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Monday, June 17, 2024
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Kissing a girl during a pandemic

Is there a guide to romantic life with COVID-19?

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain once said, “Nobody dies a virgin, life f**ks us all.”

I came to UB hoping more than just life would f**k me.

Alas, only life f**ked me. 

I expected my romantic life to be something more than nothing. I’m a freshman and never before have I put much effort into romance. But now, just when I am willing to make the first move, accept rejection and learn from my mistakes, it feels like the universe is working against me.

And it’s doing so in the form of a thin cloth covering everyone’s lips and the pandemic rapping at our door.

Throughout high school, I liked girls, and there were rare flickers when they liked me back, but I would never do anything about it. I always found excuses to let crushes blow over, glimmers fade. I was always too busy with sports, schoolwork or friends.

Plus, I was afraid.

My class only had 150 students; I was intimidated thinking I’d have to share classes with any girl I had hooked up with.

One of the reasons I was excited to go to UB was its size and the perks of anonymity. There is a lot less pressure put on a kiss if you may never see the girl again. There is also a fairy-tale sense of urgency, as if you must pour your heart out before the clock strikes 12 and Cinderella disappears before you have the chance to exchange Snapchats.

But I have yet to experience any of this.

I haven’t had any romances or gotten close to girls I find interesting since school started. In fact, I rarely get within six feet.

Even meeting new girls is a rarity. I have a group of friends, but I came across them through luck, and I am not sociable enough for luck to be a consistency. Most of the time, we just hang around the food court, but as it gets colder, there will be less and less chance to meet new people and form new relationships.

I talked to a few others on my quest to see if I was alone in my frustration.

Thomas Mikiciuk, a fellow freshman who is majoring in biomedical sciences told me he has struggled to adjust his flirting techniques to the pandemic.

“I don’t know if there’s a way to get around it. I mean, you have to wear a mask and social distance,” Mikiciuk said.

Hector Lebron, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering, told me students don’t seem to be interested in making contact.

“People aren’t trying to hook up that often, it's just to like, meet, hang out,” Lebron said.

When I meet a girl I think is cute, I try to flirt with her. We talk about music and movies, or what classes she’s taking. But I would never consider myself as the guy whose “got game.” As someone with little experience flirting, I have found that masks make it hard to tell whether the other person is at all engaged. There is certain body language that is sometimes revealing, but with half the girl’s face missing, I’m left even more unsure if I should make a move.

Honestly, I have never gone up to a girl whose face I could see in full and had confidence in my ability to attract her. Now, I have so much more to overcome.

My need for companionship isn’t all physical. It’s emotional, too.

Social distancing has left me desperate for human contact. An endless stream of television and video games being shot into my retinas gave my soul little nutrition. To have another human being show a general tolerance for my presence would be a godsend. And if we got to kiss and spoon sometimes, that would be really cool too.

Zachary Carr, a clinical assistant communication professor at UB, has done extensive research in nonverbal communication and the role of facial expressions. Dr. Carr has tried to determine some of the scientific effects masks have had on us, but as of now, it's all speculation. He said the face is the largest display of nonverbal information.

“When you put a mask on, you’re pretty much losing half of that information,” Carr said. “I think what it’s done for socialization, I think it’s making us be more focused. Without the cues we typically have access to, we have zoned in on whatever we can get, in the hopes of making a connection.”

Right now, my chances are not good. I understand. Kissing me is not worth the risk of contracting a life-threatening illness. Until this pandemic ends, my tongue is going to have to stay inside my own mouth.

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