Dating Magazine

Jem and Ria

By The Guyliner @theguyliner

For almost six years, I have got up nearly every Saturday morning, made myself a cup of tea - in a mug with my initial on that I use only on Saturdays - and have sat either on the sofa (while still in my thirties, or ill) or at my desk and written a review/analysis/whatever of the Guardian Blind Date. Thousands of answers from hundreds of different people, countless sharing plates, and trips to the toilet, and dodgy waiters trying to build up their part. Umpteen missed opportunities to kiss, a few passionate lunges, awkward rides home on the Tube and just one, very famous, lost item of underwear. Some have been predictable, some have been boring, some exciting, some romantic, some were sexy, some were deliciously savage, some excruciating, and a choice few would have been better served by my staying in bed and pretending I'd never read the date at all. But they all had one thing in common: they were face to face, in the flesh - a real, physical, in the moment date where anything and everything could happen (even though hardly anything did, often). Couples were photographed, matched and dispatched to a restaurant with a free meal and one (1) bottle of wine to grease the wheels. The rest was up to them.

Today is different.

It would be impossible for me to even start talking about what the pandemic has done to our daily lives, and some have felt it harder than others, so let's stick to the immediate: dates can't meet any more because of social distancing and the government guidelines on when you can and can't go out (which are extremely clear, and anyone saying otherwise, that they have been deliberately vague because of government ideology and very much open to interpretation, will be dragged, screaming, from the Easter egg aisle in their local Tesco). So we are at the mercy of an internet connection, each of our daters given a takeaway and - I hope - some kind of alcohol, to do their best to work their charms virtually. As anyone who spent more than thirty seconds on Chatroulette will tell you, making a first impression and holding attention over a computer screen is pretty tricky - unless you're putting something inside you, or removing something - so we must all rein in our expectations.

Jem, on the left, is 27 and an advertising creative, and Ria, 23, is a junior TV question writer (?????? this sounds like an amazing job! Questions for what?! For whom?! I want to read 750 word on this). No photo shoot for them, sadly, because distancing, but here they are again, all illustrated up in a mock laptop, as they would have seen each other.

Read the full-length version of the date before I come and tidy up the back and sides (OMG remember hairdressers?!?)

What would a normal single person do at a normal time in history? Go on a date, yes, definitely. I can think of other things you can still do now that you could before:

- Go to the supermarket and marvel at how absolutely everything is geared toward people in couples, except for individual ready meals and "for one" tins and packets which, when you place them on the conveyor belt, there checkout operator looks at you with abject pity.

- Walk through the park (don't stand still!!) and enjoy the passive buzz of couples arguing.

- Thank your lucky fucking stars you don't have to pretend to like someone else's friends/family/taste in movies/cooking/face.

If there's one thing the coronavirus pandemic has exposed, other than the shared brain cell of the people running the country, it is the poor quality of EVERYONE's internet. Where is all this hyper-fast, bull-strong broadband that's so powerful it can shave off your epidermis if you look straight into the box that we are promised? NOWHERE, isn't it? Celebrities have been torching alight their brands with vigour claiming that coronavirus is the "great leveller" - nope, guess again - but it turns out awful connectivity is what truly binds us. People with LUDICROUS amounts of money and power still have internet connections of dial-up quality: pixellating, freezing, and spluttering from their operating-theatre chic kitchens, their voice burbling out 20,000 leagues under the sea. When all this is over, we need answers from BT, Sky, and Virgin and all the other providers charging £££ for their broadband packages. (Mine was awful before this btw; it's not just related to coronavirus demand.) I need to be careful how I word this, I guess, because we are very much in a "heads on spikes NOW" phase of isolation and I don't want to end up in jail. Just write a strongly worded email to complain.

Her tattoos and room full of houseplants hinted she was a lot cooler than me.

Ooh, now this is an interesting bonus of this new format in that you get to see inside their house. I... well, I don't think I would pass this test. I am a messy person. Clean, and groomed etc etc, but messy. I would like to be tidy. I have ambitions of being a very graceful, minimalistic person who has lots of "open spaces" and nary a knick or a knack cluttering up the surface. I hate having stuff. And yet I have loads of it.

One dangerous side effect of selfies and FaceTime etc is the stalk-zoom. Oh, you've done it. You have. Someone posts a selfie from their bedroom, bathroom or lounge and, before you even know what you're doing, your two fingers are pinching the screen and zooming in to see what's on their bookshelves/bedside table/laundry pile. It can be much more revealing than an ironic, twisty pout, or a salute - and you can also get yourself some decent skincare recommendations without the indignity of asking. But, yes, if you're taking a selfie or heading onto FaceTime, make sure you're stalk-zoom ready.

Coronavirus apocalypse, bisexuality, cheesy chips and how Piers Morgan finally saying something intelligent (about the virus) signified the end times.

Coronavirus apocalypse/abnormal things like handstands and self-tattoos ✅ I have never done a handstand and I don't have any tattoos - and certainly not any self-tattoos, which I'm assuming means homemade tattoos and not just self-portraits inked into your skin. I'm not sure risking an infection, or slicing into a major artery in the middle of a public health emergency would be my go-to leisure activity but I'm sure they know what they're doing.

