We swiped right 3.5 years ago and the rest is history (although if you’re our family reading this, we were set up by friends on a blind date because meeting strangers on internet dating apps is dangerous and we’d never do that). And in those three and a half years we’ve been dating, we’ve now spent over a year apart.
Matt and I compliment each other in lots of ways: he’s the steady to my 100 miles an hour, and I’m the spontaneity to his planning. I come up with the dad jokes, he laughs at them; he tries new recipes, and I finish the food (even though sometimes he forgets to add the cornflour to water before adding it to stew and it gets lumpy).
We used to live together but realised it wasn’t the right time for us, so I moved back out. A month before lockdown started, we’d just come back from our longest holiday together – a two-week road trip around California. We never saw it coming: we even spent the weekend before restrictions were announced back in March 2020 without seeing each other. We went for our separate millennial brunches – I had the Baked Eggs at Caravan if you’re interested. As with many couples, many snap decisions were made when lockdown was announced: we decided that he would stay at his flat so he could continue to be close to his parents, and I would stay at my family home so my mum wouldn’t be alone. With that, it was nearly three months before we finally saw each other again, and to date we’ve spent nearly a year apart other than meeting up once a month for a walk when there are no lockdown restrictions.
Inspired by “We’re Not Really Strangers”, I interviewed him over Zoom to talk about how the last year has actually been for both of us.
What have you missed in this lockdown?
Queenie: If the answer is not me, I don’t want to hear it.
Matt: Of course I’ve missed you. We’re going to come up to 4 years together this year, and we’d have spent a year apart. I miss going out on dates together and exploring new food together whether it’s in restaurants or recipes at home: one of the biggest takeaways (no pun intended) from our relationship is how much you’ve opened my eyes to food and the culture around it. I also miss us catching up at the end of the day and talking about how our days were, whereas now our days are all pretty much the same.
Queenie: I miss YOU cooking, and me falling asleep on the sofa while you did the cooking and cleaning up after that. You picked up a new hobby of cooking throughout lockdown, so at least you get to try everything and make sure you season it now before you cook them for me when all restrictions are lifted. I do miss travelling too – I haven’t left London at all and since most of my family is overseas, not being able to see them has been difficult. But of course it’s also been starkly clear the privilege that we both have before, during, and definitely after this pandemic too.
Short break as my mum came in to say hi to Matt as she heard his voice and absolutely loves him.
How has this pandemic changed you?
Matt: We’ve of course been very lucky this pandemic that we could stay home and be safe when many others couldn’t and there has been so much individual and collective loss. It’s really forced me to stop and think about how I used to just go through the motions and thought as long as I had a “good” job that’s what mattered most. But really, as grateful as I am that I could work from home this entire period, work isn’t the be all end all of everything. I think when we go back to what we knew as normal before, I really want to show how grateful I am for the people and things that matter most to me.
Queenie: For me, it’s been an odd dichotomy of being very isolated physically of course, but also finding a huge online community. I know you’ve been really confused when I start talking about some of my friends and forget that you’ve never met them before. And of course starting a public account has actually really made me be really protective of what and how much I share online. It’s made me realise that online connections, as powerful as they can be, are no substitute for in person connections.
Matt: Absolutely – it takes away so much depth of how we communicate with each other too. You’ve had to go through so much this year, and the only way to reach you is via phone when often that’s precisely when you don’t want to talk, and just need someone to be there for you, but I can’t just hop on the tube to you.
How has this pandemic changed us?
Matt: I think it’s clearer to me that the world looks at us differently.
Queenie: As in that we’re a bi-racial couple?
Matt: Yes – it’s always something that we subconsciously knew, especially when we travel in Asia or especially in some smaller towns we drove through in America.
Queenie: I agree that the reality of us being a bi-racial couple is definitely one that’s more pronounced since the pandemic, but in the sense that it’s something that you are now consciously aware of because it’s something I’ve been hyper aware of ever since our first date. It’s my reality every time we go out, even in London.
Matt: You’re right, I think that’s definitely something that I’ve come to realise, but you’ve always had to face. A lot of what you say both in public and in private has really made me confront who I am and how the world sees me. I’m of course utterly embarrassed that it’s taken me so long to acknowledge it since compared to what you face, I’ve pretty much always been easy and comfortable with how the world sees me.
But at the same time while I’ve been here uncomfortable, I’ve been so proud of how you have flourished this year. Your authenticity is one of the things about you that I love the most, and I’m inspired seeing you share your voice with the world this year, and making change in so many people’s lives. I’m proud of how you inspire others to be brave, but I’m also conscious that you may have felt that you faced a lot of this alone the last few years and I hope that what I’ve learnt this year will help me be a better partner for you.
Queenie: You acknowledging that to me is really an indication of how we’ve changed together. It’s been tough as we’ve had to celebrate highs and grieve loss individually and in many ways, our relationship has been put on pause and you might even say ‘regressed’ (but stages of relationships are just an arbitrary construct). But at the same time, we’ve both had to examine who we are individually and whether we still work together and that’s been really important in contributing to the fact that we’re still a team together. Granted every time we meet up nowadays, it’s always a little bit awkward and we get into a small argument before we recalibrate how to communicate with each other face to face, and we’re okay again. I’m not sure if I’m answering the question, but the pandemic has changed us individually but not us as a team.
Matt: You never answer the question when I ask you what you want for dinner anyway.
My internet then “cut out”, which has been a brilliant part of communicating via the Internet and he can’t follow me to the next room to continue bugging me about what I want for dinner. Which of course, the answer is always I don’t know, but whatever you pick will still be wrong. But with the way lockdown is easing, we might have the opportunity to have dinner soon so I better start deciding…