Dating has always been an awkward affair. The first meeting, the lagging conversation, the nervous laughter at recycled jokes, the grasping at any passing detail which might reignite the repartee. And not knowing whether, at the end of it all, you’ll find yourself embracing the momentary love of a stranger, or the faithfulness of two old friends – Ben and Jerry.
Now add to this a global pandemic. The game is the same, but the rules have changed, and I think it’s fair to say that everyone is still struggling to adjust. In times such as these, when physical contact is all but illegal… well, when it is literally illegal… we’ll just have to ‘improvise, adapt, overcome’. After staring at the ceiling for three hours, contemplating the existential and symbolic nature of dried paint, it’s completely understandable that you might turn to (online) dating as a source of comfort, confidence and phone coitus. Maybe not the last one, if that’s not your style, but no judgment here guys, we’re in a pandemic… it’s not weird… I promise. Ok, in all seriousness though, let’s talk about dates.
First up, I downloaded Tinder. After some ardent swiping, I eventually came upon a man who I thought might just fit the bill. He was vegan (tick), sporty (tick), interested in working with kids (tick… well, sometimes) and he was funny. I asked him out for a socially-distanced walk. When the day came, he was late. Already off to a bad start. I was swinging an umbrella around casually in my hands, dropped it, hastily bent to pick it up in a somewhat Bridget Jones-like fashion and flung my stooping body back up, hoping that I had not been seen by my potential suitor. Naturally, I had.
Our socially-distanced walk was really just a regular date, except that I didn’t have to worry about how to greet him and say goodbye. The hug-or-not moment has always proved an awkward one for me, and to be honest, I really dig waving. Big fan. One downside of dating during a pandemic, however, was that I couldn’t see his face properly because of the mask. Another thing is that there’s not many options aside from walking, which could get tiresome if you want the date to last a long time. After the walk, as I waved off the candidate, I decided to give up Tinder for good. It’s just not my style. Two weeks later, of course, I had re-downloaded it, and the swiping frenzy began all over again.
After this first attempt at dating, I did sign up for Oxmatch, but felt that the guy with whom I had been matched wasn’t quite my type and so I fell back into the arms of my old frenemy, Tinder. My second experience of Covid courting was through a Zoom call. What I liked about this was that I didn’t have to waste any time commuting, dressing up or thinking about where to go. Another pleasant aspect of virtual dates is that you can pretty much leave any time you like – it’s like having a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. After forty-five minutes, I told my date that I had to study, gratefully clicking that big, delicious ‘Leave the meeting’ button. He was a lovely boy, but again, not for me. This internet dating was proving to be rather a chore. Nevertheless, I found a Zoom date worked in this instance, as I got a taste for what the guy was like without having to commit to a whole evening. I also like the security offered by a virtual date. You don’t have to meet a stranger and go to potentially less public areas, with the possibility of getting spiked or worse. However, the disadvantages of a Zoom date are quite obvious: technical problems. Who would have thought a hundred years ago that you’d be saying to your admirer: “sorry couldn’t quite hear you the WIFI’s terrible, could you say tha—oops sorry no you go… wait… hello? Oh god’. It somewhat strips away that amorous ambience that we’re going for here.
My third experience of Tinder dating during the pandemic is one that is still ongoing. Quite exciting, really. It also started with a Zoom call. One thing, though, that I wish I had thought of beforehand is to ask whether or not we would be drinking. It was scheduled for the evening, so the thought of buying drinks had crossed my mind but I didn’t go for it in the end. He did drink, however, and he drank alone. It felt a bit weird to watch him as I sat there sober (definitely not according to my usual practice). Before the date, I lost the whole afternoon to nervous reveries and, admittedly, Facebook stalking… vast amounts of Facebook stalking. I was grateful to see that he looked just as good in person (well… in computer) as in his pictures. I was far more grateful to find that he has an awesome personality, awkward and weird in very similar ways to myself. Two hours later, we bid farewell and planned to meet again. During this date, I felt that the technology wasn’t a hindrance at all. It was actually really nice to get to know somebody’s personality purely through speech and visual display, and not having the added element of physical proximity, which puts me more on edge.
Something which could present itself as either an advantage or a disadvantage is the fact that Zoom puts a limitation on the possibilities of taking the date to completion, if you catch my meaning. I personally considered this to be beneficial, because it meant that we could focus more on each other’s personalities, without complicating things by adding sex. Although as time goes on this would definitely become frustrating. Another thing to take into consideration is height. On Zoom it’s hard to tell how tall somebody is (obviously), which is often something you might like to know. Thankfully, short or tall – I’ll take them all.
To sum it up, my experience of dating during ‘Doomsday’ has been pretty much just as embarrassing, agonising, uncomfortable and fun as it was before the pandemic. I’m excited to see where things go with Boy No.3 (please don’t tell him about the Facebook stalking I will die) and if you’re thinking of joining the dating scene then I wish you all the best! Also what’s your number? (kidding, obviously…)