Under the Sun

Phoenix Is a Great Place to Pandemic-Date, Allegedly

Phoenix Is a Great Place to Pandemic-Date, Allegedly
Iryna Veklich/Moment/Getty Images

It turns out Phoenix isn’t the worst place to score a date during a murderous pandemic. A new report called Best Metros for Pandemic Dating placed Phoenix as the 19th nicest place to not hold hands or kiss.

“Metro” is a fun new word for “city,” according to Olyvia Ruhlmann, a content and media associate at the online rental marketplace Apartment List, which created the report.

“We take a personalized approach to renting,” Ruhlmann explained last week from San Francisco. “We ask a lot of questions like, ‘Do you want to be close to work, how important is nightlife, do you need a park for your dog?’ Then we give you a list of matches, and you can swipe left or right, like a dating app. It’s a very millennial approach to renting.”

Ruhlmann admitted that a lot of the stuff her company asked about was irrelevant these days, like living close to work when everyone was working from home, or whether nightlife mattered when clubs could be COVID-infected.

“But we 100 percent care about dating during this strange time,” she insisted. “You can’t approach an attractive stranger on the street because you don’t want to touch them!”

She and a pair of colleagues assembled their report using census data and information from 20,000 renters in 40 different cities, who weighed in about the COVID-era romance potential in their “metro.” Austin, Texas, took top honors as the best city for pandemic dating, followed by Boston and Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Valley of the Sun singles testified to a measly 23 percent satisfaction with local dating opportunities. Ruhlmann thought Phoenix might have ranked higher were it not for our nearly yearlong summers. “Sometimes there’s such a thing as too hot,” she said. “Those sweltering Julys are what hurt you. It’s hard to think romantically during a pandemic when you can’t go outside. But No. 19 still puts Phoenix in the top half of the list!”

Ruhlmann understood some people thought it was a crummy idea to promote dating of any kind during a pandemic. “I know, it’s not even safe to hug a family member, let alone a stranger you met on an app. But the reality is that human beings need a connection, especially in times like these. They’re going to date one another anyway.”

She’d heard that people were being more thoughtful about jumping into the sack right away these days. “The first kiss is getting delayed,” she said. “People are asking on the first date if the other person plans to be exclusive. The virus has made the commitment conversation less murky.”

Yet it was crystal-clear why Cleveland, which ranked at No. 39, was such a lousy place to score a date during a virus outbreak.

“You know, I’ve been to Cleveland once or twice,” Ruhlmann confided, “and I think their bad score is a combination of the weather and the fact that they’re land-locked.”

She paused. “Wait. Is Cleveland land-locked? I think it is. Either way, coronavirus has changed a lot of things, but unfortunately not the dating scene in Cleveland.”

Ruhlmann admitted that although she remained impartial while she worked on the study, she’d been rooting for her new hometown.

“I love San Francisco, and I was surprised we didn’t do better than No. 15. You can be outside all the time. I’ve loved living here for the pandemic. San Francisco is the best city to be in for a pandemic. Not just for dating.”

Regardless of where you lived, now was as good a time as any to meet a new romantic partner, she advised.

“Get out there on the apps. It’s scary at first, and you can’t really be intimate until there’s a vaccine, but we’ll get there.”

She stopped for a sharp breath.

“Wait!” she exclaimed. “Cleveland can’t be landlocked. It’s on Lake Erie.”
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela