Social media has aggravated the divide. “I see the phrase There's no one I'd rather be quarantined with a lot,” says Lizzie Logan, a 28-year-old writer in New York City. “If you're so damn happy together, get off the internet and go have sex.”
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Isolating with a partner creates genuine challenges, despite the gushing you might encounter online. “Quarantining has amplified any issues we’ve had in our marriage,” says Jen Tokaji, a 44-year-old office manager in Los Angeles. “It has really made the division of household chores and child care even more divided.”
Complaints like Tokaji’s are clearly valid, but that doesn’t mean the singles aren’t bothered by them. “When [couples] complain about relatively benign things and use hyperbole (‘We might kill each other by the end of this!’), it's kind of condescending to single people who don't even have the option to potentially murder their spouse/partner,” says Brooke Knisley, a 29-year-old writer in Boston.
Some couples have also irritated the singles in their lives by using “relationship privilege” to flout quarantine best practices and travel within or between cities. “One of my roommates had her ex-fiancé stopping by up until a couple of weeks ago, which seemed pretty risky,” Knisley says. Knisley was especially worried because she’s immunocompromised. “It's a bit irresponsible, doing the back-and-forth thing,” she said. While some roommates might be fine with this sort of arrangement, using a relationship as an excuse to ignore social-distancing guidelines can breed resentment.
Single people break the rules too (I’ll admit I have), but we must be a bit quieter about our imperfect social-distancing practices, because of the potential judgment. As with weddings, we aren’t gifted an automatic and socially sanctioned quarantine plus-one.
“In my experience, couples are way more comfortable broadcasting their willingness to except themselves from the common obligation,” says Cyrus Cappo, a 25-year-old resident of Boise, Idaho, in reference to couples who don’t live together. I’ve noticed the same thing—my single friends who have told me about seeing a non-roommate have framed it as a confession; some of our coupled counterparts agree. “My partner and I receive way less criticism than some of my friends who are in the early stages of a relationship,” says Alex Cleary, a 23-year-old resident of St. Paul who does not live with her partner but sees him regularly.
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I wouldn’t trade my quarantine experience to be with a partner. I’ve developed newfound independence, which is to say, I fixed one appliance one time—it was the microwave, and turns out it was unplugged. Truthfully, I wanted a boyfriend more before quarantine than I have during it. Having someone to see a few times a week seems fun, but as Whoopi Goldberg once said, “I don’t want somebody in my house.” I can understand the benefits of a partner in quarantine—someone to share chores with, someone to have sex with. Actually, those are the only two that come to mind. Following a recent negative experience, I’m somewhat disillusioned about both relationships and men at the moment. And, I’ve always enjoyed alone time.