The Covid-19 pandemic has turned the dating scene on its head. Within the space of a few weeks, drinks and dinner dates were out (not to mention sex afterwards) and phone calls in your pyjamas and socially distanced meet-ups were in – with varying degrees of success. After all, it’s not easy to build intimacy when you’re two metres apart and wearing a mask.
When I raised the issue on social media and asked single friends how they’d found dating during lockdown, the responses were mixed. Some were positive: ‘For once, I had time for dating apps,’ said one. ‘Cutting out the ability to meet up took away any pressure and made it more fun,’said another. ‘I’ve had more luck than normal,’ a third told me, ‘and for the first time in years, I’ve found someone I have a real connection with.’
Others found it difficult, citing everything from sexual frustration to the awkward nature of video calls as their biggest issues. ‘Apart from anything else, I think even Scarlett Johansson would struggle to look good on a video call,’ Red’s contributing editor Rosie Green quipped.
‘Pre-lockdown, dating was based mainly on sexual chemistry and immediate intimacy,’says relationship counsellor Anshu Rastogi .‘But that quickly shifted to virtual connections and sexual creativity.’
Here, three women share their experience of dating in lockdown and afterwards...
POST-LOCKDOWN DATING: 'IT'S BEEN A REAL LEARNING CURVE'
Nadia Deen, co-founder of The Intimology School of Healthy Pleasure
For me, lockdown actually made dating easier. I don’t tend to meet anyone out and about, so it’s always been down to dating apps, which I usually find too time-consuming and pretty draining. But during lockdown, I had the space and energy to focus on these conversations.
I took the first few months to figure out what I wanted for myself and from a partner. I did a lot of self-work: meditation, journalling and running. That time of introspection really helped in the long run, because it has encouraged me to be clearer in my communication of what I’m looking for (both to myself and others).
So when I was ready to go back on to dating apps, things moved more quickly with the people I spoke to than they would have done before. Because all there was to do was talk, there was this sense of intimacy and trust. I found we would tell each other things that maybe we wouldn’t normally have done so early on. There was also much less of ‘let’s just see what happens’, and more ‘here’s what I’m looking for’.
I did a lot of phone calls and video calls. It’s so much easier to get a sense of who someone is that way, rather than over text, where meaning is so often lost. I didn’t end up meeting anyone in person. There was one guy I liked, but just before we had arranged to meet up, he raised some red flags by saying some misogynistic things, so I called it off. It was a shame but also a relief. I don’t think it’s something I would have noticed if it weren’t for having spent the time gradually getting to know him.
I’m feeling optimistic about the future of dating. I think that’s because this time has been a real learning curve for me. Dating is a process of elimination and I’ve learnt how to better filter people out. So although I haven’t found anyone these past couple of months, I’m grateful for this experience because it’s given me better tools to navigate dating in the future.
POST-LOCKDOWN DATING: 'I HAD SIX DATES IN TWO WEEKS'
Yasmin Lajoie, music manager (@yasminlajoie)
I’ve always been quite active on the dating scene, so when lockdown hit and I couldn’t see anyone, I found it really hard. Video calls aren’t easy, either. I’m an intuitive person so when I meet someone in real life, I can tell whether we’re compatible almost straight away. But on a Zoom date, you don’t get that. There’s not so much of a spark, and I find you don’t get that proper first impression of each other.
I did get into video dating eventually – I found drinking wine helped! – and I spent a lot of time getting to know people, which was nice. There were a lot of long conversations. Then, when lockdown eased, I went a bit mad. I went on the app Feeld and had six dates in the space of two weeks, both in parks and having people around to mine.
I’m bisexual, and I found men were much more willing to meet up at this point than women. There were a few women I’d been dating virtually who were pretty cautious and likely to ask me questions about how much I’d been isolating or whether I’d had an antibody test. Men were a bit more like ‘fuck it’, and seemed more sexually motivated.
More than anything, this time has taught me about what it is I fancy in other people. I always thought I was very much attracted to people’s personalities and intellects over anything else. Although that’s still important to me, I’ve learnt that there’s more to it than that. I have to meet people and hug and touch them to know whether I like them or not.
I’m glad I’ve learnt that, but I do still miss a lot about dating as it was. I miss the atmosphere that a busy pub or bustling restaurant has. I want to meet people when ordering drinks at a bar. I think it will be a while until that happens. I’m happy for now, but I can’t help but feel I was living my best dating life pre-lockdown. I want to go back to that.
POST-LOCKDOWN DATING: 'EVERYTHING MOVES ALONG MUCH FASTER'
Pippa Cleary, musical theatre composer
What I never used to like about dating was the endless back and forth. Messaging people can really drag on forever. Pre-lockdown, I remember I’d ask someone a question and get a reply three or four hours later – then I probably wouldn’t go back to them until the next day. It would be quite a while before you decided to actually meet in person, and so someone would always lose interest. Keeping track was quite overwhelming!
Video dating really changed everything for me. I used a dating app called The Intro, which sets up a 30-minute video call within five days if you like someone’s profile. Although it might sound daunting, I found that everyone I spoke to was in the same boat, and said things like, ‘Are you nervous too?’ and, ‘This is all a bit strange, isn’t it?’
It means that everything moves along much faster. You can never tell whether you like someone until you talk to them properly, but doing it over video saves you the time and effort that going on a real-life date takes. It’s not so much of a commitment – you can just put some lipstick on and be done 30 minutes later.
This experience has also helped me to compartmentalise dating in a way that’s much healthier. With all the different apps and endless messaging, you can easily waste time on something that’s probably not going to go anywhere. Whereas now, I can mainly focus on dating for the half an hour when I have a video call scheduled.
I’ve met some really great people who I’ve then gone onto have dates with in person. Going forward, I’ll continue to do video calls before meeting people in real life because that hopefully will mean fewer disappointments.
It’s just that extra filter that means you’re taking less of a risk by going on a date with someone you barely know. There’s nothing worse than getting dressed up for nothing! The Intro is available to download on both the Apple and Google Play stores.
A longer version of this feature first appeared in the October issue of Red magazine (out now).
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