tells SFR. "Due to certain circumstances and scheduling, we agreed that I would drive up to Denver the second week of January to stay with him; we…got a private cabin, went exploring out in the wilderness….It was incredible! Due to the pandemic, distance and a few other things, we are currently on hold for now, but I am leaving everything open to whatever."
Open to whatever indeed. Who can say whether or not we'll ever trust strangers again, especially when it comes to putting our mouths on their mouths and interlocking our parts with theirs? Still, the lessons are clear: Be open, be cool, don't creep on people with whom you blew it in the past if you can help it. Oh, and mask up, assholes.