Once upon a time, the whole world was ordered to go into lockdown as a deadly spell swept across the land. What would this mean for all the princesses and princes on their romantic quest?
Okay, this isn’t a fairy tale but certainly worth a part in the lockdown chapter of my story.
It was a Sunday and I was feeling full of energy and uncharacteristically confident while dancing around the flat to Glee. I had been extremely unwell and in bed for 13 days (with a trip to hospital in the middle of it) so I was feeling great, like I was back from the dead. A phoenix from the ashes maybe? The pubs and restaurants had been closed over the weekend due to the virus and it was likely we were going to go into lockdown any day now. On this fresh Sunday, there was a trend on Instagram stories where you would ask your followers to respond with a selected emoji and you would share your favourite post of theirs on your stories with a little about how you know them, what you like about them. I chose the daisy emoji from respondents.
Most of my closest friends of course responded and I gushed over them. A few other connections that I hadn’t seen in years but we often liked each other’s post responded and we laughed as we reminisced. Then I got a request from Jay*.
It was going to be hard to pick just one favourite from his Instagram grid that is full of intriguing selfies in various cities across the world, scenic landscapes with bright skies and golden sunsets, worthy architecture and of course a good selection of him in a suit. I chose one of Jay on a roof top terrace in Edinburgh wearing a simple stylish jacket and a tartan scarf. I wrote:
“Babe. Matched on POF 7/8 years ago. Asked me to a party but I couldn’t go. Never dated. Prob male version of me so would never work. Takes braw pics.”
That is the full history of knowing Jay. We matched on a dating website years ago. He asked me to a party that I couldn’t make as it was my birthday and then we never scheduled anything. Soon after I started seeing someone but Jay and I had each other on Facebook and Instagram all this time. Often liking each other’s selfies and neither of us having any posts about being in any sort of serious relationships over the years.
Jay’s response to my post was the 100% emoji and I responded with a video to him directly (see, uncharacteristically confident) saying I still think we really should have had that date. Jay responded, “Thanks for that! I agree, shame we never got that date!” so again, uncharacteristically confident I suggested if we do go into lockdown then we should have a skype date with a wine. He agreed!
The next day, the Prime Minister announced lockdown. As we approached the first weekend in lockdown I couldn’t stop wondering if either of us were being serious. Not feeling as confident but with curiosity, I messaged Jay and asked if he was up for it and we agreed 8pm on Saturday.
Rather than the usual first date conversation of where to meet and which bar, we were deciding what platform to use. Jay expressed his awkward decision to tidy up the beard and I swithered if I there was any point in eye shadow. But I missed eyeshadow and I told Jay I wanted full effort as we agreed on skype.
Saturday evening arrived. I went to the shop and took that my favourite red wine was on offer as a good sign. As I would for a date, I got ready. Bouncy blow dry, off the shoulder top with my skinny jeans, heels and spritzed my favourite perfume. My skin had a great glow after being unwell so I didn’t wear as much make up as I usually would and decided I think I prefer this. I was nervous. I’m never nervous for a date. Not sure if it was because I had been waiting years for a date with him or because it was a “new type” of date. The date started just after 8pm and we connected on skype but for some reason my camera wasn’t working. So the first 20 minutes or so were just voices. In hindsight, that probably relaxed us both and allowed us to joke about technical issues being a new thing for a date while sipping our first glass of wine until we switched to another platform were my camera was working and I could see Jay.
His beard was trimmed, rugged yet smart. He wore a dark shirt, his blue eye sparkled and we cheered our large red wine glasses towards the screens and smirked. Behind me, Jay could see my floral curtains closed over and a glimpse of shelves with plants, photos and books. Behind Jay I could see a large window and an impeccably tidy bedroom.
