The Curious History Of Dating In Pandemics

Think dating now is hard? Try doing it in 1918.


Isolation and loneliness have become buzzwords this year. From lockdowns to working from home, meeting someone in the real world (or maintaining a relationship) has been harder than ever. Don’t fret too much though! It could be worse, you could be navigating love and sex during the 1918 Spanish flu. 

From 1918 to 1920 it’s estimated 50 million died (with 676,000 in the US) due to a H1N1 virus. For you Twilight fans, think of the scene where Edward becomes a vampire – that’s the era we are talking about.  Though this was a mere 100 years ago, everyone back then faced the same issues as we are now.  


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Headlines such as “Kissing Is Barred While Influenza Is Lurking About” (Tombstone Epitaph, 1918) relate directly to our own pandemic, this isn’t the first time social distancing has ever happened. Cities even went as far as declaring kissing bans to stop the spread of the virus, however, at the time PDA was pretty taboo anyway so this may not have been so revolutionary. This ban linked directly to soldiers returning from war, they were thought to carry the virus with them. 

As expected, not all singles played by the rules. There was an ‘anti-kissing’ statute in Cincinnati that was ‘widely ignored by the city’s mayor, who turned a blind eye to affection when 800 soldiers returned to Ohio after WW1.’ This may sound familiar, as we all know at least one person who has ditched distancing for that ever-elusive date night. Date nights were replaced with influxes of ads in the classified sections of local papers describing who they were and who they were looking for.  Think vintage tinder bios without the swiping. The one takeaway from looking back to dating in 1918 is realizing that while dating apps usually suck, at least we have them. You’d rather have a few swipes than sending a personal ad to the paper your Gran reads! 


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Up Next, Are You Really Ready to Date Again?