Welcome to Love Lockdown: a weekly column about how people are navigating romantic relationships in the time of coronavirus.
It’s been four years since my ex and I broke up, and I’ve been single ever since. And while finding a replacement wasn’t first on my to-do list, I had decided that 2020 was my year.
Like many chronically single millennials, I spend the evenings swiping my way through the thousands of potential partners on Hinge. It’s a stressful enough hobby to give me RSI in my left thumb but it has paid off because in late February, in a sweet twist of fate, I found The Love Of My Life.
I matched with David*, a tanned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed man whose profile read: “If you found a suitcase full of money, and your phone number was the amount you found, how much would you have.” If there was a perfect moment to shoot my shot, this was it. “This tickled me,” I typed while giggling to myself, and gave him my phone number. I waited in anticipation. David invited you to start the chat. I threw my phone across the room and screamed.
“Hey, I’m glad you got the joke haha,” he said the next day on WhatsApp, his number pinging up on my phone. I showed his photo to my friends, who said he looked like a Tory. But once we started chatting, he proved to be the complete opposite: handsome, great hair and big enough to give a good hug but without the damaging political baggage. For weeks we rallied back and forth, discussing our love for wine (important), food (most important) and neo-expressionist art (who are we?). We bonded over our disdain for wealthy elites and mulled over our plans to support and donate to local food banks and charities during the coronavirus pandemic. Our connection was evident and we agreed to a date the following weekend.
However, my dreams of finding The One were soon thwarted. My mother got sick with COVID-19 so I had to cancel our date as my family was forced to go into quarantine. Worse, the UK announced its lockdown a few days later, which put paid to my extensive plans of lipsing boys all summer. Social distancing meant no more holding sweaty hands, no more dinner dates and – gasp – no more romping into the early hours. I was doomed.
David and I arranged to reschedule the date for when everything ‘went back to normal’ (this was 12 weeks ago, when we still thought that ‘normal’ was something we’d go back to). But then I got sick and we lost contact. I got cock-blocked by coronavirus.
Two months later, when I had recovered from coronavirus and all the novelty of lockdown had worn off, I got a text. It was David wanting to reconnect. Only this time the mood was solemn. The brutal murder of George Floyd had shaken the world and forced everyone to engage in difficult conversations about race and the events that followed: protests, riots and the anti-Black rhetoric which came seeping out of far-right circles and world leaders. “How are you holding up?” he asked. I told him how much the news cycle was affecting me emotionally. “These protests and riots are so important,” he wrote. “Revolution is important. Enough is enough. We need a brighter future for the future generations so they are rid of all this pain and suffering.” David told me he was keen to join the Black Lives Matter protests that weekend in London and I mentioned I would be going too. “I’d love to see you there,” he said.
Thousands of activists had planned to flock to London to protest against racism, oppression and inequality, and I felt it was my duty to show up and use my voice for good. Being a Black British woman, I wasn’t just protesting for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. I wanted to demand justice and freedom for my Black brothers and sisters all over the world. In the UK, we may not have police officers shooting Black men in the street as they do in the US but the racism we face is subtle and done through thinly veiled smiles, microaggressions and lack of opportunities. I wanted to fight the systemic racism and white supremacy that has tarnished this country. My parents passed the baton to me as the next generation to demand change, and I had made it my goal to do that for my children.
Despite attending the protest with my family and some of my friends, I had decided to find David. “Send me your location,” he wrote on WhatsApp. “I’ll look out for your sign.” I lifted my arms in the air and waved my sign, which read “That’s not a chip on my shoulder. It’s 400 years of oppression and racial injustice,” written in a bold mix of black and red and approved by my parents. I meant business.
I walked through the crowd, wading through a sea of bodies, my eyes frantically searching for his face with only a Hinge photo as reference. He texted me his Google Maps pin. As his location edged closer on my phone, I spotted his big, blue eyes in the crowd and his sign above his head. Be still my beating heart. We locked eyes. I smiled behind my mask. We walked towards each other and – yes, I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic – we embraced. He asked me how my day was going but I forgot to answer him. Together we turned to face the speakers and chanted “Black Lives Matter” in unison with our signs in the air. Fists punching the sky. David went to the protest alone and told me he wanted to learn more about Black history. His willingness to educate himself impressed me; hearing him talk about wanting to check his privilege was something I had rarely heard from other white men I’d dated.
It felt wildly inappropriate that this anti-racist, political protest had transformed itself into a film-worthy date. It was like the swirl-version of Queen & Slim: the Black woman fighting for justice with her white boyfriend by her side, ready to take on the world. And yes, I know I’m getting ahead of myself. But I live in hope – and I’m glad I do.
Together we stood in the middle of Parliament Square among the hundreds of protesters and listened to young Black men and women take turns to deliver their speeches as the crowd shouted back “yeah” in unison. One woman with a red bandana on her head, who stood with her fist in the air and the mic in her other hand, said with unmatched passion that she wanted Black men and women to be heard. “If someone tells you, ‘I have experienced racism at school or at work’, don’t look at them and laugh. Listen to them,” she shouted. “Listen!” Her speech was met with cheers, chants and nods of solidarity from people of all backgrounds who stood shoulder to shoulder, all wanting the same thing. I looked up and spotted a sign which echoed David’s passion towards the cause: “I’m not Black, but I see you. I’m not Black, but I hear you. I’m not Black but I stand with you.” He stood by me that day.
After we said our goodbyes and I returned to my lockdown home, my phone pinged. “It was so nice meeting you. Let me know when you’re free, I’d love to go to the park with you and get to know you more.” My heart skipped a beat as my mind started to imagine how amazing our wedding would be. “Yes, absolutely. Funny circumstances, eh?” I wrote back nonchalantly. “I’m actually really happy we met at the protest,” he responded instantly.
I grinned. I was happy too, it was perfect.
*Not his real name
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