Since lockdown started in the UK just over three months ago – the concept of dating has changed entirely; video chats and socially distanced beers in the park are pretty much your only options now. You’ve hit it off with a graphic designer you met on Hinge. But naturally, you’re missing the little things, like bringing someone home after a date, and ushering them silently through the living room so your housemates can’t catch a glimpse of their face.
Now, you’ll most likely have to have an actual conversation with your housemates about whether they’re OK with having strangers in the house and ask the person coming in whether they’ve been social distancing. Sexy!
On 13th June, the government announced "support bubbles", which permits people who live alone to visit other households and even stay overnight. For those who live alone, sex was back on the table. If you, like most millennials, live with housemates, then you still have to wait to get back to dating “normally”, but as shopping centres and pubs are starting to open, it feels like the time is coming.
But what will dating post-lockdown look like? I have fever dreams of it being a wonderland, like an IRL Tinder, but where skaters actually thoroughly wash their hands before they finger you. For people in some European countries and New Zealand, where lockdown has been lifted completely, they’re already living it, going to bars and kissing strangers in clubs. So I spoke to some of them about the realities of getting back into the IRL dating game when lockdown, finally, lifted.
HUMAN TOUCH IS JUST AS GOOD AS YOU REMEMBER
You’ve gone without life’s simple pleasures like kissing, holding hands, even spooning for so long that you may think you’ve forgotten how to do it or you're questioning whether you've really missed it at all. But Emily*, who is from the UK, but has been in New Zealand since last autumn, says that coming out of lockdown made her realise how much she missed human touch.
“I’m definitely back on dating!" she tells me. "Oh my god, I missed the human touch so badly! It was horrible. I’m actually in a bar right now!”
IT MIGHT NOT BE AS DAUNTING AS YOU THINK
For some, the idea of lockdown easing is terrifying. Going from wearing a face mask and gloves – and constantly using hand sanitiser – back into the dating world is daunting, too.
But Emily says that when lockdown lifted a lot of the anxiety around her health disappeared too. “On my part, there isn’t any anxiety around dating,” she says. “Well, no more than wearing a condom because of an STI. There are no cases here, so I’m not really worried about that aspect.”
However, it might not be quite as stress-free in the UK, as Emily puts her lack of nerves down to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's leadership skills. “We went into lockdown early and it paid off. We had 75 days of restrictions and now we’re free to do whatever we want. I wash my hands when I’m prepping food or going to the toilet. If there’s hand sanitiser open when you walk into a bar or into a shop then I’ll use it, but it’s not as stringent as before.”
Caroline, who lives in Paris, moved in with her boyfriend when lockdown lifted. “When [French PM Emmanuel] Macron announced the end of lockdown for May 11th, before we met, I was so nervous!” she says. “Not about the coronavirus, but about us. Thinking ‘Will it be good? Did I really miss him?’ – those kinds of questions.”
YOU STILL HAVE TO BALANCE YOUR OTHER RELATIONSHIPS
It might be exciting to be able to kiss in bars and hold hands in museums again once social distancing is lifted, but Caroline cautions that making time for your friends as well as your relationship still requires some juggling. “We’re both working from home still, so we’re together all the time. But we’re still going out, drinking beers and seeing our friends and stuff,” Caroline says. “It’s important for us to not be an old couple already!”
BUT DON’T RUSH INTO ANYTHING
You're ready to start dating as soon as the sun comes back out and beer gardens are back open, but if you haven't interacted with anyone but your housemate and a handful of Deliveroo drivers for the past three and a half months, your communication skills might be off.
James, a 27-year-old backpacker currently living in New Zealand, says that easing yourself back into socialising is the most important take away he has since coming out of lockdown. “If you’ve had to shield yourself from social interactions for an extended period of time, allow yourself to get back to your regular self. If you’ve been in lockdown with three of your best mates, remember that you can't interact with everyone in the same way as them,” he says. “Don't try and jump straight into dating someone because you don't know if it's what you actually want. Have you just been festering over it during quarantine?”
* Names have been changed