Fully aware that I am about to launch into ‘why GOTN is wildly irritating’ territory, I ask the third guy in the space of a week: “You say you like me but… what exactly is it that you like?” It’s not that I want him to kiss my arse, I genuinely need to know the answer. Without a real answer to that question, I don’t think I can meet him. Dating during Covid has helped me realise that what I’m after in a date has been refined – or just better defined – since the last time I was single.
Note: all the posts I put up on the blog right now have a fairly massive time delay – anywhere between 3-6 weeks. I’m saying this here because dating during Covid is going to involve some element of risk, and the rules around what you can and can’t do are in a constant state of flux. In-person meet-ups that I mention on the blog are all safe and legal at the time I did them, but they may not be safe/legal where you are, or if you’re reading this blog post much later down the line.
The problem I am having with dating right now is that most of the guys I speak to seem very keen to escalate, no matter what. It sounds excellent on the surface, but in practice it can make things quite tricky. So keen are they to escalate to the next stage that it’s sometimes wildly obvious they don’t fancy me, they just fancy whatever the ‘next stage’ might entail. Drinks in person, a snog, a fuck, whatever. Some dudes are so keen to get to the next stage with ‘a woman’ that they have forgotten to find out anything about the actual woman in front of them.
I understand the appeal of the ‘next stage’, of course – I am frequently keen to move to it too, just usually a little less than the men I speak to via video. I’m surprised and disheartened to realise that I’m way more cautious than the guys I meet on dating sites, many of whom don’t give a shit that there’s a pandemic happening so we probably shouldn’t throw a big fuckparty like we would have in the Before Times.
Dating during Covid
Dating in a pandemic puts me very far outside my comfort zone. My dating brawn may have wasted away, but there are still some hints of muscle memory. I remember meeting guys, having one drink, deciding on another, getting nicely and casually sozzled then touching them up on the night bus on the way back to mine. I remember dating being incredibly low stakes: so what if we just fucked once then said goodbye? So what if we had a drink then decided we didn’t fancy each other? So what if we achieved nothing more than a pissed-up fumble at the bus stop before never speaking again? We’d have had a bit of a laugh, and the worst we’d have contracted would be a vague sense of disappointment.
These days it’s very different. I’m incredibly cautious of extending my bubble, so ‘just meeting for a drink’ isn’t on the cards until I’m confident that drink will be genuinely fun. I have (at the time of writing) only met four people in person: one is my Good Friend, who you’ve met already, another is a guy I might tell you a bit about later, the third is a blog reader you’ll meet sometime soon, and four is the dude we’ll end this post with.
It’s hard to do physical dating during Covid. As a consequence, I’ve done a lot of phone calls. I’ve done video dates too, where we try to pick through awkward, time-lagged chats to see if our poor internet connection can be bested by a good interpersonal one. If I’m honest, I prefer the phone. There’s something delightfully old-school about audio calls – being able to wander around the house chatting shit with a stranger, lying on the carpet on the living room floor staring at what’s on the bookshelves and wondering if they, like me, are also picking bits of fluff from between their toes. One excellent guy, on a long and very fun call, manages to sneak in a piss while we chat without me noticing. I congratulate him on his subtlety, and try to work up the courage to do the same myself (I fail).
If we enjoy chatting, we move on to the next stage. And so far the ‘next stage’ of dating during Covid has involved either failing to make the logistics work for a meet up (I can’t do public transport and I won’t do pubs, so if I cannot cycle to a park or the weather isn’t park-appropriate then we’re exactly the wrong kind of fucked) or socially distant drinks.
Socially distant drinks are the best part of dating during Covid
This part I have been genuinely looking forward to, and am a bit sad I haven’t done that much of it: socially distant drinks.
I know, I know – why on Earth would I enjoy sitting two metres away from a guy, talking to him about what each of us might like in bed, while being strictly forbidden from actually reaching out to touch the erection he may or may not be beginning to sport? What could possibly be fun about exchanging horny, wry smiles and innuendo, but crucially being banned on pain of Covid to actually do anything about the desire that’s building… see what I’m getting at? There’s an innate hotness in the idea that touching is forbidden.
The second benefit of socially-distant dates is perhaps even more important: if we can’t touch, we can fucking talk. And God, I love talking. I love finding out about someone and trying to understand what makes them tick. I want to learn, before I’ve laid a hand on them, where and how they might want me to lay that aforementioned hand. I want them to ask me questions too: who am I, what do I like, what do I hate, what makes me laugh and what makes me weep and what makes me want to fall to my knees and beg them to fuck me in the mouth. I need to know about them, and that’s easy. The hard part is getting them to want to know anything about me.
