Oh, the times, they are unprecedented, and so is that ever-more-pressing desire for someone to hug, hold, and generally add a little bit of spice to our dull lives. Lockdown makes you do ridiculous things, things no self respecting person would ever dream of, surely, like texting your ex, like flirting with the guy on tills at Tesco, like matching with Oliver (21, 6’0, from West London) three times on three different dating apps. You might even, on a cold, lonely night from your childhood bedroom, sign up to a blind (Zoom!) date. Lord.

As someone who spent far too much of her Michaelmas organising Cherpse dates for the hopeless romantics of Oxford, I’m able to say I know a thing or two about the blind dating business. For those of you toying with the idea, I’m here to give you an honest account of what to expect from meeting a stranger over cocktails, coffee, or video conference. I won’t lie; it’s not always pretty.

The chit-chat will always be a little awful at the start. I’ve had a few unfortunate experiences when I was unable to leave the Zoom I’d created for the lovebirds and was forced to sit there, audio and camera off, struggling to find a way to escape hearing their shy conversation without ending the whole thing. I did figure it out eventually though, so any prospective cherspers can rest assured that this won’t happen to them. You might, however, have to cope with a bit of nervous-/awkward-ness from your match.

I have found that virtual dates tend to produce surprisingly few horror stories compared to the in-person affairs. A fair amount of the time they seem to get on pretty well, even expressing some tentative interest in a second date, and the rest of the time they mostly have a lovely chat as friends. There is the occasional dater who can’t work their camera or what-not, but I think in general meeting someone over Zoom tends to make us a bit more open and non-judgemental; you know you’re only getting half of the experience of being with them, so perhaps you give them the benefit of the doubt

IRL blind dates are another beast entirely. I’ve sent some unfortunate mates of mine on a few shockers. I won’t go into too much detail – editor’s discretion and all that – but I will say that they’ve met some highly interesting characters. Not that they all go this way, of course; I know people who’ve been married for years after meeting on a blind date (though I can’t claim credit for organising any of those).

I believe the time has now come for me to admit that I, yes I, have indeed experienced Cherwell’s matchmaking expertise. First lockdown, over Zoom, no less. I drank a whole bottle of wine and chatted for almost two hours. And then we had another one with another bottle of wine. And, would you believe it, we’ve actually ended up going out. This is not a story I give out lightly or without a tiny bit of embarrassment – but it’s one I give out to encourage any on-the-fencers to just bloody go for it. It’s Valentine’s Day, after all, and you’re probably sat at home in your childhood bedroom. The most you’ll get is true love – the least a funny story to tell and a unique experience of dating during the (hopefully) only global pandemic of your lifetime. It’s not like you’ve got anything else to do.

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