WTF is ‘hesidating’?

The hangover of the pandemic is supposedly making us a lot more cautious when it comes to love and sex.

by Roisin Lanigan
17 May 2022, 11:52am

This is now the second consecutive year that we, collectively, have promised ourselves a ‘hot girl summer’ and the second consecutive year that the pandemic has put a damper on that promise (fourth year overall of the Hot Girl Summer era). No, wait, don't panic, there’s not some new vaccine-resistant variant coming to send us all back into the depressive spiral days of 2020. Not yet at least. Allegedly though, this pandemic holdover is still having a big effect on our dating, love and sex lives. Specifically, it’s making us a lot more cautious to get back out there. 

Terming our new found trepidation ‘hesidating’, a slew of reports have spoken to dating experts to examine the trend. “Hesidating is a sense of ‘I am unsure’, ‘let me check it out’ or ‘maybe not’,” Dr Quratulain Zaidi, a Hong Kong-based clinical psychologist, told the South China Morning Post this week. “In comparison, FODA – fear of dating again – is ‘it’s scary’ and that impacts your desire to ever date again.”

The psychologist the publication spoke to explained how the two states were not inextricably linked, but that one could certainly give rise to the other. “Hesidating means one is feeling indifferent about dating or is unsure if they want to date – either seriously or casually – because of how uncertain life has been,” she says. “For the past two years, this trend has taken hold in the dating scene and is on the rise.”

Sounds vague and frightening, right? We thought so too! According to the same website, this rising trend is partly down to the initial social restrictions of COVID lockdowns, which led to anxiety and avoidant behaviours. The theory follows that the uncertainty of life over the past couple of years has made us, well, uncertain, or at least ambivalent, in all aspects of our lives. If we were commitment-phobes before, we’re worse now, essentially. 

The concept of ‘hesidating’ is not new in the ether of the internet. Last month InStyle said it was “rampant” amongst singles, citing research from PlentyOfFish (Hinge for the elderly) that found 70% of singles are unsure about their relationship status and whether they want something serious or more casual. Even the VP of – where dating lives on the internet! – Maria Sullivan said: "In the mind of a hesidater, they will typically pull back or seem uncertain when things start to progress in a relationship due to their own internal struggle when it comes to making decisions, both romantically and in general. 

"For many hesidaters, the idea of a long-term relationship with someone who isn't a true match is overwhelming and scary, as coming out of Covid-19, nobody wants to lose even more time. This leads to a hesitant attitude and, in some cases, even prevents a relationship from becoming committed or serious altogether."

If that paints a depressing picture, then fear not. It might not be that we’re all consigning ourselves to dying alone (or at least not having sex for the whole summer). Rather, it could be that the pandemic has reconfigured how we think about love and dating. If 2022 is defined by ‘FODA’ and ‘hesidating’, then it’s also given rise to new ways of considering intimacy. Emma Watson talked about being ‘self-partnered’ all the way back in the pre-pandemic halcyon days of 2019, while compersion, polyamory and solo-polamory all present alternatives to the traditional idea of hierarchical monogamy and dating. 

The rise of platonic partnerships, for instance, has been captivating millions on TikTok. “Society perpetuates the notion of a monogamous — and heteronormative — ‘happily ever after’,” explains Isabelle Truman, writing about the lifestyle choice for i-D earlier this year. “We’re up against a housing crisis, a loneliness epidemic and a sexless society. In the face of it all, a rising number of people are choosing to put friendship over romantic love by platonically marrying their best friends.”

Sounds simpler, tbh.

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