Sober Dating in Social Distancing
‘Only essentials must go on’ is the rule of thumb from the Australian government. Does dating fall under ‘essential’? I would vote yes as a basic human need, provided I abide by the social distancing rules.
So I put this to the test. How is a date different when consistently being 1.5 meters apart? When there is no relaxing glass of wine? When there is not that subtle touch at arrival or maybe a light touch on her arm or hand when we laugh and bond? The sheer idea of no more kinesthetic bonding felt like being a tradesman without tools.
Boy was I wrong.
My first social distance date was with a girl who just arrived from overseas who had to stay at home for 14 days, no exceptions. Not being able to go on a date makes you want that date even more, the forbidden fruit always looks more appealing. And it makes you more creative, too.
We figured that if she would sit in the porch of the backyard, I could sit in the grass 1.5 metres away. Technically she wouldn’t leave the house whilst I would technically not enter it. Even patrolling police would approve.
I brought her an barista-made almond chai latte, a special luxury in these covid times for people who can’t leave the house. Perhaps the first time that a non-alcoholic drink was more appreciated than a glass of wine.
I also got a crunchy olive sourdough from the same bakery, and now the real challenge started. She brought a wooden cutting board and knife from the kitchen and even threw in an antiseptic wipe to disinfect the knife; she asked me to step back so that we would not break the 1.5 metres distance; then she placed the utensils on the grass and said:
“you need to see this a bit like a drug deal from the movies.” With a big smile on her face.
And she was right in a way as we danced back and forth towards the chopping board and bread and back to let the other take some. Simple conveniences like sliced bread got a whole new meaning and not being able to touch became a tease.
The second social distancing date was a walk along Circular Quay and the Botanical Gardens. We texted intensely beforehand:
‘I think we should wear work clothes so that we have an excuse for our walk’
‘no then we need to actually walk towards a train station if we get asked. We better wear active-wear so that our walk can classify as exercise if we get asked’
‘but I usually don’t wear active wear to CBD, it would look weird to my colleagues’
‘okay, I will bring a yoga mat under my arm. Just to have an excuse in case we bump into police’
An interesting tension built up before the date. She choose formal wear and I was easy to recognise with the mat. Just something different than showing up with a rose in your mouth – but just as effective.
We walked towards the Sydney Opera House. And there they were: two policemen guarding access. my panic-stricken date rambled:
‘there is no yoga in the opera house, nor a train stop, what do we do? Run! No wait that would look suspicious. Hide here!’
We took shelter under the pillars of a now-closed restaurant in circular quay.
‘We can always say we had something private to discuss at work’ said the date to calm herself.
‘I honestly don’t think the police is on the hunt for people with no excuses. They just don’t want any tourists to go to the opera house’
There was again this tension of doing something naughty together. I just didn’t feel that much of a connection between us, otherwise that tension could have turned into, yes, that other naughty thing you could do together.
The third date was a walking date from Manly to Reef beach and back. She brought me a banana from her mum’s backyard as a gift, complete with red ribbon. In a winebar that gift would have been suggestively erotic, but on a walking date it is just a snack.
When walking in nature somehow the truth comes out easier than when meeting in a wine bar. Not that dates have something to hide; but because on a date you want to present the best part of yourself and leave the rest for later. Walking somehow processes things in the mind.
‘I’m just really traditional.’ she mentioned, thinking way ahead into the future. ‘I prefer the man to make more money than the woman. But then I am modern as well, I also like the man to care for the children equally where possible’
‘I think we need to start a business then so that I could stay at home more often’ I replied, partly to have a funny answer, partly to divert the topic. She was going ahead in her mind a bit too much.
‘So what are you looking to get out of a Hinge date?’ she then asked. Guess we were not going to start a business or start fantasing about a business.
‘I prefer to first become friends, and then maybe something romantic’
She was very honest, very kind, taking things one step at a time which I appreciate about her. I’ve never dared to type in ‘DTF’ into a dating app, and agree dating should start with a connection on the emotional level first before a connection on the physical level is made. But somehow her approach felt on the other side of the scale.
Or maybe it was just her way of saying: this is probably our only date.
But then I did get texts back from her asking how I was doing and sending pictures of beautifully home-made ravioli. Was it an invite for dinner? A friendship dinner or a romantic dinner? Or perhaps just pride on being an amazing girlfriend or wife if I were to become the lucky one?
On the ferry back from Manly I opened my phone. I never want to do that during a date. Three more women matched, so perhaps there will be more Covid-19 dates coming soon.