Chapter 1: Virtual
At the start of lockdown, I was invited to attend an Online Speed Dating night hosted by a company I have dated through before and worked as a host for. This was about a fortnight or so after my First Date on Skype with Jay and as I hadn’t heard from him I decided this was a good idea.
It would start at 7pm and I had been sent a link and a username and password that asked to log in 15 minutes beforehand. As I would with an in person event and like my virtual date, I gave myself a bouncy blow dry, slipped on the jeans and a nice top and why the hell not, leopard print heels. I spritzed my perfume and headed to the laptop with a large glass of red.
I logged on, and watched a short video of the host Josh explaining how the evening would work but of course it didn’t answer any of the questions I did have; How many dates will I have? Is this being recorded? What if I need a bathroom break? Is my lightening ok? The video finished and my screen changed. In the bottom right corner, was a chat box with Josh saying he will be available throughout. There was a paused timer on the top right and a large box that said “The host is matching your date.” Suddenly my date appeared and the 5 minute timer started counting down.
We introduced ourselves, name and location and then started a conversation. I felt the pressure.
My first date was Greek and as a lover of the cuisine we spoke about food. And before I knew it, the video switched off and there was the message “The host is matching your date.” I sipped my wine and the name Alexander appeared on the screen. I smiled, poised and ready and after 30 seconds, the chat box from Josh popped up saying he was having webcam trouble. All I could think was “can he see me?” as my face started to hurt from smiling. I watched the timer tick down till 00:00 and “The host is matching your date” appeared again. Maybe Alexander was my dream man and due to technology I will never know.
I then had another 5 dates. All fine. Not great but not bad. My eyes kept going to the timer, I felt awkward sipping my wine, the conversations were repetitive and I discreetly focused on their surrounds and backdrops and judged. Then it was time for date 7. I sipped my wine again and sighed wondering when this would be over while staring at the “The host is matching your date” message and then the name Alex popped up. I sat up straight and smiled, poised and ready to greet another and as the timer started to countdown, no video appeared. Another technology problem? Can he see me? Can I go to the toilet? Can I go put my jammie bottoms on now as most of the guys had been in the T shirts or hoodies they had probably being wearing all day… or all week and I felt far too dress up. I was ready for this to be over so I could continue binge watching Dead to Me 2.
The timer went to 00:00 and the screen said “The host is matching your date”. Quickly topped up the wine and sat up straight again as the name Martin appeared on my screen. I braced myself and painted on the smile as the video and timer started. Suddenly a natural smile developed as I saw a tall, ginger guy with a good jaw line in a crisp shirt sitting on a stylish couch in a bright and nicely decorated living room with a glass of crisp white wine beside him. What a difference to the previous 8 dates (well 6 as 2 had been no shows). His reaction suggested he was happy to see me and conversation started on where we are based. Unlike my dates before, he was also in the West End! His work was not far from mine and we started talking about my favourite sandwich place in the area. I was genuinely laughing along with this guy then suddenly the video disappeared and I was back staring at “The host is matching your date”. The chat had been so natural and looking at him meant we had missed the timer so we didn’t get to say bye as the video cut out. I wrote down his name and the allocated number he had been given as I knew I would certainly be ticking date 9. Then date 10 appeared. He was blonde like the milky bar kid and I enjoyed his conversation about the charity he worked for. I watched the timer still though and managed to say bye to Milky Bar Kid.
“You have been on all your dates” message appeared. I was exhausted and optimistically decided that liking 1 out of 10 was good enough.
The next day, the company messaged me with a link to make my choices. I clicked the link and there was a message to say I had 48 hours to make my decision. I ticked Martin and pressed submit. I then had a message saying “3 people have made their choices. 3 people have ticked you. You have 0 matches.” Martin must not have logged on yet.
Later that day, I signed in again. “5 people have made their matches. 4 people have ticked you. You have 0 matches.”
The next day I signed in “7 people have made their matches. 6 people have ticked you. You have 0 matches.”
Later that day “8 people have made their matched. 7 people have ticked you. You have 0 matches”.
Nothing changed by the 48 hour mark. Martin either never signed on to make matches at all or he didn’t tick me… Might be awkward after lockdown and we end up next to each other in the queue at this sandwich place on a Tuesday lunch break.