Last week, I spent an hour getting ready for a date. I pulled off the ratty sweaty pants I’d been wearing for most of my coronavirus quarantine, and hopped in the shower. I channeled my anxious-but-excited energy into contouring. I combed my hair, I and even cobbled together the strength to put on a bra. Then, I didn’t leave the house.
Instead, I “met up” with my hottie via Google Hangouts. Virtual dates on platforms like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime have been a growing trend in the age of social distancing — and they’re really not so different from IRL dates, according to Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist in New York and Minnesota, who focuses on relationships and intimacy.
These dates are fun and fairly low-pressure because you can do them in the comfort of your own home. So many of the factors that make an in-person date stressful — figuring out who pays, feeling out how physically intimate to get, deciding where to go — is off the table. And if it goes terribly, you can always just hang up.
Plus, the very nature of a virtual dates allows you to focus more on the stuff that matters, such as personality and interests rather than height or shoe choice, DeGeare says. Depending on where they take the meet-up, it could also give you a window into a little slice of their home life. Do they have cool art up? A poster for a movie you also love?
We asked experts for their best tips and ideas for virtual quarantine rendezvous. Here’s the best advice we got on everything from asking someone out to keeping it fun to "goodnight kiss" alternatives.
Initiate a FaceTime date
It might feel odd at first to suggest a digital tête-à-tête to a stranger, but DeGeare says you might as well shoot your shot. “We’re in a pandemic, so there’s a ‘fuck it’ mentality of: The world might end, so just go for it,” DeGeare says.
"Have fun with the fact that we can't physically see each other,” she suggests. “We're all living in this bizarre reality, so there's no shame in saying something like: 'I'd love to see you in person but since that's not possible now, why don't we try FaceTime?'"
Keep the same "first date" mindset
Assume that video will be on, and get ready like you would for any first date, DeGeare says. For me, that meant swiping my favorite highlighter across my cheekbones, but it could also mean putting on your favorite shirt or spritzing some perfume. Whatever makes you feel on your game.
You’re not primping to look good for the other person, as much as you're sticking to a routine to get yourself into the "first date" mindset.
Use the time you save deciding what bottoms to wear to find a spot in your home with good lighting, and to set your laptop or phone up at a flattering angle. You don't want to spend the first five minutes of your meet-up worrying about backlight or whether your partner is looking straight up your nose.
Simulate real date ideas
Although you obviously can’t “grab a drink” together, you can simulate that. Text before the date and decide if you’ll be drinking wine, coffee, or eating dinner "together." You can even do a twist on "Netflix and chill," simultaneously using Netflix’s “party” function; if you go that route, choose something campy or that you've both seen before so you can chat easily during it.
Be prepared with some icebreakers
You know that horrible moment when you've run through the traditional "getting to know you" questions and you and your date are just staring at each other in silence? Yeah, that moment is way more painful over video conferencing. Trust us, it's awkward to be asked, "Oh are you on mute?" only to have to say no... you just have nothing to say.
So consider jotting down a few interesting and out-of-the-body icebreaker questions to fall back on just in case things get quiet. Might we suggest some thought-provoking Would You Rather questions? One bonus of a virtual date is that it's easier to hide your notecards.
Mix it up
If you're someone who's been going on Zoom date after Zoom date, having the same conversations but never quite finding someone you'd risk in-person interaction with, try something new. Play games together for a portion of the date after you get to know each other a bit. You could do traditional trivia, charades, or an online pack of party games from a platform like Quiplash (Drawful 2 is my personal favorite, a fun twist on Pictionary). You could also really mix it up and attempt to cook the same dessert together, or paint a masterpiece while on the call.
Listen to your intuition
“A nip slip may not be appropriate for a date with a new person,” DeGeare jokes. “It’s modern times, so I think there will be the temptation for people to be really bold and ask about FaceTime sex. People are horny and trapped in their houses. On one hand, that’s okay, but on the other, you’re risking someone taking screenshots," she cautions. "Listen to your intuition and don’t do something you don’t feel comfortable with."
She adds that you shouldn’t take the call from bed, because “you’re immediately sending all these other signals unintentionally.” Generally, she says you should conduct the date as you would in person.
Be honest about your time in quarantine
COVID-19 is bound to come up at point. "It's okay to admit that this time in the world or your life is vulnerable,” Syrtash says. “But there's also no need to spend the whole date talking about quarantine. A good question to ask is, 'When you're allowed to be out in the world [post-vaccine], what do you like doing?'"
Still, talking through your fears could help you bond through trauma. This is one situation where you can take your date's lead. “I think talking about your coronavirus anxiety is either going to bring you together or it’s going to be a super turnoff,” DeGeare adds.
Give them a virtual goodnight kiss
I learned during my Google Hangout date that, yes, there can still be butterflies. And in the real world, when that happens, you might want to kiss your partner goodnight (or more). But how do you translate that to this surreal, digital age?
Blowing a kiss is a fun, flirty option, but it can feel awkward if you don’t know the person well. If that’s not your style, DeGeare suggests talking them through it. Say something like: “I had a really good time with you — I wish I could kiss you goodnight.”
In this case, words definitely speak louder than actions.