I sit in bed, tinnie in hand, eagerly awaiting the handsome eligible bachelors that would soon be popping up on my screen.
I’m not wearing my usual date attire, favouring holey Christmas pyjama bottoms from 2008 over jeans and a nice top. To be honest, I feel very content. No constraints of uncomfortable shoes; just fluffy Santa socks; no worry of my hair going frizzy in the rain, just good hair and good vibes. Maybe there would be some perks to ‘virtual dating’.
2020 has been a strange year. So many areas of life affected by the pandemic: the dating scene being a small but still valid part of that. Us singles are unable to go out, get really drunk and chat up uninterested men in bars (my usual method of finding love). We’ve had months of being unable to take a date out for a pint, and instead have spent the year swiping left and right out of sheer boredom. There’s only so many Hinge bios I can read who think the ‘pineapple on pizza’ debate is the height of hilarity.
And after being asked last week by one suitor if I wanted to go round for a ‘pre-lockdown bonk’, I had decided I needed a break from the dating apps. It was time to try something new.
So here I was, edging closer to the arrival of this virtual speed dating event. I start to feel a little nervous… Maybe I’m a bit too comfortable in my Christmas pudding PJs… I am about to go 7 dates after all. There’s just something unnatural about putting on a full face of make up to sit on a Zoom call in my bedroom. But before I could consider the matter any further, a lady appeared on my laptop screen, instructing me on the format for the dates; how things would work; how to contact her if your date flashed you or was a massive racist etc.
As she went on, I judged my fellow participants in their little squares on the screen, almost like an animated Tinder. Each person was holding a friendly fake smile for an uncomfortably long time. This virtual speed dating might just be the stepping stone between dating apps and “real life”.
I noticed there were lot of men and only a handful of women. Quite the sausage party. One of the men actually looked out of place for how attractive he was. I was pleasantly surprised. He swiftly dropped off the call, never to be seen again. Wow ghosted already, this really is animated Tinder. I don’t know if he took one look at his prospective dates and thought ‘fuck that’, but I’m telling myself it was his dodgy wifi, and in fact he wasn’t as judgemental as I had been moments ago. All of a sudden we were off and I was on my first 4 minute date.
I quickly learnt that this guy was 25 and therefore looking to start a family. I saw no correlation between the two statements. Would I magically wake up on my 25th birthday next month ready to wed?!
For the entire 4 minutes, my date took extensive notes on my answers to his questions about my past relationships; my career; drinking habits. It felt more dentist than date. If my dentist was weirdly invasive about my ex-boyfriends that is. Of course I was making notes the whole time too, but that was for the purpose of this article. Plus I was much more subtle. It dawned on me that maybe note-taking was the art of virtual dating. No time for flirting; no time for banter, just the cold hard facts. This is why dating apps have preference sections nowadays.
Oh dear, I’m starting to miss Hinge, I thought. How embarrassing.
Towards the end of the date, things began to feel a bit more comfortable: “Oh my god so we were in the sea and suddenly there was–” But poof! 4 minutes was up and my date was gone, never to hear my harrowing jellyfish story. It was a reminder of how short the dates really were.
The dates continued for the next half an hour, varying from annoying and wouldn’t stop talking about himself, to “sooo… Have you got a favourite colour?”
By the final date I swigging my last few drops of cider looking forward to shutting the laptop and drifting off to sleep, something quite frowned upon in a regular ‘first date’ situation. I hoped this last one wouldn’t be awkward or another one lying about his age (30 clearly going on 55 was one guy). Luckily the guy who appeared wasn’t awkward at all. We talked about life, he laughed at my jokes: a perfect date in many respects. This was the kind of date that showed me the benefits to meeting prospective partners in this kind of environment; good chats with someone I wouldn’t normally have met, or even swiped right to.
Once the dates were over, the next step was to wait until the following day where we’d submit our likes and find out who we matched with… The next evening came around and I went to submit my matches… And I’d missed the deadline by 2 hours. We will never know if the love of my life was in there, but I’ll take a guess at no. To be honest, I would have been quite frankly too embarrassed to reply to anyone saying ‘let’s just be friends’, so maybe I dodged a bullet.
The big question is: is this a glimpse into the future of dating? In honesty, I hope not. It was fun, but exhausting. Answering the same 5 or 6 questions every 4 minutes is… A Lot, and something very easily avoided with dating apps’ bio sections.
As much as I missed the ease of Hinge for those 35 minutes of virtual speed dating, I think I’ll be taking this new lockdown to have some time to myself. The awkward Zoom dates and socially distanced rendezvous’ in the park will have to wait. So from now on if you need me I’ll be living my best single life (from the comfort of my bedroom).
Words by Amber Middleton
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