Young and In Love: Pandemic Presents Challenges To Finding Summer Romance

A young couple on Sag Harbor's Long Wharf. Dating habits have been forced to change as a result of social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ben Parker photo

By Alec Giufurta

In Rihanna’s 2011 mega hit, “We Found Love,” the “hopeless place” in the song’s chorus certainly wasn’t referencing conditions like we find ourselves in today, nearly a decade later. Sans the packed bars, beachy night venues and dinnertime hot spots, finding love –– particularly young love –– on the East End this summer is taking new turns.

Do teens and twenty-somethings really find love in the East End’s nightclubs? That’s debatable. But in the new era of limiting our social interactions, while we’re stuck in that age bracket, finding love proves inherently challenging –– how are we (myself included, here) supposed to meet people when we’re simultaneously expected to be distanced?

On a recent late-night dog walk around Little Plains Road, I thought I found the answer. Through the thicket of privet, quaint dimly lit backyards filled with quiet laughs and small talk, small circles of friends and midnight cocktails around pools –– social life survived. But this was nothing new –– and were people meeting others in their own backyards?

As the days have grown longer, feelings fill our minds as the sultry dog days of summer turn to warming nights ripe for sequestered romance, and I find myself waiting with friends more and more for life to resume again.

But with the pivot to virtual life, I hedged my low bets in what most of my friends have dabbled in on the low for years: dating apps. In lieu of social opportunity, the Tinders, Hinges and Bumbles of this world have found an even-more prominent place in a flirtatious twenty-something’s Hamptons summer. I even reached out to a few of these sites to prove it. Globally, Bumble –– where women make the first move –– saw a 16 percent climb in messaging rates as the pandemic escalated, a Bumble representative wrote. In the U.S. alone, the number of video calls users made climbed 70 percent as social distancing set in. Tinder’s messaging rate, likewise, jumped 20 percent globally, a spokesperson wrote. And not only are conversation lengths increasing on the app –– by 25 percent –– but users increasingly are making their first move by asking “Are you okay?” And while my trials in the app have proved less effervescent (on Bumble, I was on the receiving end of “What’s your favorite conspiracy theory?” as a first message), I can’t help but ignore the success some of my friends have had this summer just by swiping right.

So while the summer may feel lost to some, maybe the “hopeless place” isn’t necessarily what we’re stuck in now; in fact, we may be shifting toward more intimate places.

Those More Intimate Spaces 

With our social interactions limited, here are a few favorite spots to kickback with a friend or two, or maybe even on a first date.

Wölffer Estate’s Wine Stand 

Take note: this summer, the stand is inviting guests by reservation only to maintain social distancing. But when you secure your spot, anticipate luxurious views of grapevines and a sunset vibe — the quintessential image for a first date.

The Southampton Publick House 

A little louder than Wolffer, but the Publick House is open late, making it ideal for after-dinner drinks. Their outdoor patio is particularly lively after dusk.

K Pasa’s Tiki Taco Deck

Hidden behind K Pasa’s Main Street storefront lies a newly constructed taco and tequila deck, featuring small picnic tables and phenomenal drinks in the heart of Sag Harbor. This spot is open until 10 p.m. daily, and should be an essential stop for any newfound lovers.