If he hadn’t reached out to me just before the outbreak, I don’t think I’d have decided to start dating during lockdown.
Having been single on and off for the last six years, since my separation from my children’s father, I’d had a fair few dating disasters and had begun to grow wary of it all. I knew the rules and protocols and even though I’d met a couple of good guys along the way, I was all too aware there were still plenty of pitfalls.
But dating during a pandemic came with a whole new set of issues.
Apart from anything else, I’m busier than I’ve ever been. As a self-employed writer and facilitator, I’ve had to quickly learn how to make a living online.
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And then there are the kids to home-educate, not to mention the ukulele to learn and tomato seedlings to tend.
But when Steve* first sent me a tentative message on a dating website I’d joined, suggesting tea and cake, the virus was a distant threat. Plus, he wrote so beautifully about so many things that made my heart soar with hope that I took the radical decision of paying for another month’s subscription on the site just so I could reply to him.
It was going well. We exchanged a few messages and then switched to email. We started to make plans to meet. And then the news began to change, and this mild threat seemed to be coming closer, just as I was developing the symptoms of a cold.
‘Perhaps we could go for a walk if we kept at an appropriate distance,’ are words I never expected a man in his fifties to utter on a dating site in 2020.
But as we were debating whether or not this would be possible, it became clear that it wasn’t.
Now we walk separately, 30 miles more than the required two metres apart. And our communication is limited to email, text, phone or Zoom.
This is the reality of pandemic dating. Where the debate used to be whether to meet in a café or a pub, for dinner or a movie, now online daters are discussing whether to meet via FaceTime or Houseparty.
How long can you expect someone to wait for physical intimacy?
Video dating obviously has the advantage of allowing potential partners to see each other. But can that physical chemistry translate via the internet? (Zoom, just one look and then my heart went boom!)
Speaking personally, I don’t know because, though I’ve worked out the optimum lighting to show off my best side and though I’ve read about people getting dressed up and sharing a virtual glass of wine via WhatsApp, for my date and I, it’s not been so easy because we both share our homes with kids.
So, we’ve made do with a late-night phone call and a few messages. If I was looking for a way to stop me rushing into something, this is definitely a good one.
That’s not to say that dating during these times is risk-free. Far from it.
I’m a wordsmith, so I love writing to a prospective beau online. It’s led me into some tricky situations in the past. I can fall in love with someone’s turn of phrase way before I’ve met them.
And what if we talk so much online that we get our hopes up and then when we meet, as so often happens, the spark just isn’t there?
And how long can you expect someone to wait for physical intimacy?
Three to six dates may be usual, but six weeks might be pushing it. And, what if we’re in lockdown for six months or more? There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ to dating at the moment.
As things stand, I’ve not heard from my date for a week or more.
I have the usual thoughts. Was I too keen? Maybe I shouldn’t have sent that message. He’s just not that into you.
But I also have other thoughts. Maybe he’s in hospital. Maybe he’s depressed. Maybe he’s realised that the timing isn’t right.
He could certainly be forgiven for thinking the timing is not ideal.
Maybe, one day, we’ll meet again. Or for the first time.
In the meantime, there’s the ukulele to play and the tomatoes to tend. What do they say? In order to love someone else, you have to enjoy your own company first… There’s a lot of opportunity for that at the moment. Maybe that’s a good thing.
It’s still frustrating though, and lonely. It would be nice to walk alongside someone instead of at a distance. It would be wonderful to hold someone’s hand again. It will happen.
We just don’t know where or when or with whom.
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