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Dating after lockdown: Why you should give it a go

Dating after lockdown: Why you should give it a go
Daunted by the prospect of dating IRL? Don't be! Here are all the reasons why you should get yourself back out there 
After at least three months of staring at the same walls during lockdown, I am thrilled to be heading out to restaurants to eat food I haven’t personally incinerated. I am delighted by sommeliers suggesting wine choices that extend beyond the scant selection in my Tesco Extra, and I am chuffed to bits by bar staff making me cocktails with an artistry that’s absent in my heavy-handed attempts at home.
For want of any other excitement in my life, my lockdown diet consisted largely of stockpiled Easter eggs. Now, however, I’m shedding the chocolate bunny blubber (along with my stretchy pink hotpants—the only item of clothing not to strain against my thighs).
I am on the market to sew myself into something minxy, and swap my slippers for six inch heels, as I resuscitate my love life with the fervour of Jessica Rabbit after eating oysters.
I assumed everyone on dating apps would be equally eager to feel the frisson of meeting up in person. However, despite the reprieve from pandemic-induced house arrest, a match I’d enjoyed chatting with suggested we get to know each other better via a video call. And a Times Radio segment on “Finding love in a time of COVID” featured a student called Bec who championed Zoom dates on the grounds that, “you can curl up in half pyjamas and a nice top.”
"If you can’t be bothered to get out of your pyjamas then you’re clearly not into that person"
“That’s not a date!” I declared, wondering if Bec was 18 or 80. I’d been invited on the show to talk about dating, and I felt this was missing the point of a first date. “You’re meant to be excited, you’re meant to want to dress up, you’re meant to want to go somewhere fabulous. If you can’t be bothered to get out of your pyjamas then you’re clearly not into that person!”
A first date should be fun, and I couldn’t think of anything more dismal than looking at your laptop when you could be somewhere wonderful, with someone who makes your heart race. Why spend the evening slouching on your sofa when you could be waltzing down the stairs of Quaglino’s like Barbara Streisand in the final scene of Hello Dolly? You can’t make that kind of entrance on a Zoom date.
Of course, we’ve got to be careful to avoid the spread of COVID, but most restaurants, including those offering outside seating, are taking precautions. These can include a temperature test on arrival, and asking you to register your visit either using the track and trace app on your phone, or by giving staff your contact details. Sanitiser is available at most entrances, menus can be accessed online (rather than being handled), and customers tend to be asked to wear masks until they reach their seats.
So if you’ve been sitting indoors dating via video calls, here’s why you should arrange an actual date and relish the anticipation of meeting up in person…
Off-Screen Etiquette
You won’t know what it’s like to date someone unless you actually go on a date with them. Chatting to someone on a screen won’t tell you if they get a bit handsy, or if they eye up passing talent.
It won’t tell you if they’ve lied about their height, or how they treat waiters, or whether they’ve got good manners. Will they hold the door open, or let it swing shut in your face? Will they adjourn to the bar at a pace that suits you, or march ahead while you scuttle after them? You won’t know until you meet in person, so the more time you invest in someone on video dates, the more you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Smell of success
Even if your match looks like your type on screen, you won’t know what they smell like until you meet—and this could be make or break. Some dating events pair participants by whether they like each other’s smell, claiming pheromones are the foundation for attraction. Experts are divided on this, but pheromones aside, you still want to know if your match smells like stale socks or a tsunami of Paco Rabanne.
Animal attraction

Body language is vital to a budding romance, and studies show that non-verbal cues aren’t as visible on video chats, leaving people feeling less bonded. The magnetic attraction that makes you want to move closer, that plays out in almost/accidentally touching when you change the cross of your legs or brush your (sanitised) hand theirs, will be dead in the water if you’re by yourself, looking at your laptop.
Through the looking glass
On a real date, you look at the other person, but on video calls people fixate on their own faces, despairing of perceived flaws. Our self-consciousness is compounded by the unflattering angle, and the sight of ourselves talking—a shock when we’d convinced ourselves we actually look like our best selfie.
This is the worst frame of mind to be in on a date. You want to relax and give the other person your full attention, secure in the knowledge that you look amazing. So rather than frowning over your frown lines while blasting your eyes with blue light, meet up and focus on the person in front of you.
Live life to the full

If COVID’s taught us anything, it’s that life’s precious and we should make the most of it. Lockdown put our social lives on hold—but now we’ve got the opportunity to get back out there, and we should grab it with both hands. Choosing to video date is like being released from prison but deciding to stay in your cell. Parts of the country have gone into localised lockdown. That could happen in your area, if it hasn’t already, and there’s no knowing if a blanket lockdown could be re-introduced. So if you can go on a date, do. Don’t take the opportunity for granted, because it could be whipped away at any time.
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