• Al Jennings

Are Zoom Dates the way of the future...I hope not!

It’s 2021, and it feels like the world is in a worse state than we left it in 2020. There is, however, hope on the horizon. Joe Biden is now the leader of the free world; Kamala Harris is making history as the world first female Vice-President and Russell T. Davies has destroyed us emotionally with his stunning new drama about the AIDS crisis; It’s a Sin. But maybe the most important thing is we have finally got vaccines being deployed and it seems increasingly likely that we might have some form of normality back by the summer. The end of the Pandemic is finally in sight.

It’s been a difficult time for everyone. Covid has ripped through the world, and our lives like Miley Cyrus on her wrecking ball; and for those of who thrive from social interaction with the outside it’s been especially tough. Not been able to go out to meet and socialise with friends or hug our loved ones. Being a lonely singleton, I’ve found it especially tough. What with Christmas, and Valentine’s day approaching, everything is geared up to couples, intimacy and social interaction.

I made a conscious decision for 2021 that I would be put myself out there and try to meet new people; and just because we are locked up doesn’t mean that this has to change. You just have to look in different places. It’s not without its challenges though.

I’ve spent a lot more time on dating apps like Grindr over the last few months. it’s not for wanting to hook up, because I don’t feel comfortable with that yet, but more the wanting to speak to somebody new. I’m not saying that people aren’t hooking up, because from what I see on people socials they quite clearly are; and if they are; then that is their choice to make. We can’t tell people how to live their lives, but we shouldn’t shame them for that. We don’t know what happens behind closed doors; and people who live in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing stones.

But going back to keeping in touch with our loved ones; I mean, I love my close group of friends, but sometimes it’s nice to speak to someone new; a different conversation to stimulate yourself to get through the day.

I think we can all agree that Grindr isn’t the easiest of apps out there to navigate. There are all kind of weird and wonderful people that you can meet on there. Some are genuine, but there are lots of fakes out there. Sometimes you can fall lucky and find a real diamond in the rough. I’ve always seemed to have an arduous experience with dating apps, Grindr especially. I’ve received so much hate and abuse by complete stranger’s fat-shaming me without actually knowing me. I’m no oiling painting – I know that; but I don’t need some faceless profile giving it both barrels to make me feel even less confident that I do normally. But sometimes, things don’t always happen the way you expect, and just like that; I spent a few days chatting to one guy who happened to be not all that far from me.

The conversation flowed, and their seemed to be a real genuine connection between us. We shared the same interests. There was no “hi, u ok? U horny”. It was a proper conversation. It turned out that that both of us agreed that Eleni Foureria’s Cypriot slut drop-bop was robbed of its rightful victory at Eurovision. I mean, after that statement right there, I thought I might have to buy a hat. It wasn’t what I was expecting late on a Friday night.

It turns out, he was a 32-year-old, office administrator for a major car retailer. Own place. Financially stable, and the most beautiful blue eyes that I just wanted to dive right in to. He ticked all the boxes. He was keen to meet up when the pandemic was over and wanted to meet over Zoom to meet properly – or as properly as you can get in 2021.

A “Zoom-date”? I spend enough time on Zoom throughout the week, I don’t really want to spend my weekend doing it too – but he seemed like a nice guy. Reluctantly I agreed, and there it was. My first ever “zoom date”.

I’ve come to realise, the thing with zoom dates is that they can be quite liberating. There are no hours of ransacking your wardrobe worrying about what to wear; or spending hours in the bathroom titivating yourself. All you really have to do is worry about the top half. I found it refreshing; it meant I could wear something comfortable; a nice relaxed longline top from ASOS was my choice. Nothing too ground-breaking, but still nice looking. I’ll leave the Versace for the real first date.

