When looking for love in times of Corona, the all-important spark matters now more than ever
BY FRANCESCA BLESSLEY, IMAGE VIA ISTOCK
As we enter Lockdown 2.0, finding an immediate connection with someone and the ability to fast forward a few months to the Netflix and Chill stage is essential.
At the start of lockdown, I’d been single for 10 months. What better time to go and find love than in the middle of a pandemic, said no one ever. But suddenly finding myself with no job and the horror of two children to home school it seemed like a great idea. If nothing else, it might fill in the endless days that lay ahead. I enthusiastically signed myself up to Hinge and launched myself into the uncharted territory of online dating.
After an uninspiring start, I matched with ‘R’. We had a lot in common, my favourite being the fact we both Marie Kondo’d our clothes. We texted for six weeks until we could finally meet. It felt old fashioned and romantic as if I was living out my very own Jane Austen fantasy. In that time, I built up a picture in my mind of what she was like. A glamorous, high-powered TV Executive who I’d be attending red carpet events with, I’d even planned my outfits. Unsurprisingly, the reality did not match the fantasy, and as nice as she was there was no Mr. Darcy moment. I’d mentally invested so much time and she’d become such a big part of my lockdown existence that it felt quite heartbreaking to realise the fairy tale ending I had hoped for had not materialised.
I decided to play things differently with ‘J’. No time was going to be wasted with endless texting and romantic ideals. On date one, the attraction was there, and we were able to chat enough that a second date was planned.
However, the second date felt awkward. Being new to online dating I had no ‘normal’ to reference it to. Nothing was open and there was nowhere to go. Our day to day lives were like Groundhog Day and there was nothing to talk about. Social distancing was still in place so there could be no physical flirting or touching. The whole social structure of society had been stripped back to the bare minimum and there was no background buzz of a bar to hide a bad date.
We left it for a month and arranged a cinema date to see a beautiful, Juliette Binoche film. So far, so normal, would this make the difference? We had the cinema to ourselves, sat next to each other, and shock horror, our elbows even touched! Then a man walked in, sat in the same row as us, and given the explicit nature of the film (it was French after all), it felt like we were watching porn with a total stranger. The frisson of the elbow touching soon dissipated and I was left looking for the nearest exit as the cloud of awkwardness grew ever bigger above us. Mon Dieu, was I ever going to find l’amour?
I’d almost given up on finding the elusive combination of attraction and connection when I stumbled across ‘T’. There were no sketchy photos at funny angles with sunglasses on, what you saw was what you got and as a result, they exuded confidence. When one of their responses to the prompt on Hinge, “What’s your greatest strength?” was, “I can do a chin-up or pin you down”, (use this line, it has a very high success rate apparently!) there was always going to be flirting.
Witty banter was lobbed backwards and forwards for over a week. The stakes felt high for both of us on that first date as we had already transcended a level of connection normal for two people who had never met. On 5 August I headed over to Rotherhithe Village (who knew there was a village?) to meet at the Mayflower pub. Having sent a description of what I was wearing; white vest top, distressed jeans (to match my nerves), and Nike high-tops, I heard someone shout out “Oi, high-tops, over here.” Hearing that one sentence I felt instantly calm.
We ran into the pub, sat down, and chatted non-stop all night. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t really done much over the past four months, there were so many other things we found to talk and laugh about. Forget the sparks, fireworks were going off in Rotherhithe that night.
Three months later we’re still together, and very much in love. At the weekend we headed off to Ikea for the first time as a couple. A trip there in non-covid times is a test of any relationship. We emerged, in post-apocalyptic times, on the verge of a second lockdown, almost unscathed with enough tealights to keep us going through 10 pandemics. If we can survive that we can survive anything. They’re definitely “The One”.