Podcast Explores Gray Love In The Time Of COVID

RESTON, VA — Building a relationship and dating during the coronavirus pandemic may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. That’s what Laura Stassi, host of the Dating While Gray podcast, thinks.

“It’s all about meeting people,” Stassi said. “You can find activities and events online, where you could potentially meet partners that way. I have interviewed people who have met neighbors for the first time, because everybody’s at home and everybody’s out at times of the day that they normally haven’t been.”

Although face masks and social distancing may make it trickier to strike up a conversation, that doesn’t mean people should stop trying.

“All of the tools that we used to have are still with us,” Stassi said. “We just need to think about using them more creatively. It doesn’t hurt to get on a dating site. And in fact, it’s probably even safer now, because you don’t have to worry about that pressure of meeting somebody quickly and perhaps getting too intimate too quickly. Your health is at risk. It’s been at risk before, but the point is just so much more obvious now with COVID.”

On Feb. 11, Stassi returns with the 10-episode second season of her podcast series, which focuses on dating among people over 50. This time around, she’s partnering WUNC, the public radio station based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Unlike last year, this entire season is remote,” Stassi said. “I’m doing everything from my recording studio here in my spare bedroom closet in Reston.”

Stassi uses the Zoom conferencing platform and her digital recorder to record conversations with people all over the country and then sends the audio file to WUNC to produce, assemble, and distribute.

“It’s great to be able to keep doing it,” she said. “I do miss the personal interactions, but I don’t think it’s impacted the show. At the very beginning of episode one, we say ‘This may sound a little different because we’re not using recording studios.’ But hopefully people will get used to what it sounds like. I don’t think it sounds too different.”

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how Dating While Gray is produced, it’s also altered how everyone, including Stassi’s target audience, is interacting and finding new relationships.

While people over 50 face many of the same challenges that everyone does when trying to date, they also face some different risks.

“Technically, we’re more at risk of getting sick from COVID,” Stassi said. “But a lot of the dating sites have started video features. There are virtual speed dating events. … People are really taking the time to get to know each other, which is a good thing. And at the same time, when they do decide to meet in person, sometimes relationships can grow very fast because they’re spending time talking virtually and getting to know each other.”

In one of the upcoming podcast episodes, Stassi interviews a relationship coach who told her that while the pandemic has certainly changed dating, it’s still possible to find love during the coronavirus.

“People are being safe,” Stassi said. “I have spoken with people who have met long-term partners. It was a matter of when they finally did decide to meet, they decided to quarantine and they took the COVID tests. Everyone has, very smartly, been very careful.”

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it may seem like a good time to pursue a new relationship. Stassi admits that she has a love/hate relationship with the holiday.

“On the one hand, I think it’s really sweet,” she said. “But on the other hand, I think there’s a lot of pressure surrounding Valentine’s Day. Whether you have a partner or you don’t, it feels like there’s an inauthenticity to Valentine’s Day.”

In how best to approach the holiday, Stassi deferred to the wisdom of one of her podcast guests.

“He finally decided he was going to get into relationships when he was ready and not because he was lonely,” she said. “I think a lot of us don’t make that distinction. I think all of us would be well to learn how to be great on our own.”

The second season of Dating While Gray debuts on Feb. 11. The first episode is entitled “Pandemic Love: Slow, Fast and Furious.”

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