Drinks over Zoom, timing your episodes on Netflix, your screen time skyrocketing, three-hour long phone calls every night. Feeling the sentimentality gradually kicking in. You’ve discussed exes and traumas and insecurities. You know all their kinks. You know them. But you’ve never met.
Dating apps have erupted in popularity since the start of quarantine. Our phones are buzzing with *insert name* has liked you ten times a day. Some people have actually updated their photos to ones that aren’t three years old. And they might have put some thought into those painful conversation starters. Yes, we all like dogs. No, I don’t have any strong opinions about pineapple on pizza.
Unfortunately, we can’t just head into town for a hook up anymore. It feels a bit like we’ve reverted to teenagers, stuck in your respective flats, not far from each other but banned from just jumping in your car and heading to their place by some invisible authority. Thanks Rona.
I started dating someone during quarantine. Kind of unintentionally. I was on a dating app in that usual way you are when you’re bored in the evenings, absent-mindedly swiping. I know I have a type – doesn’t everyone? They’re all nose-rings and facial hair. Probably reads pretentious poetry in bars on a Friday night, leaflets for the Labour Party and thinks strong women are hot until they question his opinions. My dad’s taken to calling my type another activist and, while I’m aware he’s trying to annoy me, regardless, it’s an achievement I’m proud of.
In my semi-bored swiping, it turns out someone was vaguely interesting. Sarcastic. Political. Takes the piss more than he’s polite. He asked for my number three days into lockdown and we’ve been talking since.
Our first ‘date’ was on Skype. I did my make up because in what world would I ever go on a normal date with my actual real-life face? That top half looking flirty-casual, bottom half definitely wearing trackies, armed with a glass of wine look. I will say it now: video dates are weird. There’s none of the body chemistry you get sitting at a bar with somebody. There’s no playing with your pint on the table as you search for a discussion topic or talking about how often you come to this particular bar or that bit when you’re a few drinks deep and thighs are shuffling subtly nearer each other. This ‘bar’ is your bedroom. You both know it. And it’s weird.
Thankfully, in my experience, we’d been texting consistently up until this point anyway so we just continued chatting about whatever we’d been talking about previously. We’ve had a few of those video ‘dates’ now – but mostly it’s messages going back and forth on WhatsApp all day like we’re teenagers. Lockdown has reverted me to my seventeen-year-old self who gets happy when their phone lights up. Absolute melt. Usually, we’re all busy creatures. What working adult has the time or energy to text like that anymore? We have also cultivated the art of synchronising Netflix episodes: what minute of the episode are you on? Okay? Ready? Go. But it’s not easy and we are adults. Admittedly, we have contemplated breaking lockdown innumerable times. But we haven’t. Because we’re not dicks.
To an extent, it feels like Rona has given us an opportunity to do something modern dating tends to neglect. An opportunity to talk again. This lockdown forces singletons to talk with an intensity that they probably wouldn’t usually. It’s too easy as an adult to meaninglessly date. Or not date. And just hook up. And that’s totally fine if that’s your thing – but it isn’t always compatible with actually getting to know someone. Ground-breaking, right? Who knew?
So, while Rona is limitlessly frustrating, and we’re missing the sexual tension over overpriced cocktails in central, this lockdown has actually given us a rare opportunity to slow down and talk. Properly. While technically I still haven’t met the person that I waste all my screen time on, the lockdown has thrown us unintentionally into an intimacy that usually takes people months to build up. And that’s kind of cool. Distance makes the heart grow fonder? Distance certainly forces you to stop and figure out whether you actually want to talk to someone or not. So far, he’s not too bad.