What exactly is it that you like?
Hence, during video dates, when the third guy in the space of a week tells me he’d like to meet up in person, I ask ‘why?’
He looks shocked.
“Because we seem to get on – I like you.”
“Sure. But what exactly is it that you like about me?”
I’m annoying. I know I’m annoying. But this guy has hardly asked me anything, and it’s hard to fancy someone if I don’t think they really fancy me. They fancy ‘generic woman’. They fancy escalating to the next stage more than they fancy me. Men on video chat fancy meeting up so we can touch, or snog, or fumble, but they don’t much mind who it is they’ll be fondling – the person beneath the knickers, if you will.
I’m not judging, I just find it hard to get hot for. Lust, for me, doesn’t come in the shape of someone’s arse or the feel of their dick in my hand. Lust usually comes from someone’s turn of phrase or their tone or something funny they said when we sat down to chat, and crucially from the things we learn about each other, and the way those things might mesh. So in my desperation to find a hook onto which I can hang my lust, I have annoyed a few men by asking: what is it that you like? And I’m fussy and unsatisfied when the answer is ‘nice smile’ or ‘you’re friendly’ or ‘you, a woman, are in front of me.’
Be curious about me
An in-person date, another time, with a man who did his best. We share a few gin and tonics as the conversation fizzles, over and over. We sit mostly in silence in a sunny park, listening to music on a tinny bluetooth speaker and tapping our feet. Occasionally he tries to lean in, making valiant attempts to close the two-metre gap. To escalate. To turn me from ‘woman he does not know’ into ‘woman he has at least fucked’, and if I were twenty six instead of thirty six, I would almost certainly let him. But nowadays I’m bored of men who do not ask me questions. Guys who can’t put their finger on what they like besides generic-and-available-woman and the fact that I talk about sex. Men for whom I am not a me-shaped treat, just ballast to fill a woman-shaped hole. So I shuffle myself slightly further away, smile politely and ask him a few more.
He answers, then lapses into silence.
I ask more, he answers, then silence.
I throw more questions his way – horny ones as well as casual ones, desperately searching for a topic into which he is willing to invite me too. It would be easy for him to do that – just throw the same questions back: “[Insert answer here], how about you?” but he doesn’t. I don’t ask because I’m testing, but because I really do fancy a fuck. I’m hunting for reasons to say yes, begging him to give me something onto which I can hang my lust.
But each time my questions die. He catches them, kills them, then waits expectantly for me to birth another. Occasionally he’ll move to touch me, or suggest we go somewhere to shag, and I’m searching in vain for a reason to say ‘yes, let’s.’
Eventually I give up, say it’s time for me to go, and as I gather up empty tonic cans and crisp packets and disappointment, he finally asks me one question:
“I think this went really well, don’t you?”
I’m too tired and drunk to be anything but honest:
“I’m not sure it did. I’m sorry.”
He looks confused, and hurt, and I know this isn’t what I’m supposed to do. I should pour out some platitudes, tell him he’s lovely and that maybe we’ll hang out next week. But we won’t hang out next week and he really is lovely, so I don’t want to cheat him with lies.
“You keep trying to shag me, but you don’t really know me. You didn’t ask me anything, so I find it hard to connect with you.”
“I just assumed if you wanted me to know something, you’d tell me.”
The main benefit of dating during Covid is that we have to talk. We have to step back two metres, delay the fucking for a while, and actually work out what we think of the other person. And because of that I learn a little more about what I want. I realise that although I am definitely keen to get fucked, it’s hard to fuck men who aren’t at least a little curious. If you don’t ask me questions when we’re talking, what will you do when we get into bed? Will I be able to tell you what I like and don’t like, if I don’t think you’ll care about the answer?
I don’t want someone who wants to fuck ‘a woman’ – I want to fuck men who want me.
Alongside the whole ‘please be aware this post is on a huge time delay’ thing I also need to note that what I’ve done here is write about a man who does not know I’m a blogger, thus breaking the first rule I gave myself when I became single. I won’t be writing about men I’ve fucked without their permission, but I’m giving myself a bit of leeway to write some non-fuck-related dating stories as long as I try not to be a dick about the men I’m writing, and as long as they’re anonymised. If you think this is morally wrong, please do tell me – honestly I have gone back and forth on this a lot since this post was first drafted, but I’ll take a steer from you lot if you think I shouldn’t do this.