DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Longtime reader here. I’m a 24 year old male with limited dating experience who’s gotten dates here and there over the past few years and would like to think I’m getting better at them, though I’m still nervous about initiating physical contact, sex, etc. This is especially the case right now, as I currently am living with my parents, both of whom are immunocompromised. I am looking next year to move out to a different part of my state, but don’t have enough money yet saved up from my job to do so right now.
I had a date with a girl from Hinge at a local brewery that went really well yesterday, and of course afterward my jerk of a brain started going “Well if you go on more dates and become physically intimate, you’ll bring COVID back and accidentally kill both mom and dad”. It’s worth noting that my mom almost died from an acute liver failure a few years ago, so the level of guilt I would feel if something happened to her because of my reckless actions would be enormous.
There’s also the fact that both her and I live with our parents, so I wouldn’t even know where to go to be intimate right now.
I realize I’m getting waaay ahead of myself, as a time and place for a second date hasn’t yet been established (but she is open to it). I just feel this burden on my shoulders and want to do everything I can to protect those I care about while still staying sane (therapy has been a big help for me with the latter).
Do you have any tips or advice?
Want to Avoid Infection Terror
DEAR WANT TO AVOID INFECTION TERROR: The first rule of any anxiety-provoking situation is simple, WAIT: don’t borrow trouble from the future. When you get spun up about things that aren’t even on the table yet, you end up getting so worried about a theoretical future that you can’t appreciate the present. Never mind that you’re nowhere near the point that you have to worry about this; if you can’t relax and be in the moment, you won’t get there in the first place. So all you’ve done is stress yourself out of any potential happiness.
Now that being said, the answer is simple: vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. If you aren’t vaccinated already, then for the love of whatever gods you believe in go get your shots. Thus far, the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are all highly effective against the current strains of COVID, including the Delta variant. While the science is still out on whether boosters will be necessary in the future — particularly for the non mRNA vaccines — all of the vaccines available in the US provide not just high resistance to COVID but incredibly powerful protection against hospitalization and death. It’s telling that pretty much all of the deaths and new infections in the US are unvaccinated people; while there are some break-through infections, the numbers are a very small percentage of the total vaccinated population — well within the expected range.
All signs and science also indicate that folks who are vaccinated are functionally COVID-sterile; that is, it is very difficult to be an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. The science strongly indicates that uninfected carriers don’t spread the virus, and the odds of breakthrough infections — even with Delta — are very much in your favor; you’re in greater danger by getting in the car to go on your date.
Similarly, get your parents vaccinated, if they aren’t already. While there is still some question of the strength of the immune response in immunocompromised people, any increased resistance is better than none. The combination of your immunity and any partial immunity that your parents get from the vaccines means that you will have put significant barriers between you and any chance of infecting them.
By that same token, if you’re fully vaccinated — both shots, 14 days out from your second shot for maximum immunity — and your date (this woman or any other dates in the future) is also fully vaccinated, then you’re at greater risk of being eaten by a shark than bringing COVID home with you. Both you and your date are inhospitable hosts for the virus; if the virus can’t infect you, then you both are unlikely to be asymptomatic carriers. If you want to take a belt-and-suspenders approach to this, you can also make sure that you prioritize dates in open air or well-ventilated areas, avoid crowds and mask up when possible. This will help minimize the chances of exposure and reduce the likelihood of a breakthrough infection to virtually nil. While it’s still not absolute zero, you’ll have better odds of winning the Powerball.
It’s also worth remembering that all of life involves an element of risk; we just are comfortable with some risks over others. While all the available vaccines don’t offer 100% immunity to COVID, the odds of two vaccinated people contracting the disease and passing it on are far, far lower than the risk of being killed in a car crash… and yet we get in cars and drive every single day without thinking about it. We take what steps we can to mitigate and minimize those risks and then measure the potential risk vs. the reward. Most of the time — such as with driving — we decide that the reward is at least worth the risk. There are no guarantees in this world, so everyone has to decide just what level of risk they’re cool with. If you want to date, then getting your shots and only dating other fully vaccinated people is gonna be part of how you manage those risk levels.
And in the meantime, if you can’t be intimate at your place or your date’s, look into AirB&Bs or apps like HotelTonight. While you may not be able to be as spontaneous as you would be if you had your own place, you’ll still have access to places where you and your special lady can go and have yourselves a romantic evening together.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com