As I expected (hoped) he was charming and conversation flowed. We spoke about the usual topics on a first date; family relationships, our jobs, travel, living alone and inconspicuous neighbours. The wine flowed and it never felt awkward. One thing that stands out about Jay for me is that he also had a dating blog (see, male version of me)! I remember reading his stories and thought they were hilarious and relatable. I don’t meet many guys that write creatively-especially straight, single, handsome ones so I think this has been what has kept me most intrigued over the years. It was really special for me to talk about my love of writing with someone who understood. The last time I told a handsome man on a date that I wanted to write a book he responded with “I have never read a book.” Jay and I could also share how difficult it is to put ourselves out there and the negative comments we can receive. Not comments on our writing or even the subjects but attacking us personally. He scoffed at me being told I was “too independent and guys don’t like that” and I was sorry to hear he had been called a See U Next Tuesday. I never got that impression and I pride myself on spotting that type. Someone understanding that your favourite hobby, despite all the praise you can get, can be buried away due to one strangers sentence created a connection I have never felt on a date. Despite the screen between us.
This type of date felt intimate for sure. Not in the usual way a date can be intimate but without the hustle and bustle around you or having to get up to go to the bar for your next drink, we were zoned in only listening to each other, hearing perfectly, no interruptions and in the comfort of our own home. Surprisingly, as we had each finished a bottle of red, there was certainly chemistry and flirting as the date ended. He joked that our first date was in his bedroom as he commented on how well my room lighting bounced off my shoulders. “Are you flirting with me?” I laughed and sort of rolled my eyes. I do think if it had been a standard in person date, we would have been sitting close, perhaps a hand on the thigh while laughing at each other’s joke and likely a kiss at the end. Well, I know I would have wanted a kiss.
Suddenly we noticed the time and we had been on our virtual first date for nearly 5 hours. Both a little tipsy we said goodnight. As I shut down my laptop on a red wine/first date buzz, I messaged Jay on Whatsapp as he had given me his number in case of technical issues. He said the date was fun and we both wished it had been in person.
After the virtual first date
For the next week after our date we spoke very briefly. I wanted to talk to him more but I was hesitant and my mind was in over drive. He was isolating with a busy household and working from home and I was furloughed in my own space with just my cat for company. The first time we weren’t the same. We had both admitted to having days which we had struggled that week but suggested another chat over the weekend. I let him know I couldn’t do Saturday but was free Friday. He never responded.
Ghosted in a time when you literally have to stay home and do nothing. And in ours 30s. Not cool.
However, I am usually the no excuses type but we are in a pandemic.
Before the date, I had said to others that dating virtually during this pandemic is a great way of keeping yourself busy. If you date often then it is keeping a sense of normality. Dating during this time gives a sense of moving forward. Dating virtually can be great for both the extrovert and the introvert. The problem with dating these days is the “hook up and move on” culture so this is allowing genuine conversations and leaving the date at that. There is absolutely pros to virtual dating.
Although, I had stressed to others before my date with Jay, that you cannot really expect anything right now. We don’t know how long this will last for and people won’t be themselves right now. Everyone is trying to keep themselves motivated and fill their schedules with virtual Pub quizzes, work meetings are via Zoom and there are plenty of articles on why they are draining. Alcohol and sugar will be in high consumption. Everyone is browsing the internet for new garden furniture or that extra special gift for a loved ones birthday in lockdown. Checking the news as we move phases and trying to get our head around what is and isn’t allowed now. Go to work but don’t go to work. It’s a draining time. It has taken me 11 weeks to edit and post this blog!
I would recommend a virtual first date but my tips are to agree a cut off time and if the wine bottle beside you becomes empty, don’t excuse yourself to pour yourself a home measure gin once it is done.
Since my date with Jay, I have also been on an online speed dating night and recently, a socially distance first date so I will post about them soon.
I knew yesterday that I would be posting about the date with Jay today. He didn’t know this but last night responded to my Instagram story about the Thor movies. It was very amicable. No hard feelings. I finally got a date with him. It makes me smile when I think about it. It has given me a Blog Post and I got to speak about dating during lockdown on a podcast. It might even inspire Jay to write his side of the story (if he reads this)
*Name changed to protect identity