Celebrity crushes - did you see that challenge where celebrities have to put on a sweatshirt, one-handed, while upside down? Yeah, they really are just like you and me, aren't they? I don't understand how anyone who actually eats and has a full-time job can have a bad like that. Plus, can I just say again that I don't understand why uber-famous people have such horrible, clinical kitchens and live in houses that look like contact lens cases?

P*ers M*rgan saying something intelligent - please don't be fooled by this kind of commentator suddenly making sense because you agree with them. Even the saying "a stopped clock is right twice a day" doesn't apply, because all they're doing is gauging public mood - or at least the mood of the kind of captive audience they enjoy - and going along with it, in self-interest. They are weather vanes, not a clock. When it comes to opinions, our world is becoming increasingly binary - ironic, really, when you consider how everything else is going - and it's a common misconception that people who disagree with us = bad, and people who agree with us = good. It's not like that at all. And sometimes people exploit that very narrow worldview. Anyway, I am bored with this, next question.

She got locked out of her flat. I thought it might have been a really inventive way to end the date, so I was glad when she came back.
Jem and Ria

I do like a genuine romcom moment on the GBD. I didn't think people *did* that on screen any more. In the last few weeks, I have seen about four different shows where a character got locked out (usually in a date of undress, or mid romanic moment) and I have scoffed at it, but here we are and there you go.

I think we may both have eaten really quickly to try to stop the video freezing mid-bite (we failed).
Jem and Ria

See what I mean? Get all internet providers in a court of LAW as soon as lockdown is lifted. Nationalise!

About three hours.
Jem and Ria

A new question! So digital! Very online! Anyway I think three hours is a very long time - even on the most scintillating calls, I'd be slapping 'red' within an hour or two - so this is a good sign.

PRETTY, which mist be reassuring to Ria because don't we all worry that we don't look good enough on camera - let alone a camera that freezes mid-bite?
SMART, like a smart card you might use on public transport remember when that was a thing, like, getting on public transport and just going somewhere, anywhere, and it being such an automatic thing you barely thought about it, back when plotting a route on CityMapper wasn't niche pornography?
OPTIMISTIC - good quality to have at the moment. I would not thrive in the pandemic dating arena.

FUNNY, which is hard to crack over video, for some reason. Well, I know the reason. Body language is important, as is the atmosphere in a room. That's why many televised comedies, and standups, have a live studio audience, to make up for that nuance lost over broadcast. (Awkward comedies tend not to need them, as you can't wait for a joke to land.) Same vibe as a text message losing the tone of a voice call. Words are important, but it's the way we say them, and where we are, that gives them meaning.
EASYGOING, like absolutely nobody seems to be at the moment, especially when it comes to the coronavirus daily exercise rules. Might I take this opportunity to link you to a piece I wrote for GQ (weeks ago now) about how not to be a dick during a pandemic, and also posit that the continued sharing of photos and video of people in the park, or socialising, or doing yoga, or buying more than one tin of beans in the shop is not actually a public service - all it does is feed anxiety and anger and I wonder how productive this is. There is certainly a deterrent in there somewhere but I don't for a minute think many people filming and sharing these videos is acting in good faith.
CREATIVE, like a creative.

The video call kept letting only one of us see the other.

It's another new question! The answers aren't very interesting, but as Jem said, "I thought she was rude because she kept interrupting me", we now another CRIME to add to the list of bad broadband's misdemeanours. Seriously, 5G can't come fast enough. I don't care. Build a mast ON TOP OF ME.

Jem and Ria

I miss the And... did you kiss? question but we are living in a new world and this is the best we can hope for.

We both started catching each other's yawns.
Jem and Ria

I yawn a lot. I am always tired. I am a light sleeper. When I used to go on dates, and yawn, I would panic and immediately say, "Oh I'm not yawning because you're boring, I didn't sleep well last night" and it sounded like a LIE, and, reader, sometimes it WAS.

Jem and Ria

Oh believe me, you haven't LIVED until you've got into a lift, pressed the button for your floor, and said "fuck you" to the person you're leaving behind just as the doors close. I see video calling as the successor to this.

Jem and Ria
It feels unfair to score without meeting her in person.
Jem and Ria

SCORE IT. That's whey you're here. TSK. Fuck's sake.

Would you meet again in person once physical distancing is over?
Yes. I hope so.
She asked me out for a drink when this is all over, so why not?
Jem and Ria

All is not lost!

The pandemic means my book has shifted publication date. It would be great if you preordered one. Click image below for why this has happened and a list of retailers.

If you liked this post, consider showing your appreciation by donating to the Trussell Trust to support food banks.

If you want to tip me a quid or two, sure that'd be lovely:

About the review and the daters: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most of the things I say are merely riffing on the answers given and not judgements about the daters themselves, so please be kind to them in comment, replies, and generally on social media.If you're one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I'll happily publish whatever you say. And tell me what toppings you had on your pizzas - cannot believe you left that out. Also: Ria, drop the info on your job, please!

Self-isolation doesn't mean you have to stop looking for love, and Blind Date will continue with online video dates. If you're single and would like to be set up (with a takeaway on us), email [email protected] If you're looking to meet someone like‑minded, visit soulmates.theguardian.com

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