AFTER months of dabbling in virtual dating while wearing pyjama bottoms, single people now face the daunting prospect of real-life dates as lockdown rules are relaxed.
This new social pandemic is called FOMU – fear of meeting up – with the risk of catching Covid-19 and rising social anxiety among the concerns of those looking for love.
With dating app Badoo estimating that 60 per cent of singletons suffer FOMU, how can you get your love life back into gear?
Single writer Judy Cogan, 37, here offers some advice on returning to the dating scene post-lockdown.
WHEN lockdown hit, I did what any sensible thirtysomething single would do. I didn’t give up.
I embraced dating in the age of coronavirus, with its pun-heavy Covid banter, candlelit dinners on Zoom and FaceTime cocktails.
I even did an online couples’ workout. I found comfort in slow romance and low-maintenance dates at home. Glam only from the waist up and no need to shave my legs? Yes, please!
Now, just as I got the hang of virtual dating, everything is changing again.
The idea of meeting a hot hunk in person is terrifying.
But the time has come to ditch my tracksuit, get used to making eye contact and flirt from a one-metre distance.
But one step at a time, OK?
In early 2020 BC (Before Covid), physical dates came thick and fast.
A speed-swipe right, a handful of messages and I’m sipping wine in a sticky pub with a man wearing beads, wishing I was on my sofa.
With so much choice, dating was a numbers game. But the pandemic slowed things down.
Sixty-one per cent of daters will continue to use video calls once social distancing ends, according to Hinge Labs. I can see why. It is the ultimate pre-date — a way to test out if you have chemistry with a fella and break the ice before meeting.
You can ask important questions. Do we share the same aspirations? Is he looking for something committed or casual? Is this dude worth putting on shoes for? Answer “no” and you’ve saved a lot of time. You’re welcome.
This is the year of the outdoor date: Picnics, walks and bike rides.
The last time my social life revolved around a park, I was an awkward teen with an interest in alcopops and nowhere else to go.
Two decades and one global pandemic later, here I am again?.?.?.?although I have swapped the Hooch for bottles of red wine.
With local parks the only option, the decision on where to meet your date is easy.
If you are having second thoughts, you can always pray for rain.
LONG–DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS (A METRE)
Nothing says romance in 2020 like a “no Covid” sticker on a Tinder profile.
But remember, this is a hands-free meet-up. So no smooching.
It is a good idea to make sure you are both on the same page with this beforehand.
I will send a flirty text saying, “Can’t wait to see you from a distance” to initiate a no-contact clause before I meet my date.
This is a good thing as it enables you to suss out whether you are compatible before things get physical.
Activity dates are great if you are feeling nervous. Strolling around a park or going for a bike ride lowers the intensity of the situation because you are not sitting opposite each other.
TALK IS CHEAP
Not everyone will want to talk about lockdown.
Keep the jigsaw puzzles you completed in quarantine to yourself. Be curious and ask open questions to avoid awkward pauses. By listening to their answers, you take the spotlight off yourself and it also shows you are interested.
Be honest about any nervousness you might feel. The chances are your date is nervous too.
And even though a can of premixed gin and tonic will add some rose-tinted optimism to being out of the house with someone new, go easy on the booze. Public displays of urination are not sexy.
This is such a bizarre situation, but remind yourself that you will (hopefully) never have to date like this again in the future.
So make the most of the novelty. One day this might make a hilarious story to share with your grandchildren.
If, like me, you spent lockdown at home with your parents, dating will come with some teen-themed caveats.
I didn’t see my first social distanced date as potentially meeting The One but more of a chance to have a night off watching The Crown.
I met Simon at 3pm. He is also in lockdown with his parents, four miles away from my home town in Hertfordshire, and decided to walk the distance to meet me.
“It’s just great to be out,” he said when we met with an awkward wave.
The date began with a romantic stroll before we settled down on a picnic for a drink and nibbles at sunset.
The date was lovely but didn’t end with a kiss.
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It ended with 17 missed calls from my mum and an angry voicemail saying: “Get home now.”
I obediently dashed home, hoping I wasn’t about to be grounded. But I remembered the pandemic had got in there first.
While our home lives might have regressed, if you ever want to have sex again, make sure you keep those you are currently living with in the loop.
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