Photo by Brad Berkstresser.

They say romance is dead.

Perhaps I took that phrase too literally when I chose Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville as my Covid dating spot. But with 300 acres to explore, I figured it’d be easy to maintain six feet of separation from people both living and deceased.

A lot of other singles had the same idea, and together spaced far apart, we respectfully made the massive graveyard one lively place.

Photo by Kristy Locklin.

After chatting on the Bumble app, my various dates and I picnicked in the shade of mausoleums and shared takeout amid tombstones. For a history nerd like me, the place is heavenly. We strolled around the grounds, marveling at statues, reading timeworn epitaphs and enjoying the site’s natural beauty. We even visited my ancestors (the Gravers!), who are buried in Section 5. There, in that still, silent place, I listened to my heart.

While I didn’t make an initial love connection there — my current girlfriend and I bonded over beers on her front porch — all that time spent in the cemetery helped me appreciate life more.

Covid can’t stop Cupid, as evidenced by other women (no guys responded to my request for information) who were happy to share their pandemic dating experiences with me, even if the cherub’s arrow missed its intended target.

Nisha Contractor and Justin Plansinis met on Bumble and had their first date on March 14, roughly 48 hours before the first lockdown. They spent the next six-and-a-half weeks rendezvousing over FaceTime.

“It sounded like an odd and awkward idea at first, but the more time we spent one-on-one on the phone, the more we got to know each other on a deeper level,” Contractor says. “It wasn’t like the usual dating trajectory of bars, restaurants, movies and group outings. It was just him and I, truly connecting.”

The couple’s still going strong.

Stacy Skiavo had a few cringeworthy FaceTime dates but eventually found love while discussing her IRA plan.

Like so many people, she was laid off from her job last March and, after viewing every Netflix series, landed a new one in July. To prepare for her new income, she scheduled a phone meeting with a financial advisor.

That call turned into another, which resulted in a coffee meetup that led to a casual happy hour to sign some paperwork. Turns out, their romance was written in the stars.

In addition to a steadily growing IRA, Skiavo found happiness.

“I gained a man who I care about and a man that cares about me,” she says, “and that, my friends, is priceless.”

Marissa Vogel is still waiting to hit the dating jackpot.

Although she’s had a few promising masked meetups over the last year, including a drive-in double feature, she thinks the current love landscape looks like something out of a horror movie. There were awkward kiss attempts and one guy showed up to a date in his pajamas.

“People are going through so many personal changes, career shifts, family hardships and social alterations that it’s hard to find the resilience to throw your hat in the relationship ring,” she says.

When the sweltering summer heat made dog walking engagements a drag, she decided to give virtual dating a whirl in the comfort of her air-conditioned home, but those interactions felt too much like business meetings. She found promising suitors on dating sites such as Bumble and Hinge; unfortunately, the IRL versions did meet expectations.

Vogel hopes to find a connection the old-fashioned way. I’ve deleted my Hinge and am trying out ways to make eye contact or flirt through my masked, scarved, puff-jacketed being,” she says.

For a self-described introvert like Sarah Schreck, the stay-at-home order was a godsend … at first.

Alone in her one-bedroom apartment, she listened to podcasts in an attempt to feel some sort of human presence.

Begrudgingly, she signed up for several dating apps. She was about to swipe left on a guy, but, after reading his bio in which he professed his love for cartoons, had second thoughts.

Eventually, she felt adventurous enough to meet him on Con Alma’s patio in Shadyside, making it just her third dining experience of 2020 that wasn’t held in her own kitchen.

“I wanted the first thing I noticed about him to be his eyes or his smile, but his mask made his ears stick out just a little bit, in a way that I found undefinably charming,” she says. “As we chatted our way to our table, it was clear how quickly the night would pass. When our food arrived, the mask removal process was not unlike an episode of ‘Scooby-Doo,’ but instead of revealing Mr. Jenkins with a real estate scheme, we each revealed a captivated 20-something with a big, goofy grin.”

Schreck, who recently completed Carnegie Mellon University’s Master of Arts Management program, and her date, a graduate of the school’s Entertainment Technology Center, talked about everything from philosophy to cartoon voice actors. Starved for attention, they barely touched their food.

“We quickly became the main fixtures of each others’ bubbles, working the days away in pleasant company,” she says. “But now, many months later, I have been quarantining again, alone in my apartment, for the express purpose of meeting his family. It feels almost selfish to see a silver lining to the worst year of many lifetimes, but I can’t escape the gratitude of this little serendipity, that our paths crossed at all.”

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.