The last year has not been an fun one for single people. Sex with anyone outside your household was literally illegal for the majority of 2020, meaning the closest most of us got to any kind of intimacy was firing off eyes emojis at Insta Story thirst traps.
You will agree that the above sentence is one of the saddest ever written, but good news: things are looking up. Now that lockdown restrictions are easing in England – you can sit in a pub garden! Or eat a meal outside, in the cold! – it’s finally time to ask one of those DM recipients out for a real-life date.
More good news: it’s unlikely they’ll say no – at least, not because of COVID fears. A recent survey of Hinge users in the UK found that 85 percent were open to going on a date as soon as restrictions were lifted, with over half – an estimated 50,000 – already locked in for one the first week after restrictions were lifted.
If you’re one of the 50,000 absolutely gagging for a post-lockdown romance, but still haven’t interacted with anyone but your housemates or Deliveroo drivers, it makes sense that you’d be nervous. In preparation for your re-entrance into the dating world, I asked Hayley Quinn, a dating and relationships coach, for tips on how to prepare yourself.
1. POST-PANDEMIC NERVES ARE NORMAL
“If you're worried about going on a date, it might be because, like a lot of single people out there, you’ll feel like you’ve lost a year of dating and want to make up for lost time. To depressurise your first interaction, a good place to start is to shift your expectations around it. A first date is to have fun – it’s got to be about being curious about the other person. Remind yourself that you’re not being interviewed and it’s a two-way street.”
2. BUT AVOID PANDEMIC SMALL TALK
“Asking, ‘How’s your pandemic going?’ has become the new, ‘How are you today?’ It’s always better if you can take the conversation either into the past or the future, so you could talk about their future travel plans or whether they took up any new hobbies they could tell you about. It’s how you deal with the topic, rather than the topic itself.”
3. THERE ARE WAYS OF SHOWING INTEREST WHILE SOCIALLY DISTANCED
“You can show interest by being proactive about meeting up with them in person, expressing that you’d like to see them again and actually following up. You can pay compliments – like, you could even just say, ‘If I didn't have to keep two metres away from you right now, I would definitely do X – but I'm gonna be very good and keep my distance.’
“You can be really playful. But respecting and abiding by the rules also shows the person that you’re dating that you do care about their health and their personal safety, compared to someone who perhaps wouldn't be quite so abiding.
“When you’re on the other side of that, it’s important to shift your mindset and remember that quality time can be a much truer indicator of how attracted somebody is to you and how invested they are rather than just expressing that through physical touch. Trust in the fact that someone just wants to spend more time with you.”
4. DON’T RUSH INTO ANYTHING
“Everyone thinks it’s gonna be like the roaring 20s now, but I would say the dominant mood has been one of caution – people are unsure of how to date again. I've even found that social interactions feel weird. So rather than heaping expectations onto ourselves – which just doesn’t help, in terms of feeling like we need to make up for lost time or hurry up and go from nought to 60 – you should practice acceptance.
“After a pandemic, even if you’re not necessarily looking for a long-term relationship thing, some people are feeling as though they should have something going on in their dating lives. It’s important to remember that you’re on your own timeline and you don’t have to reach a milestone at the same time as everyone else.”
5. YOU CAN STILL GO ON VIDEO DATES
“Keep dating at a pace that suits you. People are still going to carry on doing video dates even after restrictions become a bit more relaxed, which might seem counterintuitive as everyone's got a bit bored of having their life on Skype or Zoom, but do it if that’s what enables you to feel more comfortable about going on that date. You don't have to go from sitting at home to suddenly going out for an outside meal at a restaurant or meeting in a public beer garden. If you want to keep the video dates – or if the walks are still working for you – that’s also fine.”
6. REMEMBER: NOT ALL LOCKDOWN ROMANCES WILL WORK OUT
“It’s important to remember that everybody experiences rejection. If you go on a date with somebody you’ve been communicating with for a few months, but in real life it turns out you don’t have that level of connection where you want to take things forward, that’s not a failure. There is some element of compatibility that you can only judge in real life that just didn’t connect. Remember that it’s OK to walk away from situations, whether it’s someone who suddenly isn’t as interested in you or someone who is inconsistent.”