During any other year, the whole ‘cuffing season’ thing wouldn’t make me bat an eyelid, but this time it’s different and the stakes are higher.
At a time when I should be welcoming my annual weight gain with open arms and looking forward to mulled wine and Love Actually screenings, I’m bracing myself for ‘coving season.’ The agenda? Find someone to keep your bed warm for the winter while the bars are empty and everyone else is loved up during lockdown. The method? Swipe until your thumbs fall off.
When the first lockdown happened back in March and we were all told to keep our hands (and other body parts) to ourselves unless we lived in the same household, I had somehow missed the memo and actually did just that. My friends however, were a different story.
Most of my loved up pals chose to hunker down with their partners, with three coming out of Lockdown 1.0 engaged. While some single friends decided to flout the rules entirely, bonking anyone with a pulse, while others found ways around them by going for long walks and socially distanced picnic dates. While I was re-watching Gossip Girl and half-arsing my local gym’s virtual classes, it seems like everyone else had been seeking a lover for the end of the world.
This lockdown is no different. According to dating app Badoo, 47 per cent of people are more eager to find a partner than they were before lockdown due to feeling lonely and 38 per cent are in search of a partner in preparation of a second wave.
This time around, I’m not ashamed to say that I too refuse to be left out in the cold for the winter lockdown. Through gritted teeth I’m back on the apps and swiping like a mad woman. At first glance you have the usual cheesy bios, lads holiday pictures (they’re never the good-looking one of the bunch) and family pets/children being used as swipe-bait. Peppered in there however is a slight desperation - admittedly from both sides. My standards - usually impossibly high (hence the whole single for two years thing) - were on half-price discount this time around. I mean, who am I to be pedantic about typos and who really needs all their teeth anyway?
I noticed that the matches were more frequent and the response time better than usual. Generally if I leave messages unanswered for up to 24 hours I receive ‘???’ follow-ups that only get more persistent the longer I leave it. I’ve also had several blasts from the past show up, with old matches sliding into my DMs to see if perhaps second time could be the charm. I briefly debated swiping on a guy I went to school with because hey, maybe ‘The One’ was right in front of me this whole time? Then I saw that he wears his jeans tighter than I do and quickly abandoned that thought. Then there was the old flame who ‘liked’ me on Hinge. This is the same guy who ended up going home with another girl at the house party I invited him to. I sent him packing - things will never be that bleak, will they?
Of all the options on the table right now I have Luke, one of the guys I’ve matched with before who has returned with his tail between his legs. He seems reasonably normal and I honestly can’t remember why conversation fizzled out before. He likes merlot, like me. He also likes brunch, like me. The bar is seriously low.
There’s also Harry* the data analyst. He’s explained what that is a million times but I still don’t get it - I don’t think he really does either. Nonetheless he’s good-looking, upbeat and generally fun to talk to so definitely one to keep on the books.
Finally there’s Michael who works in Comms. I’ve been seeing him the most IRL with our first date taking place at a swanky cocktail bar which insisted on us being masked upon entry. Removing my mask to reveal the lipstick smudges on my cheek was quite the first impression but one we were able to laugh off.
Since then we’ve met for food and drinks in chilly pub gardens and restaurant terraces, as well as clandestine ‘Netflix and Chill’ nights at home. I can’t help but wonder how inventive we’ll have to be if rules get tighter, or if we’ll have to stop seeing each other full stop. I also wonder whether I’d be as invested if this were any other time. Do I actually want a long-term boyfriend and if it came down to it, would I want him to fill that position? Perhaps not. But am I willing to keep him at arm’s length and risk another lonely and sexless lockdown? Definitely not.
Through all of this, nobody really seems to be regulating how the whole covid thing factors in. Forget maskless sex, the dates themselves have been mask-free and kisses have been exchanged with abandon. STDs are scary enough without throwing in a deadly airborne virus on top, but somehow everyone seems willing to risk it all if it means finding ‘The One’ to snuggle up with this winter.
*Names changed for privacy
The Rule of Sex: Covid Dating
Dress accordingly. Make sure you’re masked up and kitted out with the best winter jackets for those alfresco dates.
Be honest about what you’re looking for. If it’s for the short term, be clear about it, but also be open to the possibility of liking someone way more than you expected to.
Fall out with flatmates over booty calls. If you live with people who aren’t keen on letting outsiders into your bubble, you’ll have to take it outside (not literally — that’ll get you arrested).
Be tempted to covid cuff just anyone. The only thing more terrifying than being single in lockdown is being stuck with someone who slurps their food and ends every message with the sticky-out tongue emoji.
Be afraid to work with what you have. If rules do get stricter, you might need to find something else to keep you warm at night. Stock up on extra cushions, sex toys and good broadband for Zoom dates.