How love and dating changed in Charlotte during COVID-19

Christina Birckhead is a Charlotte-based clinical nurse consultant who strongly believes in self-discovery and motivation.

Christina Birckhead is a Charlotte-based clinical nurse consultant who strongly believes in self-discovery and motivation.

From awkward dates to hidden winks, it’s time to look for that special someone. In the first in a series of articles on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Charlottians’ relationships, we explored how the romance unfolded in an era that was not so conducive to relationships. social.

It’s hard to flirt with a mask

Have you tried flirting in the past year? It’s embarrassing, isn’t it? The coronavirus pandemic has effectively erased all small, natural ways of telling someone that you are interested. No more shoulder brushing, no more passing glances. There is no way to tell if this person across the bar is staring you into your room or not judging your mask placement.

“The sad thing is that I used to have monthly get-togethers where 250 people in a brewery showed up,” said Laurie Berzack, owner of the Charlotte-based company. Carolina Matchmaker. “In person, there are a lot of organic ways to find a connection. But we don’t have that now. It’s so hard to flirt with a mask. You basically need to wink now.

People are alone, and when people are alone they want to find love. Even during COVID-19. Berzack said his matchmaking client base is the largest ever – 20 matchmaking clients and eight online coaching clients, an impressive number for him.

“Dating now is about people’s risk aversion,” Berzack said. “I have clients who when the pandemic started suspended their membership and will remain so. … On the other hand, I have clients who only want to walk in a park, 6 feet away and masked. And I have others who want to go to restaurants.

“They recognize it’s a calculated risk,” Berzack continued. “They know they are alone and they want to take action. It’s like with STDs. You don’t know what they did or where they went … You might get the impression that there isn’t much for sure. But what they’re trying to do is balance their sanity.

Ashley Shapiro and Chris Schehr understand the embarrassment of dating COVID-19. What started normally in the 21st century – they first met on Bumble – led to a series of pervasive pandemic misunderstandings, ranging from an awkward hug after the reunion to failed plans. And at some point between a mutually misinterpreted first date and now talking about meeting family (possibly!), They found this elusive miracle called love.

Chris Schehr and Ashley Shapiro met during COVID-19 and found a way to make things work. Laurie Shapiro

Love in the time of COVID-19

Shapiro and Schehr’s love story is a living embodiment of the phrase: “It’s the thought that counts.” Neither was sure about each other’s feelings after a first date that ended in a side hug. (“I’m a clumsy person to begin with, and now you have the pandemic, UghShapiro lamented.) But even though he didn’t know if she was inside him, Schehr texted him to tell him it was nice to meet her. She responded and, “the rest is history,” Schehr said.

But not without a few hiccups.

“I would find the most random things we could do,” Shapiro said. “Everything we did was the biggest flop. I found this drive-through art exhibit – we basically drove and talked to artists and someone asked to take our picture for a magazine. It took about 20 minutes. And then we were like, “What are we supposed to do now?” ”

Despite the bad reputation of tough dates, the creative and unconventional plans brought Shapiro, a school occupational therapist, and Schehr, a lawyer who opened his own practice last year, closer to each other.

“Another thing that happened was when we thought it would be fun to find a beach to stretch out because some lakes here have beach areas,” Shapiro said. “So we found this lake to go to. We get there and, of course, there was nowhere to park. We went to the other side, and that side was closed. There were all these things that we were trying to do. And all of those things turned out to be lovely memories. We had to take the blows. ”

And because COVID-19 makes you choose who you’re close with, Shapiro and Schehr have chosen each other. When Shapiro was disappointed that he couldn’t make his normal birthday trip, he planned an extravagant day, including tacos, margaritas, horseback riding, and drinks with close friends. They started running together, cooking together (partly to accommodate Shapiro, who is vegan and runs a vegan food blog) and love each other dogs, Bosley, Parker and Chewie.

She fell in love with his smile and his habit of making everything fun; he fell in love with her quirk, the way they get along and how good she is.

“Funny, I’m going to talk to friends who say they broke up during COVID,” Shapiro said. “And I’m on the opposite side of things where there is a silver lining. It is totally unexpected. How can you imagine meeting someone and falling in love during the craziest time in history? ”

Start with yourself

In the search for love, self-reflection and self-awareness are as important as caring for the other person, and the pandemic has thrown this dual dynamic into sharp relief.

The pandemic has forced people to really take a look at their lives and decide whether or not they are happy in terms of a relationship, and if not, what they can do to make it better, ”Berzack said. “It forced people to assess their lives and decide, ‘Is this something I want to do now or wait? And, “If I want to do it now, what’s the easiest and safest way to do it at this point?”

Laurie Berzack founded Carolinas Matchmaker and has worked across North and South Carolina for over 15 years. Courtesy of Laurie Berzack Charlottefive

And self-reflection also applies to committed couples, especially in light of the societal cracks revealed over the past year.

“You have life coming to you from all angles right now,” said Charlotte-based therapist Veronda Bellamy. “And you go through these things together, but you’re still an individual, merging the pandemic, plus Black Lives Matter, plus politics and bringing it into one home. It is scary for a lot of people. ”

“You have to really know yourself to be alongside someone who has opposing points of view and differences. You really have to know who you are as an individual.

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Veronda Bellamy is a Mental Health Therapist from the Charlotte area. Courtesy of Brandon Grate

“Start with yourself,” Berzack said. “Be good with yourself, then come back over there.” But if you are feeling hesitant or not great or careless about who you are now or want to date yourself, then don’t. What you feel is what you attract.

For Christina Birckhead, a Charlotte-based clinical nurse consultant, self-discovery is both a way of life and a possible path to success with romance.

“I’m really into self-help and self-motivation,” Birckhead said. “You just have to find out who you are, what motivates you and what you love. Just get to the deep roots of things about yourself; find out where everything about you comes from. … I’m improving, so when I meet someone I’m ready for it.

For Shapiro, whose schedule was still loaded before the pandemic, COVID-19 gave him the opportunity to slow down. By slowing down, she was able to spend more quality time with Schehr – and better appreciate the bond they made.

“I attribute our success to the fact that I literally had to stop,” Shapiro said. “Normally I’m just out of town (during the time we met). I was forced to be in town. It gave me this opportunity to be in the city and to be able to spend time with someone.

There is hope in the air

With vaccines being distributed and better weather on the horizon, Berzack said moods appear to be improving among those seeking love.

“In the beginning [of the pandemic], there was a lot of anxiety, ”Berzack said. “Now I think there is hope in the air. And when there is hope in the air, people decide they’re ready to mingle and mingle.

“You have to be open-minded,” Shapiro said, reflecting on his own dating success during the pandemic. “Look outside your window. Don’t close your window. … We have learned that you have to pivot a lot. Things are not going as planned. ”

Shapiro and Schehr said they are looking forward to spring and summer. The weather will of course be more pleasant, but above all, it will be a chance for them to continue to make memories.

“We hope that with the change of seasons and with people getting vaccinated, people can do more things,” Shapiro said. “We can’t wait to do more things in real life, to go to concerts, to be able to be with his friends and him to be with my friends and family.”

“I owe everything to COVID,” Shapiro said. “It’s such a difficult time for so many people. So many things are affected. … But my relationship has shown that there are things you can do.

Read more

Coming tomorrow: So close, but so far: the challenges of being alone and being with others during COVID.

Coming Wednesday: Lost in the Crowd: When a pandemic takes away friends we didn’t know we had.

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