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While other couples may be finding coronavirus lockdowns and quarantines at home taking a toll on their relationships, one New York City couple is finding creative — and very public — ways to keep the romance alive.
For their date nights amid the pandemic, Dean Gaskin, 37, and his wife, Jasmin, 34, have been setting up their own private pop-up dining experiences in some very public places across the city.
"We don't want to do the outdoor dining with other people around. We're not there yet. So we just do it among ourselves," Dean, a high school basketball coach, told BuzzFeed News. "We have a full range of locations we could travel to all over New York City and that can be our date night."
On Tuesday night, the pair left their two children with Jasmin's mother as they dined out on the pedestrian section of Brooklyn Bridge while the sun set behind the Manhattan skyline.
"I love the New York City skyline," said Jasmin, who works as a construction project manager, "so dinner on a breezy bridge that I've never done before was absolutely amazing. I couldn't have picked a better candlelit dinner location other than the Brooklyn Bridge."
Armed with a cheap table and chair set from Home Depot, a $5 table cover from Party City, some electric candles from Amazon, table settings from Dollar General, and plants from their home, they sipped on sangria and ate take-out tacos and corn while passers-by (including this reporter's own brother) stopped to take photos.
"We were getting all sorts of love and encouragement," said Dean. "I guess it's abnormal at first but now we're kind of used to it — just to bring romance back to the city in its simplicity."
The Brooklyn couple, who met in high school 20 years ago, began their coronavirus dates back on July 12. They had been due to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary in the Mexican resort city of Cabo San Lucas, but due to the pandemic they opted for something more local: the sands of Coney Island.
"I just told my husband that I wanted my toes in the sand and he took that idea and he upgraded it," said Jasmin.
"At first, people were looking at us like we're crazy," Dean recalled, "and then we started getting an abundance of love from beachgoers, so we said, 'Why not just keep it going?'"
Since then, they've also taken their kids — 12-year-old Amare and 3-year-old Maleah — to eat BBQ in front of a colorful Manhattan mural. They've also gone on a double date with friends at a table they set up by the water in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Dean said they're yet to face pushback from any authorities, although he does have a plan for what he will say if need be.
"It's always in the back of our minds but we're not six people out there with beers. It's real subtle," he said. "And I'm ready to have that conversation if they ever approach me. It's me and my wife and it's all in the name of love!"
Tuesday night's dinner was definitely their most public — and most well-received.
The couple said there were people constantly stopping to take their photo or express their jealousy.
"We got a lot of, 'Why didn't I think of this?'" said Jasmin.
"It's a lot more empty," she said of New York City during the pandemic, "so we're definitely using that to our advantage. You wouldn't typically be able to set up a table on the Brooklyn Bridge when there's so many tourists around!"
The pair hoped their daring date night encouraged other couples in the city to find creative ways to celebrate their love in these challenging times.
"Simple romance goes a long way," said Dean.