Back in March, uncertain and afraid of the world as coronavirus spread and people moved indoors, I re-downloaded Tinder as a form of escapism.
I’ve used different dating apps off and on for almost six years, but Tinder is my favourite, because it’s the simplest: we swipe, chat, meet up and have a fun night. That’s all I look for – or it was, until I met Marco.
I should preface this by saying that I’ve never had a third date with someone.
When it comes to meeting someone new, I envision everything that can go wrong: I get scared that I’ll say something embarrassing, that I’ll talk too much, that they’ll think I’m unintelligent, or worse – ugly. Drinking on a date helps me become a more confident and desirable version of myself, free of angst and awkwardness.
All of the dates I’ve had in the past have ended the same way: with no recollection of the evening before, thanks to the consumption of a lot of alcohol, and no further contact.
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About a week before lockdown, Marco and I matched on the app.
We had organised to meet in Hampstead Heath, but then I went home to Wales to spend the following months in my parents’ house with a garden and a strong WiFi connection, because I don’t have that in London.
So, I asked Marco if he wanted to have a virtual date instead.
‘This is perfect for you, you’ll be less nervous,’ said my friends, reminiscing about all the times at university when they watched me down half a bottle of wine before going on a date. But I wasn’t less nervous on our virtual date.
Virtual me is the same as real me. However, this time, even though I woke up the next day without much memory of what we’d talked about, thanks to a lot of drinking, I knew I’d had fun. I remembered his soft Sydney accent, his dimpled smile, and the moment when we had tried to guess how tall we both are by standing in front of our bedroom doors.
On our second date, only a week after our first, we pretended that we went to a posh bar. I wore a short sparkly dress and put more makeup on my face than last time. We drank and talked for three hours, lying in bed with our phones on our pillows, and when our screens finally went black, I couldn’t stop thinking about sex. If we’d had two real-life dates, would we have done it by now?
In my experience, sex stands in the way of dating. If I’m physically intimate with someone, I never get the chance to do the same emotionally with that person
, because it’s either they’re interested in me but I’m not interested in them, or, I’m interested in them but they’re not interested in me – it’s never the right combination.
Usually, I tend to veer towards men who care more about getting to know my body than my mind, but having an emotional connection has become important to me, especially because of the virtual experience.
Virtual dating has also allowed me to have my first-ever third date.
To finally have this opportunity is exciting. Plus, the fact that he is taking the time to get to know me well makes me feel good. It must – hopefully – mean that I am not only desirable, I am likeable too.
Virtual dating has become my new norm, and a welcoming one at that: I’m able to take the time to articulate what I want to say, and I’m less self-conscious about my appearance. I get to decide from which angle and in which lighting Marco sees me. I’m also drinking less on our dates now that I feel more comfortable and know Marco quite well.
Over video call, it also relaxes me to know that if I need to – if I start to feel nervous or I don’t know what to say – I can pretend to have a technological malfunction and switch my phone off.
Although I’m excited to meet Marco in real life, which will probably be in July – after four months of dating, I can’t help but also feel incredibly anxious. I want something of significance to come out of this.
I like that he asks about my day, talks to me about his family and praises my work. We discuss our favourite books, share links to our favourite music, and watch new films together. He’s a nice guy – a properly nice guy – who takes a genuine interest in who I am.
I’m scared of what will happen when we meet, that there won’t be any sexual chemistry and that he might lose interest in me once we get to socialise again post-lockdown. I’m not sure if he shares the same worries, but he did say that it’s strange to think that we’ve never touched before. ‘I don’t know what you feel like,’ he laughed – meaning in the simplest, least sexual sense.
We have spoken briefly about one another’s fears – about our lives in general and about meeting up – but we haven’t discussed any of our anxieties in depth so far, because it feels too soon.
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