What a time to be considering dating apps, you might think. All of us were expecting just a month of severe restrictions, but two months later, even as our circuit breaker lifts, we’re still not allowed to meet people outside of family. So, you may ask, what’s the point of dating apps now when there’s no opportunity to meet anyone? Let’s go back a few months.
After a years-long dating drought, wise words from a friend, “You deserve to meet someone”, inspired me to give online dating a second, no, 100th chance. And so it began: the picture finding, the witty captions, the funny anecdotes to show off sparkling personality. Profile locked and loaded. The difference this time was that I decided to restart my online dating endeavours as a pandemic was brewing. The people in Wuhan were in lockdown, borders were starting to close, social distancing was becoming a thing. And here I was trying to meet someone I couldn’t do background or travel history checks on.
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After several matches, and un-matches, I found someone who I could chat with easily. After a week of texting, we set a date.
I had many concerns, of course. Was it a good idea to be physically close to someone I don’t know? Should I hug him? Should we kiss? Should we even be meeting? If dating wasn’t difficult enough under the best of conditions, the fear of spreading or contracting a virus just made it that much harder.
The date went well enough and we set a second. However, as the day rolled around, I started feeling under the weather. I started asking myself, what if I’m sick? What if I make him sick? What if I’m case #104? What if he gets pissed off that I knew I was sick but still decided to meet? It was paranoia at its finest.
The second date didn’t happen. Then our circuit breaker began.
Any normal person would’ve decided to delete their apps. But I am not any normal person. As social activities halted and everyone adjusted to their “new normal” (a cliché, I know), I found solace in browsing profiles and texting with like-minded men who didn’t mind not physically meeting the other person for, at that point, about a month.
The biggest challenge was sustaining a text-only conversation with someone you’ve never met in person. Especially when everyone transformed instantaneously from social, bar-hopping, food-loving, adventure-seeking travellers, into homebound, just-learnt-to-bake-bread, Zoom-calls-only, pyjamas-all-day-every-day… bores.
Conversations were all about what we used to do, how we used to be, how we’re coping, and the news. Sad.
“Do you like sports?”
“Yeah I love tennis.”
“How often do you play?”
“I used to play three times a week.”
“Yeah you can’t now. How do you keep fit?”
“Now I do group exercise Zoom calls to easy walk-at-home YouTube videos.”
Overnight, I had become my mother.
But that didn’t stop me. Profile after profile, I kept matching and chatting, and unmatching and finding new men.
In fact, I was on the app so much I discovered a scammer who kept creating new profiles, but was never smart enough to change his details. He was always some too-good-looking North Asian guy, with corny one-liners like, “I’m looking for the one” and a job that screamed, “I’m rich, like me now”.
I was once so bored I matched with him just so I could experience what it was like to be catfished. But that’s another story for another time.
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Meanwhile, virtual dating via video or phone calls was becoming a thing. As if we all need more video calls in our lives. One of my matches, who was honestly too young for me (but YOLO), tried to convince me to take that next step. “How about a virtual date since I can’t meet this lovely lady for coffee yet?”
Let’s be real. I never planned to meet this boy. And I am no “lovely lady”.
Also, I was told a story about a guy who asked his date to show him her boobs. On a video date. Like a porn show. No thank you. I still felt bad about rejecting him, and so I ignored him, and then eventually did the grown up thing of unmatching him without saying goodbye.
With no real end to the circuit breaker in sight, it was mildly amusing to keep talking to new guys, old and young, and practise what Too Hot to Handle’s Chloe would call “good bantz”. (Bantz = banter = witty, flirty conversation in her f**ked up Essex English.) And it’s funny how quickly you can find out if someone is compatible purely through texting.
Early in my profile browsing, I matched with a fairly hot guy who had tons of opinions on the kinds of movies and Netflix shows I watch, and kept me on my toes about the kind of books I read. But in a day or two he disappeared from my match list and I thought: Urgh, what a snob.
Weeks later, deep in lockdown, he liked my profile again, saying we matched before but he couldn’t log into his account again. He even remembered the things we talked about in the beginning. At that point, I was feeling increasingly jaded knowing none of these conversations would amount to anything. Almost a month later, we’re constantly texting each other. We talk about everything, from the banal “What’s for lunch?” to the bigger, relationship-y things. In fact, as I write this, he’s checking up on me to find out if I’m going to make my deadline for this column.
Neither of us are big on the idea of virtual dating. So we haven’t seen each other.
We had been planning our first date – Italian, followed by cocktails – when we learnt that our country’s phased re-opening would mean another month of not finding out if the person on the other side of the phone is, well, real. We joke about being Pen Pals, and how the texting makes it all feel like a teen romance.
If we really want to see each other, we have to sustain the “good bantz” for another four weeks. Only time will tell if we made a real connection or not. Wish me luck.
*Anna D is not her real name