Welcome to Megan Barton-Hanson’s new VICE UK column, covering all things to do with sex, relationships and self-love during one of the strangest eras of the 21st century.
I’m a bit of a serial dater. There’ll always be someone on the go, even if it’s just flirty texting, but there’s not much for single people to do right now. We’re still in lockdown and it would be great to have a Netflix partner to watch all these new shows with, plus I’m currently blocked from Hinge because it thinks I’m a catfish. (Hinge, if you’re reading this, please set me free!) Luckily, I’m quite independent. I enjoy my own company and I have my little routines – but I won’t lie I do get lonely sometimes, especially when it comes to wanting that physical connection.
I’m a big fan of having a glass of wine with someone on FaceTime, but virtual dating can be intimidating for anyone. You’re worried about the conversation drying up, and it’s harder to tell whether or not someone is into you without body language. Going on in-person dates again after a lockdown can feel daunting too. You go from being in your own little safe bubble on Zoom where, in the absolute worst case scenario, you can just shut the laptop, to navigating whose house to go to. Imagine if someone’s come back to yours and they’re a lingerer? The worst. I’ll literally be sat up all night waiting for them to leave. At least one perk of digital dating right now is there’s a nice swift exit if needed!
So whether you’ve been single for a while or you’ve recently broken up with someone, whether you’re looking for love or a laugh – it’s a new year, and a fresh start. Everything was so fast paced before the pandemic. People were worried about work and wrapped up in their own lives, so now is a perfect opportunity to really work on yourself so you’re the person you want to put out there. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to get back into the swing of dating in 2021, lockdown or no.
DON’T: JUDGE PEOPLE EARLY ON
One danger with online dating is you can sometimes build a person up how you want them to be while talking, and when you eventually meet up they're completely different. In my experience girls are super open and will go in-depth about a lot of things, but when I’m talking to a guy I’m like ‘oh my god has he got any chat or are men just like this?’ They’re quite simple creatures. But then in person they’ve got the most so say. So try not to judge someone too much over messaging – unless the conversation is an absolute struggle.
Lockdown can actually be a good judge of things here. If you can keep a conversation going with someone you’ve never met during this time – when there’s no gigs on, no weekends out with their friends they can tell you about and it’s generally quite dry for chat – that’s a good sign!
DON’T: BE OVERLY KEEN
Recently I was messaging this guy and we got on fine, the chat was flowing, but if I didn’t reply he’d send me the exclamation emoji and be like “hello! HELLO!” I couldn’t deal with that, I felt like I was already in a relationship with him! There’s a million things going on right now and this lockdown has definitely hindered people’s mental health, so be conscious of that and don’t be too pushy. Respect people’s space if they don’t get back to you.
DO: SET THE MOOD
During the first lockdown I was on Houseparty a lot and I’d make it a proper date. I’d get ready, go and get a drink, ask them what they’re drinking, light some candles, and we’d sit there together playing games and chatting. I think that’s what a lot of us need right now – something to get dressed and excited for – so don’t be afraid to make a day or an evening of it. The date will go better when you’re feeling yourself.
That can be a good way to judge whether or not you’re into someone, too. If you can’t be bothered to put make-up on or get a little dressed up for a date, maybe leave it a few days to see if they message or if you feel like messaging them. We’ve all been guilty of it when we’re bored and there’s not much going on, but don’t force it at the early stages.
DON’T: GET TOO DRUNK BEFOREHAND
I’ve made this mistake a few times because I get so nervous and I don’t want to come across stiff or awkward, but if you have too many drinks beforehand you’ll turn up and immediately be on a different level to them. Maybe have one glass of wine when you’re getting ready – two, max – and then limit yourself until you’re actually on the date. A lot of the time you’ll settle in after the first five minutes anyway. The nerves will have gone, and you can tell if you have a connection.
DON’T: TRY TO BE SEXUAL TOO SOON
It really puts me off if the only chat I have with someone is sexual. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been guilty of sending a sexual text here and there, but with someone I actually see myself moving forward with we’ve got to have more chat than the dirty texts at ten o’clock at night.
DO: SPICE THINGS UP WHEN THE TIME COMES
One thing I’ve started doing with someone I’m sexting is sharing porn links. You can’t be together to recreate it, so I’ll send a link and be like ‘I really like this, what do you think?’ and we’ll dissect the porn video together, I love it!
DON’T: COMPARE THEM TO YOUR EX
It really ruined my last relationship how much my ex spoke about her exes. I found myself comparing myself to them, and then researching them online. I’d be like ‘oh my god she’s nothing like me! Why does she fancy me if I’m nothing like this person’!’ I don’t know why we do this as women – even when I’ve been with genuinely decent people who don’t talk about their exes, you can find yourself down a rabbit hole, researching and comparing. Nothing good can come of it!
DO: BE CLEAR AND HONEST
Sometimes it can feel cringey and awkward to be like ‘I want more than a bang, I’m looking for something’, but in a way it’s endearing. I’d respect someone who laid it out on the line rather than playing games and telling me they’re not looking for anything when really they are. I love honest people and I’m an open book myself, sometimes to my own detriment, so be careful not to overshare. Be honest, but there’s no need to go in-depth.
It’s a quick fix to find someone as a distraction when you’re not really dealing with the deep-rooted problems that you’re going through. But take care of yourself, make a little routine. Even if you just get up and do a meditation or a yoga or a workout, start your day and do something for you before you focus on dating.
DO: SACK IT ALL OFF AND HAVE A WANK IF YOU WANT
A sex influencer I follow gets dressed up in lingerie just to masturbate, which I’d never thought of doing before but it’s a great idea! It keeps you entertained, it’s something to do and it’s just a better vibe when you feel really sexy. So even if you’re not chatting to anyone, even when the DMs are dry, even when there’s no reason to do it because you can’t go anywhere – get dressed up for yourself, take some sexy pictures for yourself. Use this time to get to know your body, explore what you’re into, try different things. We’ve got loads of time on our hands, so now is a great time to experiment, see what you like and then take that into the bedroom when you are dating someone.