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While at the Fair Park during the State Fair of Texas, be sure to visit one of the many points of interest located in the historic acre park. Home to one of the largest collections of African American folk art in the United States, the museum also showcases African American fine art, traditional African art and historical artifacts dating back to the s.

Name: Asia

What is my age: I'm 26 years old
Ethnicity: Egyptian
My body type: My body features is medium-build
In my spare time I love: Reading
Body tattoos: None

I quit drinking a decade ago, bringing an end to my boozy, reckless hookup years.

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And once I was in my forties, I felt particularly out of sync with a swipe-to-match culture wherein sex was front-loaded and often felt transactional. I was burned out by what passed for romance. Then came the global pandemic. I checked Hinge in mid-March, curious to see what dating looked like in the social-distancing era.

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I wondered if the unfolding crisis would change how we engaged—maybe our new circumstances would make men more patient or conversations more dramatic, shaking up interactions that had become predictable and mundane. Well, one just hit. It was a weird scene.

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My conversations on dating apps veered between layoff anxiety and toilet paper acquisition. On the Facebook group for single women where I lurk but never participate, users whiplashed between celebrating their single status and despairing over it, same as ever.

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Meanwhile, men accustomed to the churn of Tinder were clawing the walls. He immediately asked if we could have sex.

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When I said I thought we were better as friends, he sent a photo of a part of his body I definitely had not asked to see. I matched with Benjamin the second week. Cute guy, nice smile. He grew up overseas.

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He lived in a downtown condo not far from my place in East Dallas, and we decided to meet at a park nearby and walk to a restaurant offering curbside pickup. Being uptight is the great sin of modern dating, but I also felt blameless—the pandemic made me do it. He told me not to judge him for his caveman beard—the barber shops were closed. The next night, I slid on sneakers before heading out the door, a change from the four-inch wedges I normally wear on first dates, eager to look taller and thinner than my five-foot-two-inch frame.

What the pandemic taught me about old-fashioned romance

Benjamin pulled up to the park after seven. He tugged at his enormous beard as he sauntered toward me. We wandered down the sidewalk four feet apart, but soon we were three feet apart, and then maybe two. I felt like a prim lass in a Victorian movie, strolling an English garden with a gentleman suitor who might one day promise himself to me. And yet all my pre-pandemic first dates took place in coffee shops, where we sat across from each other, enduring face-to-face combat.

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My conversation with Benjamin unfolded at a leisurely pace. The pink sunset spilled across the sky, the birds were chirping, and a late spring breeze caressed my hair in a way that had a solid chance of looking sexy. No, I would not be physical with this man because of a government mandate. It sounded dystopian. But it was also freeing. I wondered what his arms might feel like under my fingertips.

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I imagined the smooth skin, the taut muscle, the alternating terrain of hard and soft. Early in the pandemic, people acted like we were all doomed to Zoom orgies until scientists found a vaccine, but was it possible relationships might get better? That an out-of-control mating culture could actually benefit from a few boundaries?

In quarantine, the world had slowed to my preferred pace—dating felt a little less lonely. Any company was good company. Any date was a gift. Maybe it would be good for all of us to keep limiting our options, holding one another able, and paying more attention to the moral weight of our decisions. His eyes had a twinkle. Sarah Hepola lives in Dallas.

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