The quarantine has proved that, even in the face of global crisis, people still love love. In New York, dating app usage has spiked. Traditional weddings have taken virtual turns. And we all remember that viral video of the Brooklyn man who wore a bubble-suit to take his neighbor on a date.
Jen Albanese, 30, from Crown Heights, is here for our love of love – so much she’s started her own matchmaking service via Facebook Video.
The comedian-slash-actor-slash-writer has spent her quarantine setting up single friends on the video conferencing app. Even though the show is temporarily on hiatus while she recovers from the coronavirus, it has attracted a handful of eligible suitors.
“The first date I set up went on a second video date! They are still talking, so I’d call that a success,” she said. Others are just relishing in the quarantine company. “A few dates seemed to just generally enjoy having someone to talk to and flirt with and distract them for a while.”
Below, Albanese walks us through how “Love is Jen” came to be and the advantages that come with looking for love in quarantine…
How did your matchmaking service get started?
To be honest, the matchmaking started fully as an attempt to set my friend up with their crush, who we both know.
They had a crush and I, having just turned 30, have no chill anymore.
So, I started posting on my Instagram that I was starting a virtual matchmaking service. Having been a big fan of “Love is Blind” I named my dating show “Love Is Jen,” which I loved because it makes almost absolutely no sense.
I started to get a ton of positive responses – people that wanted to sign up, a lot who just wanted to speculate. So, I was like, “Wow, I guess I’m doing this now.” I found it so funny that people were trusting me to do this for them. Mainly, it started as a bit, but grew into a free, earnest matchmaking service. Also, my friend’s crush has yet to sign up.
You’re a comedian – does this play a part in the matchmaking?
For sure. Most things I do are a joke. I prefer to live in a state of constant bits.
When I match couples, I make them write a reality TV show-style dating intro and read them at the top of their dates to introduce them. I think this was mainly funny for me, and mostly embarrassing for them.
I also give them a bunch of questions as conversation starters. Some are normal like, “What did you stock up for in the quarantine?” and “What is your earliest memory?” But most were nonsense like, “Bologna, good or bad?” and “Cats, dogs, or frogs?”
How do you match couples? And what are the dates like?
There are only two main criteria: Sexual preference and they aren’t allowed to know each other (although a few knew each other in passing).
Mainly I check that they’re not connected on social media. It gets hard when pulling from your own friend group.
I also try to set up people I feel would be good together, the vibes they give off and temperament. I feel like I generally have a good sense of these things, and I want my friends to be happy, so I try as hard as I can with the pool of people that sign up.
Once I set up a time [that] they are both available, I call them via video chat. It’s a fully blind date up until I connect them. I call, introduce them, read their cheesy dating intros and embarrass them a little, let them know that I’m hanging up, and the rest is up to them.
I usually monitor how long they’re on the call for, and most have gone around an hour, some longer.
It’s hard because who knows when the quarantine and this pandemic will be over and when they can actually meet. So, I think it just depends on everyone’s personalities if it continues or not. I know of at least one other couple that decided to set up a date for after the quarantine but not to date “virtually.”
What do you think about dating in quarantine?
I think we’ve entered an alternate reality, in many ways. I think there are positives and negatives to being single at this time. I think this quarantine has genuinely brought people together – never have I ever had friends want to talk to me so often. At every hour of the day, someone somewhere wants to video chat.
I think this is good for dating; it’s making people more open. From what I’ve gathered, people want to talk more. It’s a vulnerable and terrifying time.
I think everyone is craving human connection in any form right now. I think it’s hard to not be able to meet in person, but I feel that people who are meeting now, in whatever ways, are connecting on a deeper level now that meeting to hook up is not an option, and “ghosting” isn’t as easy to pull off – we know where you are (in your bed).
My final answer would be a global pandemic is bad, but it’s potentially helping people form deeper connections in new ways. The main advantage [is a] deeper connection before meeting someone. Disadvantages — you genuinely don’t know when you can see someone again, or ever, and this takes out the physical aspect of a relationship, which is pretty tragic. What if they don’t kiss good? I’d be sad.
What is your ~relationship status~?
I myself am in a relationship. We had been dating for four months when the quarantine started and now, we essentially live together.
The quarantine has sped everything up. He moved in along with his cat about 3 weeks ago, when my roommates fled the city, and now we spend every waking moment together with the 4 cats total in my apartment. We essentially run an apocalyptic cat zoo.
I think being quarantined with someone has many challenges for an introvert who loves alone time, like myself. There are ups and downs, and it really tests a relationship, so communication is very important right now. It’s crazy because in no other situation would we be in such close quarters with nowhere else to go. But it’s also nice to have someone to share this experience with as our brains melt out of our heads.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m thinking of starting an online dating service for cats next. Thoughts?
Want to find love in quarantine? Follow @jenalbs on Instagram to sign up for your own virtual date.