“Older white male here,” the ad on Craigslist begins. “This is getting crazy out there. I’d love to bunker down with a thick, curvy, hippie woman. Someone soft to the touch and pretty.”
“Ain’t no sunshine in quarantine,” reads the title of another ad, posted by a “6’4,” fit, very well educated man” in Queens. “What the hell. It has gotten that bad so here I am... Honestly would typically never do this but based on circumstances here I am… Let’s chat.”
New York City, the deadly epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, is three weeks into a strict lockdown and, for many singles, it’s three weeks too long. Boredom, loneliness, anxiety, and horniness have prompted New Yorkers to embark on an urgent hunt for a quarantine bae, a partner they can hunker down with in their tiny apartment until the madness subsides.
“I call it coronavirus cuffing season,” relationship expert Susan Winter said. “It has been so apparent to me this is like 4 a.m. in the bar and you’ve gotta grab whatever you can. People are supremely lonely and scared, and they need to feel a sense of closeness and connection.”
Craigslist, usually a cluttered minefield of rental scams and dick pics, has become a bulletin board for coronavirus heartache. The personal ads have taken on a different tone; they’re sentimental, panicked, sad, and tender, like a snapshot of the nation’s emotional fragility. Posters are looking for virus-free love, “socially distant fun” or a quarantine “cuddle buddy” to see out the end of days.
“Looks like time has run out and I don't want to face the end alone. This social isolation is killing me and I know it’s killing you too,” one ad says.
“I’m afraid that love may be dead and I want to meet someone who isn’t afraid of the pandemic,” says another, posted by a 5-foot-10, toned Colombian man in Queens, who describes himself as an old soul Gemini Sun/Sagittarius Moon who values stimulating conversation, old black and white films, and street photography.
A DoorDash driver on Long Island—Latin male, in his thirties, with great conversation—seeks a woman to keep him company as he works overtime delivering takeout food. A 26-year-old stay-at-home mom in East Harlem, who likes cooking and is learning to crochet, wants a “quarantine hubby, 50+” who can chat “day and night, about anything and everything.”
The ads span all sexual and gender identities. A “37-year-old female, fit, educated, sane and safe” seeks someone to “potentially explore [with] in these tense times.” An East Flatbush man stuck at home for three weeks craves “a COVID free dude for some mutual fun.”
Chris, a project manager in his forties who asked for his surname to be withheld for privacy, posted an ad looking for a woman to hunker down with him, rent-free, in his four-bedroom East Hampton pad in exchange for company, the odd cooked meal, and a spliff in front of the fire. He told The Daily Beast he’d never posted on Craigslist before but did it “I guess out of desperation.”
“My anxiety levels are up, boredom levels are up, I just feel stagnant and unsure of the future and I want a companion, somebody to hang out with,” he said. “It’s obviously strange to do that but extreme times call for extreme measures.” He’d received six responses in five days, including one promising candidate he hoped to vet over Zoom.
Richard Szetela, a 63-year-old semi-retired medical transport driver, posted an ad for a quarantine girlfriend looking to escape “the fears, pressure and stress of NYC quarantine” at his waterfront home in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
“I’m not terribly lonely or desperately horny,” he told The Daily Beast, adding that he was simply curious to see what might materialize. Asked if he was worried that a potential suitor might bring coronavirus into his home, he said: “Depending on the girl, I’d take a chance.”
There are obvious health risks involved in landing a quarantine bae. The New York City Health Department says it’s still unclear if COVID-19 transmits through sex, but it can definitely transmit through kissing and other close contact with an infected person.
“You should avoid close contact—including sex—with anyone outside your household,” their coronavirus advice states. Those looking to meet a partner online should consider alternatives to in-person dates, like video dates, sexting or chat rooms, the department suggests. “If you do have sex with others, have as few partners as possible,” the advice goes.
Some love seekers on Craigslist seem well aware of the risks. One 70-year-old man assured potential partners that he tested himself twice a day with a thermometer and would do the same to any new beau.
Many have suggested meeting online first, like a man from the aptly named Queens neighborhood of Corona. “Remote fun in the time of plague,” he titled his call-out for a Skype-based courtship. “One has to adapt in dangerous times.”
Winter, author of Older Women/Younger Men and Breakup Triage, said quarantine relationships have the strange dichotomy of being both rapid and elongated. People are quickly trying to find someone and then having what seems like endless amounts of time to spend with them. But it can be a healthy pursuit if the relationship is built slowly, perhaps online first.
“One percent of couples who get together out of need and desperation right now will stay together after this,” Winter said.
Mark, a self-employed accountant looking for a quarantine girlfriend, said he posted a similar ad seeking “emotional support” after Hurricane Sandy and connected with a woman from Texas who’d recently relocated to New York. “We kind of helped each out. We did a lot of fun stuff together—tennis, long walks, jogging, bowling, dining out,” he said. Even after she moved back to Texas, they remained friends.
Now, he’s looking for a woman who might be out of work due to coronavirus, who would help clean, cook, run errands and do exercise in exchange for financial support. “This can be a win/win situation,” he posted.
Sammy, an East Harlem mom searching for a “quarantine hubby, 50+,” said she’d been bombarded with replies from thirsty men but she was actually happily married and just wanted to talk to someone new. Her kids are home from school and her schedule is “all out of whack.”
“Maybe you are a dad, we can have the kids have a play date when all this is over,” her ad read. “Do you cook? Can you shear [sic] a meal idea with me?”
She has an “an array of feelings right now,” she told The Daily Beast. “Lonely, bored, anxious, nervous, everything. I’m just trying to find something to keep me busy, to get that variety of talking to different people.”
Winters said the pandemic was forcing people to slow down, and affording us time to connect with others in a genuine, non-physical way.
“It’s a beautiful thing that is happening out of a tragic, horrific thing,” she said. “Many people are having to slow their pace, to rethink how they've been acting, and it’s allowing people to get to know each other.”