My lockdown love dumped me on Friday. On a chilly but mercifully empty South Bank. He was looking peaky and sounded pasty. “It’s just… my feelings have plateaued… I can’t really see, well, even a… medium-term future for us.” Typical civil servant. “I am so sorry.” I snatched back the Keats book I had lent him and stared furiously into the Thames churning below.
The last time we saw each other he was all over me. Then he changed our weekend plans to Friday dinner. Then he ominously suggested a walk before dinner. “I totally understand that you want to throw me in the river.” Nervous laughter. “Please don’t. I can’t swim.”
We had been in touch every day since matching on a dating app in February, when we discovered we had loads in common. Our first date had to be delayed when my housemate caught suspected Covid but we managed to squeeze one in just before lockdown. I was charmed by his smile and floppy locks and enthusiasm for cricket, movies with happy endings and chocolate eclairs. We risked a hug and had more dates — via Zoom every Saturday. We quizzed each other on our favourite topics, watched films with happy endings on Netflix Party and shared stories about our families.
Soon our dates stretched over hours and we were texting every night in between. I couldn’t wait to see him again. After a couple of socially distanced dates (he brought eclairs, sweet), lockdown eased and we were able to get within two metres of each other, then one metre, then… he was no more a month later. I hope he doesn’t read this because, to be blunt, I don’t miss him a bit. It doesn’t follow, does it? The world stripped of distractions yet even more overwhelming gave us a precious opportunity to form a lasting bond. But in fact ours was just another relationship singing to the algorithms of an app. Bumble, Hinge and Tinder encourage us to generate our own theme tune that we hope will chime with another soul. “I hate sad movies”, “I once had a run-in with a grizzly bear”. And we’re encouraged to reduce potential partners to a ditty too. Peccadilloes become cast-iron beliefs and suddenly brunch refuseniks and Tory haters are trapped in dating loops, condemned to being people they don’t really want to be, never connecting with people who are right for them.
We’re stuck with apps and the pandemic has only tightened their grip on dating. But I know how to move forward. I’m forgetting everything I think I know about myself and I’m not interested in anyone else’s carefully constructed score. I’ve got my ear to the ground.