Now that Labor Day has come and gone, New Yorkers are desperately seeking someone — anyone — to Netflix and chill with.
“I’m getting anxious thinking, ‘Winter is coming and you’re still single,’ ” Ryan Higgins, 29, a former hospitality worker who’s about to start graduate school, told The Post.
Once the pandemic hit, Higgins’ roommate moved out of their Astoria apartment.
“I was alone for two months straight,” he said, noting he initially enjoyed the me time, “but this is no longer cute.” Now, Higgins is eager to find a COVID cling.
Cuffing season — that time of year when singles seek out someone to shack up with during the cold months — usually kicks off in November, but this year it’s starting early, as freaked-out singles worry about another spike of coronavirus infections.
“I’ve had an uptick in inquiries for sure,” said Emma Vernon, a Manhattan-based millennial matchmaker. “A lot of people have reached their breaking point with isolation.”
When COVID case numbers began rising in New York in March, swipers began their search for a lockdown bae on Craigslist, over FaceTime and even via reality-TV-style dating shows held on Instagram. Warm weather brought a relative return to normalcy, with outdoor dining and walks in the park offering safe, al fresco dating options. But this new change in seasons heralds a return to nights spent eating takeout in front of the tube — a prospect many fear doing alone.
Higgins said he’s been on dating apps a lot more than usual, even if he is going on fewer dates, since many singles aren’t looking to commit during COVID — “You realize it’s all going nowhere,” he said of his online encounters.
And so he’s also hitting up old neighborhood flings, and said an ideal cuff is someone who will want to take trips out of the city. “I want someone who wants to go hiking and skiing,” he said. He’s also willing to bake.
Higgins has perfected his chocolate-chip-cookie recipe, and currently keeps pre-cut dough in the freezer. “I take one or two out every night to put in the oven,” he said. “I want someone who I can make a whole batch of cookies for and we can just eat all 10 or 12 at one time.”
Sarah Pentecost, a 26-year-old marketing coordinator, will settle for a cuddle buddy.
“I feel pressure to find that person to spend time with,” said the Richmond, Va., resident. She scans for potential cuffing partners while walking her dog, and on her morning coffee runs to Starbucks, where someone recently made a move.
“We ate Thai food and he helped me move a couch the other day,” she said of the low-key meet-up.
She jokes that her suitor’s “application is pending” for the cuffing season. Still, “a handy person would be great,” she said, noting she just moved into a new apartment.
Some crave handsier partners.
Melissa, a personal chef who lives in Inwood and declined to give her last name for privacy reasons, is at higher risk for COVID-19 due to a chronic illness. But that hasn’t stopped the 37-year-old — who identifies as “ethically nonmonogamous” — from wanting to find a cold-weather connection.
“I’m interested in people who have partners that they live with,” said Melissa, who recently planned her first in-person date of the past six months, and made sure to video chat with him and his wife before the meet-up.
“If things go well, I’d love to just deal with this one guy in person, maskless, until this thing is over or I get a vaccine,” she said. “I can’t just sit alone with my plants and my cats.”
Still, meeting a potential cuffing partner has never been more challenging.
“This is the scariest dating has ever been,” said Vernon. “Dating can potentially kill you or a loved one. The stakes have never been higher.”
To the long list of dating deal-breakers you can now add COVID-related turnoffs such as showing up sans mask or meeting up indoors.
“There’s still a taboo-ness [to dating right now]. Some people will say, ‘Let’s go get drinks tomorrow,’ and another will say, ‘Let’s have a socially distant picnic in the park two Sundays from now,’ ” said Higgins, who considers himself COVID-safe but not excessively stringent about distancing. “There’s this weird middle ground we have to get to.”
But for Higgins, it’s a fine line that’s worth navigating.
“If I don’t have someone to cook for during this winter,” he said, “I’m going to come out looking like a bear that just went into hibernation.”
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