'I Went Into Lockdown With A Guy After Four Dates – And Now We're In Love'
Gabby, 26, had only been dating Ben* for half a month when lockdown was announced in New York. But since deciding to take the plunge and self-isolate together, they've surprised even themselves by going on to make things official - and even dropping the L-word.
Gabby met Ben on dating app Raya, and was drawn in by the fact he was different from her usual type. A tattoo artist with a love of heavy metal, his pictures mainly consisted of him posing and showing off his inkings.
"His profile stopped me in my tracks, I was like, he looks fun," the comedian and podcaster told Tyla.
"I thought it would just be funny to go on a date with him. But it actually went really well, and we ended up meeting four times over about two-and-a-half weeks".
By Gabby's birthday, on 10th March, she and Ben knew they were excited about each other - he'd taken her for a romantic day out in the countryside where they drank mimosas and walked around in the woods - but she had a huge party coming up, and wasn't quite ready to put a label on anything just yet.
"It was going to be my last hurrah," she says. "I'd invited every single crush I'd had since I was born, and wanted the potential to talk to them, and maybe even make out with them one more time.
"But then quarantine hit that Saturday. I had to cancel the birthday party, and, to be honest, I never would have expected what came next".
Despite having known each other less than three weeks, Ben moved into her apartment and the pair made an unspoken commitment to spend pretty much all day every day together, for the foreseeable.
Gabby, who was already living with a male friend, knew her new roommate would have to win his approval - but luckily the pair have hit it off.
As it turns out, moving Ben into the flat brought much more than sex (although, she assures me, they have plenty of that, too).
There's the idyllic 'honeymoon period' stuff, of course: they potter around the flat, go on walks through the empty city streets and have deep chats as they sip coffee on her rooftop; she cooks him vegan meals (despite the fact he's a devoted carnivore) and tries (and fails) to get him to join in with her dance cardio workouts.
But then there's also the small matter of the looming pandemic, which means they've seen each other's vulnerabilities already, and forged a bond they otherwise may not have done in such a short space of time.
"As the news gets worse and worse every day, we've definitely seen each other get tenser and tenser," she says. "It's a weird buzzing of fear in the air that we've both had to learn to ignore.
"Living together through something like this, we've crossed so many emotional barriers already. We were joking yesterday that we're basically one month going on three years."
The biggest of these barriers was just a matter of days ago, when Gabby found out her father had tested positive for coronavirus.
"I was just thinking, you're not supposed to see me ugly cry," she recalls. "We shouldn't be having that 'my dad is sick' conversation. At this point you don't want the person you're dating to see you have a panic attack, you still want to be keeping it hot."
While, thankfully, her dad is now fine, Gabby says that sharing that experience with Ben helped her to realise what they have.
"We were pretty much forced to dive in immediately and he definitely saw me at my worst," she reflects. "But that really fast forwarded our relationship to a whole new level."
Given everything they had been through in such a short time period, it took the pair less than a week of lockdown to decide that they were officially boyfriend and girlfriend.
After that, the newly formed couple slipped into their own new normal - they met each other's family and friends (albeit virtually), and it wasn't long before they both realised just how strong their feelings had become.
"I remember it was about a month since we had first met, and we were on a walk," she says. "In New York at 7pm every day the nurses switch over shifts, so the whole city goes outside with pots and pans and cheers...
"As that happened, we were in this cute little park in Brooklyn and I just turned to him and said: 'Hey, I don't know if this is so soon to say, but I'm in love with you.' Luckily, he said he felt the same."
While quarantine has undoubtedly catapulted their relationship to unexpected heights, Gabby is under no illusion that maintaining it in the real world won't be so easy.
Both she and Ben work in creative industries, which means work is quiet, but normally, Gabby is travelling the country for comedy gigs, and finds it "almost impossible" to date.
"But that's the amazing thing about it," she says. "I don't even know if we would have all happened if it wasn't for this. We would have had no time to stop and actually get to know each other.
"And now that we've lived together, part of me thinks surely we can make anything work?"
Asked if they plan to carry on living together, she pauses. "We've said a lot of very serious things about the future, but none of us know what it holds right now.
"I think my room-mate would kill me if I left him and moved out, and my parents would think i was f*cking crazy, but I like to say everything and nothing is on the table.
"The fact that it took a worldwide pandemic for me to find a boyfriend is so funny. Right now, there's so much to worry about other than what's next. I'm just going to ride the wave."
*Gabby's boyfriend's name has been changed upon request.
Featured Image Credit: Instagram/ Gabbyisbryan