My mind then did begin to wander; how do I set the mood? Do we try some dim lighting? What music do I put on in the background? Do we go all out with some bangers? Or do we just keep it relaxed. Anyone that knows me knows how much I adore a playlist. I’ve got one for every occasion. Whether it’s a hardcore session in the gym, or some “Monday-motivation” to get me through a long day at work. Music helps focus my mind and relaxes me. But did I really want to expose this guy to my rather questionable musical tastes right out of the bat? Does he really know that my idea of a banger is some long-forgotten Baltic Eurovision semi-finalist from 2005? There are some things that can only explained and introduced after a while of knowing someone I thought! In the end we played it safe with the latest “New Music Friday”, at a sensible level where he couldn’t quite hear it through the laptop, but I could still feel focused and relaxed in the date.

I normally hate first dates. I always end up making awkward small talk or finding myself heavily editing myself. The worst parts are often the silence. The awkward silences where neither party really knows what to say to each other. I was savvy here. The morning of the date, I went through our chats on Grindr and WhatsApp to remind myself just why we clicked in the first place and picked out a few talking points. I popped them down on a notebook and just put that next to my laptop before we started.

We actually had a lovely time, and the best thing is, if you’re a cheap skate like me, you only actually get 40 minutes free on Zoom, so I found it perfect for what we wanted to find out about each other. If the connections not there, it’s just 40 minutes. The conversation flowed better than I thought it would have done, and there was no awkwardness. Yes, it was strange, but it was a nice way to spend some time getting to know someone.

Was it my last ever first date? No, it wasn’t. Don’t buy the hats just yet girls. He was lovely, and we did genuinely connect. He’s the kind of guy for me who would make a great friend. So that’s how we’re gonna keep it, after the pandemic is over and we’re allowed to socialise in person we’ve said we’re going go and have a few drinks in Leeds. If I’ve learnt anything from this experience it’s that you might not meet Mr Right, but you’ve got the option to meet new people – and it’s a great way to keep yourself in the dating pool.

How do we go about dating safely throughout a pandemic?

Obviously, the classic Saturday night date night is out of the questions, and we’re all not on Grindr looking for hook ups at the moment. Maybe virtual dates are the way forward for the time being. I mean, you don’t even have to do virtual dates; you could find a guy and have virtual sex with them? There’s nothing wrong with a bit of sexting now and again is there? It can be a great way to spend some time getting to know both yourself and someone else. You don’t always need the physical touch of another man to turn you on.

Maybe we’ll look back on the pandemic in a few years’ time and realise that we needed that bit of time alone to refocus and remind ourselves that each and every one of us is special in our own way. And perhaps; when we get back out into the real-world; we may be more open to new experiences and meeting people we wouldn’t have met pre-Covid. We may find ourselves dating different types of guys or understanding a different point of view because that’s part of our own personal development and how we evolve as people? Maybe? Maybe not? Maybe after the pandemic I’ll still be the tory hating leftie that I’ve always been? Who knows!

Yes, these are still unprecedented times, and we’ve got to adapt to them. I’ve learnt that we don’t have to sit home alone on a Friday night, we can still get out there and socialise and have a good time, we just have the option to wear even less clothes! During a time where things might feel a bit lonelier, technology proves we don’t have to be totally alone.

There’s no doubt that the lockdown has made it hard for us singletons to meet new people. It’s not impossible, but it’s not the easiest of things to do. For some of us, there’s only so much porn that you can watch before it gets a little tedious, because when you’re locked down for what feels like an eternity, all you want to do is see something other than the same four walls you’ve been staring at for the last 10 months.

I used to think that being single mean’s that nobody wanted you. But living through the pandemic and lockdowns 1, 2 and 3; I’ve now come to realise that choosing to be single means you’re actually pretty sexy and you’re taking your time deciding how you want your life to be and who you want to spend it with. It’s empowering; but being single during a lockdown can be hard though. It says something when you’ve lived through more lockdowns than you’ve had relationships. More importantly, I’ve come to realise that the most challenging, exciting and perhaps the most significant relationship is the one you’ll have with yourself. And if you find someone that loves you, the way that you should love yourself; well, that my dear reader; is just fabulous.

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