“What’s the Big Deal?”

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone.  Some physically, some financially, many, if not most, emotionally.  Each one of us typically wears so many different hats, and each one of those has been affected by our current situation.  Our community has stepped up in so many ways to address the current challenges so many of us face: kosher meals for front-line workers, increasing food distribution to those who need it, tehillim groups for those who are ill… 

Yet, as a 31 year-old older single woman, I feel that my cohort has been largely neglected. 

It is difficult to receive email after email, and Facebook invite after Facebook invite, to Zooms and groups about being pregnant during COVID-19, parenting during COVID-19, marriage during COVID-19, etc. The list goes on. That is not to be said that these are not important. I commend those who are organizing these events and am sure many are finding them helpful.  But what about me?

I am not a parent or a parent-to-be and I am not a spouse. Yet I find myself facing some of the most difficult challenges of my life. My mind turns with constant questions. When will I be able to go on a date? Does Zoom dating work past the first few meetings? Can you really get to know someone without seeing them in different contexts? And these questions are compounded by the usual “older single” quandaries: Where will my next date come from?  If we like each other, how do I keep the momentum going? Will I be able to spot any warning signs? The few Zooms I have seen advertised for singles do not address any of these issues. And a regular talk on relationships just doesn’t cut it right now. 

And this is on top of so many other anxieties and difficulties in my life right now: my job security, my health and the health of my family and friends, the loss of people I know. I have had to move back in with my parents.  While I realize that is a privilege, I miss my privacy and sense of independence. I am starting to worry about having children in the future. I need more information about whether egg freezing will be safe in a COVID world. 

I have 10 years of experience in my field, and 7 years in my current job, one that I used to joke with my corporate-world friends “wasn’t one you can do from home.”  

Now I am faced with immense challenges at work and a feeling of inadequacy that keeps me up at night and makes me feel dread when I wake up each morning. I feel like my self-confidence, which took so many years to build up, has been robbed from me. I miss socializing with my friends, who are often my biggest cheerleaders. I miss hosting Shabbos meals which bring me so much joy and fulfillment. I worry about my friends who face greater challenges than I: The ones who have lost loved ones. The ones who have spent Shabbos after Shabbos and chagim all alone and isolated. The ones who stay up at night worrying about their elderly parents. The ones who are engaged and are facing the possibility of getting married without their parents and other close relatives. The ones who work on the frontlines and have witnessed so much death and trauma.  

To be fair, several dating groups have been formed and I applaud the people who are running them. However, not everyone is comfortable dating at this time. It is hard to date when you feel like you are not your best self, whether it is due to increased anxiety, health concerns, financial hardship, or intense loneliness. In the past few years, I have become actively involved in running programming for singles.  A few days ago, I came across some materials from the last event we ran. I was flooded with emotions of frustration, sadness, and the feeling of sheer ineptitude in a COVID-19 world. Though I recently renewed my efforts to try to set up singles, I don’t know how to truly help them, or myself, these days. 

I have heard people say, “Just date via Zoom. What’s the big deal?” This is not what I need to hear right now. It is a big deal. It’s hard, and it’s scary. 

If you are single right now, please know that you are not alone. I hope you have someone you feel comfortable reaching out to, be it a friend, family member, or therapist. If you are a well-meaning family member or friend, please recognize that just as you are experiencing a myriad of emotions in regard to the challenges you face during the pandemic, the feelings of your single family members and friends are complex, valid, and deserve to be validated. We cannot put a measure on people’s hardship and must therefore view the challenges of everyone in our community with equal weight.