Dating and Relationship Advice

When I went on my first date with Chris, he didn’t hug me when we met up. He never commented on the fact that I was wearing sweatpants and no shoes, nor did I mention that his dog kept climbing on his lap. During our drinks, we never had to worry about a waiter interrupting our conversation. In fact, we never made reservations for our drinks.

Before we parted, he asked “same time next week?”

“Same time, same place.” I agreed.

We both finished our drinks, said goodbye, and I exited out of FaceTime. That’s right, my first date with Chris was completely virtual. Our second date the following week was also online. And with the current state of the world, any future dates will most definitely be online as well.

In a year where “having a night in” has become the only big plan on our agendas, dating apps have seen a spike in singletons. An August 2020 report from Business Insider found that Match Group, the owner of Tinder and the eponymous Match.com, found a fifteen percent increase in users since the third quarter of 2019. Dating apps now offer the option to video call matches, and hand washing and safe distances have become the new recommended protection.

Back in March when my home state shutdown kicked off, I had no interest in going out on dates. I figured that the state-issued lockdown would only last two weeks, and then I’d be back to going out with friends and having fun. By the time September rolled around, this new lifestyle had gone from temporarily blissful to semi-permanent hell. It was my sister’s idea that I join a dating app. Her sales pitch was compelling:

“It’s just to meet people”

“You’re a catch, it wouldn’t hurt to talk to a guy.”

“Seriously, once I joined Hinge, I never saw a picture of a guy holding a fish in his profile AGAIN. It’s for you.”

After days of pestering, I broke down and downloaded Hinge.

My first virtual date was in the beginning of September with Gabriel. We had matched a few days after I joined and we had texted for a week at this point. Gabriel asked if we could meet up for a drink sometime that weekend.

I live outside of Chicago and as much as I wanted to go into the city and socialize with another adult, something stopped me. It wasn’t the commute into town, or the ridiculous challenge of finding cheap parking in walking distance of the destination. It was the fact that I live with my mom, who has both asthma and an autoimmune disease. A night out is fun, but the thought of potentially bringing Covid home and putting her life at risk was too much.

Instead, I asked Gabriel if he would be down to have a virtual cocktail with me because I was worried about our safety. I was prepared for complaints of “why can’t we meet in person?” and “I don’t have Covid. it’s just going to be the two of us!”—anything that immediately proved he only cared about going out and that he didn't think my concerns were valid.

To my pleasant surprise, Gabriel admitted he had never done a virtual cocktail before, but he was up for trying it. We planned a date for that Friday night.

On The Night Of, I still did my normal pre-date routine. I put on makeup, wore my favorite top, even slipped on my heels (I kept the sweatpants though). I chose a corner of my room that displayed some of my posters to serve as a conversation starter, and I tested my internet connection more than once. Even though we weren’t meeting in person, I still felt those typical first date jitters.

At 7:30 PM sharp, Gabriel rang me up over FaceTime and I settled in. I cracked open a hard cider, turned the camera on, and there he was. He didn’t look very different from his profile, and he seemed happy to see me, if not a little nervous as well. He had also brought his own drink with him, and we both joked right away that we were saving money by doing this virtually.

Gabriel confessed that he had been a bit anxious to do a virtual date because he wasn't sure we'd be able to carry a conversation that wasn’t over text. Fortunately, we both had plenty of things to share. He complimented my choice of posters, and I asked him about some of the books on his shelf. We took turns sharing our favorite movies and music, even sending a few songs back and forth. It turned out that we could still have a first date in a comfortable environment.

Over the next month, Gabriel and I went on a few more virtual dates but ultimately decided to go our separate ways. However, my positive experience with him has encouraged me to try out virtual dating a few more times. Here are a few takeaways I've learned from going on virtual dates:

Prep Your Space

Make sure your internet connection is solid and you’re sitting somewhere comfortable. Have something in the view that can serve as a conversation piece, like a poster or a pet. Then prop yourself up on your favorite pillow and relax—it’s an online date, not a job interview.

If you live with other people, just give them a heads up that you’ll be taking a private call. The earlier that you communicate, the easier it will be to avoid yelling over your roommates cheering to football or your brother deciding he wants to practice his drums directly outside your door.

Have a Drink… But Don’t Get Drunk

Having a virtual drink doesn’t mean you have to be a virtual drunk. No matter what you sip on—from beer to bourbon, wine to White Claw—sip on it. While you might be nervous about seeing another person (even virtually) for the first time in months, drinking isn’t going to make that better. Sit back, relax, and take a few sips here and there. If you’re unsure whether alcohol will make you feel better or worse during the date, stick to water or a soda.

Headphones

Whether they are wire or wireless, word to the wise: use them.

Stand Your Ground

This is a global crisis, and it’s understandable if you don’t feel safe going out. Don’t feel pressured to enter unsafe situations. You have every right to say “I don’t think it’s safe to meet in person right now, I’d prefer to video call.” or “It’s clear to me that you don’t respect my concerns. It was nice meeting you. I hope you stay safe!” Dating is stressful enough—you don't want to add "fear of getting coronavirus" to your list of worries.

Names have been changed