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How are y’all keeping your love life alive during quarantine? For West Philly resident Ayanna Lemon, it’s been a cocktail of ups and downs, including cutting off a past relationship, swiping through dating apps and scheduling Zoom bathtub dates.

“I’ve actually really been flourishing in the pandemic,” Lemon said. “You make it work.”

Seeking romantic connection is baked into human evolution — and as the single peeps among us can attest, that feeling doesn’t shut off because of a mandate to socially distance.

But the coronavirus has isolated us inside our own homes and forced us to change our habits. For people who don’t have a live-in partner but still want to feel a spark, online dating is now the only option.

Philadelphians pining for love are getting creative. They’ve held remote chats and stimulating videoconferences. Some say it sucks they can’t have sex with people they meet — and others are grateful they don’t have to endure first-date jitters.

Without the possibility of a real meet-up, is it actually fulfilling?

“Dating does not have to be face to face,” said Ande Karim, 32. “With all the technology we have today, it’s still possible to develop connections.”

Looking for love? It’s ‘time to be creative’

At the start of the stay-at-home order, West Philly’s Lemon broke up with her partner of more than three years. She’s found isolation more conducive to the healing process, she said, allowing her plenty of time to explore all the emotions.

She didn’t wait to dive into the dating game.

She’s meeting people on OKCupid. She’s gone on socially distant walks with new prospects — plus a handful of Zoom dates, some from her bathtub. Next week, a potential suitor is going to read her tarot cards over video chat.

“I saw on their profile, it said, ‘Message me if you want me to read your tarot,’” Lemon said. “So I messaged them and said, ‘Can we do this while social distancing?’”

Lemon even reconnected with an ex. They last saw each other about a month before the pandemic took over Philly, and quarantine seemed like as good a time as any to try talking again. “It was really unexpected and unusual,” she said, “but fun.”

Others are finding the situation challenging.

Karim said it feels like there are fewer people on their app of choice, Grindr, “probably to decrease the temptation” to meet in person during a health crisis.

Several people Karim knows are actively abstaining from sex during the pandemic, deeming it not worth the safety risk. They’re relying on sexy video calls, which can be done directly in the Grindr app.

“Not being able to meet up is sexually frustrating, but I’ve adjusted,” Karim said. “FaceTiming or phone sex is an option that remains open. I think now is the best time to be creative.”

Dating apps as entertaining distraction

For some Philadelphians, the impossibility of in-person meetups brings relief.

Jana, a 33-year-old Southwest Philly resident who asked we only use her first name, relishes the fact that she won’t have to meet any suitors in person.

“I’m kind of shy when it comes to dating,” Jana said. “I can take my time and think if it’s someone I actually want to go on a date with.”

For Jana, this finally feels like dating on her own terms. She can scroll through an entire database of local men — some she might have even written off while dating in real life.She uses Bumble, an app on which women have to send the first message before men can respond.

“I’m like, wow, I won’t be pressured to go on a date with a creep!” Jana said. “So let me take some time to get to know somebody.”

So far, she’s met a few people who have potential — but she’s taking it slow. Even if none of them actually pan out, she’s glad the apps are keeping her entertained during quarantine.

“It helps you to look outside what you would normally date, and just kind of have fun with it,” Jana said. “Maybe this will help me find what I’m looking for, or maybe not. I’m taking it one day at a time.”

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...