While staying in Miami in April, Ariana, 24, messaged a Bumble match on her way home from a disappointing night, where the guy she was supposed to see blew her off. The Bumble guy had a flight to catch the next day, so Ariana decided to meet up with him right then, even though it was the middle of the night. “We hung out until the sun rose and he was like, ‘My flight’s in three hours. If I delayed it would you want to spend the day with me?’” He moved his flight, they hooked up, then spent a romantic day together — and they’re still in touch.
Ariana’s story is an example of spontani-dating: allowing in-the-moment, impulsive desires to guide your love life. Though it wasn't quite the hot vax summer sex-starved singles had been planning, for some, the post-lockdown period of the pandemic has offered an opportunity to experiment with a new romantic approach. Instead of filling the calendar with nightly Hinge dates or planning social engagements weeks out, daters opted for a more spontaneous attitude toward meeting someone new — a happy, healthy medium between being cooped up inside and jam-packing their schedules.
Ariana says her perspective on dating this summer was to “just have fun with it,” especially after a challenging, lonely lockdown. The Manhattan-based digital designer, who’s been single for a couple of years, says her frustration with dating apps led her in October 2019 to start a podcast, Drinks First, in which she interviews anonymous New Yorkers whom listeners can then “match” with by submitting an online form.
Talking to so many singles through the podcast has made Ariana feel less precious about dating in general and partly inspired her openness to more random, real-life encounters post-quarantine. “I still use dating apps, but I’ve tried to put myself out there more in real life,” she says. Her go-with-the-flow style has resulted in romantic flings beyond the Miami meet-cute: In July, Ariana and a friend spent their last night in Athens, Greece, meeting up with a Bumble match and his friends for drinks. She ended up hitting it off with her original match’s friend: They made out at the bar, spent the night together, and he helped her pack for the airport and get a cab. He’s planning to visit Ariana when she goes to Barcelona in mid-September for a month.
“After spending a year locked inside, I think people are craving human interaction more than ever,” says Ariana. “I think that goes hand in hand with being spontaneous and saying yes to more things — wanting [or] needing that feeling of organic connection. That’s definitely how I feel — being less in my head and just going for [it].”
“You end up listening to a lot of Meg Thee Stallion and Lil Nas X and start feeling sexy.”
For couples who started off spontaneously, the pandemic has brought on further opportunities to take risks in their love life. Take Lily, 28 and KB, 34, who in January 2020 decided to travel to Los Angeles together after only four dates (despite both expressing that they weren’t looking for anything serious when they matched on dating app Lex in November 2019). KB says she followed her instinct of wanting to spend time with Lily, going against her typical independent, rational approach to “prioritize my own needs and career.” It was the same for Lily: “I felt like, why am I going to deny myself emotional availability to this person who I’m clearly over the moon to see?” she says. While in Los Angeles, the two DTR’d. One month later, back in Brooklyn, COVID hit, leading them to shack up and get serious, stat. Their next relationship leap of faith? Moving to the Hudson Valley in August 2020, a 1.5-plus hour train ride north from their previous city digs and to the ‘burbs. "Moving [in] was a risk for sure," says Lily, adding that while they did think it out — albeit for only about a month — "It's provided a lot of romance and adventure." Certainly not every impromptu dating experience will lead to this level of long-term relationship, but Lily & KB, who are still together today, are glad they took that leap of faith.
This summer’s travel boom also provided opportunities to shake things up with new activities while also refreshing the dating pool. While in Tulum, Mexico, on a solo vacation after getting a book deal, Renee, 35, decided on a whim to get scuba-certified. The D.C.-based reproductive justice activist was the only one who signed up for the course and enjoyed one-on-one tutelage with a stud instructor. Her impulse decision to learn scuba precipitated a spur-of-the-moment fling: After she got certified, the two got drinks to celebrate, hooked up, and spent most of the rest of her month-long trip together.
Renee describes the resulting dry-land affair as “random and fun and sexy as hell,” a refreshing departure from her typical approach to dating. “I prefer longer relationships and seeing where they go, but this [fling] obviously had a clear end date, which was a different energy and relationship to separation,” she says. As for whether they’ll see each other again post-vacay, she’s not sure, but she’s not putting pressure on it.
“It’s amazing being able to have quick relationships with people and that’s fun for what it is,” she says. “You end up listening to a lot of Meg Thee Stallion and Lil Nas X and start feeling sexy and you’re like, well, f*ck it, let me have some fun! And that’s what we did, and it was totally worth it.”