Love in the Time of COVID-19 – Awkward First Dates Two Years after Lockdown.

By Dr. Helen Marshall and Associate Professor Kim Wilkins

WISH YOU WERE HERE! Postcards from future Queensland is a community outreach project that encourages young Queenslanders to imagine the COVID-19 crisis as a turning point on the way to a better future world. Over the past six weeks we have invited students from primary schools, high school and universities across the state to imagine the future after lockdown. What technologies will we invent to help us? What will our daily lives look like as we get further away from the crisis?

In our third challenge, we wanted you to write about a conversation during a first date two years after the lockdown. This was a tricky one! Kim suggested you think about the background of the speakers. Who are they? How are they different from one another? How might this inform their perspective? The stories you sent us showed a world where your potential sweethearts had radically different experiences of lockdown. Some wanted to take what they had learned and move forward while others were eager for things to get back to normal.

Even the rituals of first date felt different. Who felt comfortable hugging? What venues were open? Was a first kiss on the cards? Or will we be stuck in virtual hangouts for years? Shae, a university student from St. Lucia, focused on a newfound solidarity between women:

"All I remember about the lockdown was being out of baking powder for a month because everyone suddenly needed to be Nigella. Can’t even remember what I watched on Netflix.”

“Ha! God, I do. Locked in for ten weeks, homeschooling a pre-teen and a kid with ADHD. It’s burned into my soul. It’s a point-in-time marker for me, in so many ways.”

“Why’s that?”

Ah…well, because, I mostly just stopped caring what men think. Morrison, Johnson, Trump, they were worse than useless. Their stupidity, the system that upheld them, killed so many people.”

“True, but what’s that got to do with men? They’re politicians, well, they were.”

“The political system is so masculine, so adversarial. The loudest, most polarizing, wins.”

“It still is, isn’t it?”

“Yes, yes. Of course, yes. But, I think women have changed. Are changing. All that Epstein and Weinstein and Trump stuff was still going on and when it really hit the fan, women started looking at all the ways they were complicit and didn’t need to be anymore to survive. We really could say ‘no more’.”

“That’s funny.”


“Because, men still don’t care if we’re listening or not.”

“Hashtag, notallmen?”

“Is that ever going to die?”

“Ha! Probably not. I don’t think it matters. Women are listening to each other, only good can come of that.”

But more often than not your valentines sadly weren’t destined for love—or even a second date! Ruby, a grade eight student from Kenmore, showed how these differences in experiences and expectations could make it difficult to really connect:

I make my way through the restaurant to the booked table but my date is already here. I'm relieved he actually looks like his picture since tinder is so unreliable.

"G'day Emma!" His voice overpowers the restaurant din by at least ten decibels. Before I can respond, he sweeps me into a tight hug. So much for boundaries.

"Uh- Hi, I'm guessing you're Mark?" I respond.

"The one and only." It was hard to tell if he was being cocky or just himself. Either way, his loud voice was causing many people to stare. In Tasmania, the locals are used to quiet but Australians on the mainland are the complete opposite.

"I'm so glad we can finally travel without worrying." Mark jolts me out of my thoughts.

"Yes, it is good. Especially since all aeroplanes use green energy now." Finally, I had started a conversation.

"Oh, I didn't think you had them over here," Mark was definitely cocky,

"How do they work?"

"Well, they use the high pressure of air around the plane as fuel."

"Wow, I guess the pandemic did have some good outcomes." He practically shouted. I rolled my eyes; this was going to be a long night.

Poor Emma! She wasn’t the only one who wished she’d never raised the subject. You can read our favourite submissions exploring the awkward post COVID-19 first dates following our third challenge.

Remember, you can still join our project or incorporate it into your own classroom. We have just released a new writing lesson exploring the future three years after the end of lockdown as we invite you to imagine a first date in this strange, new world! Just visit our website so you can learn how to write your own story of a better, future Queensland.

WISH YOU WERE HERE! Postcards from future Queensland is an initiative run by The University of Queensland, with support from UQ's School of Communication and Arts, Centre for Critical and Creative Writing, AustLit and Corella Press.

Last updated:
4 June 2020