From the virus that brought you tie-dye sweatsuits, #WFH posts, and a stimulus check that barely covers the cost of existing, a new quarantine phenomenon has emerged from the shadows of the room you haven’t left all day: Zoom dating.
The newest form of virtual romance essentially combines two of my least favorite things: first dates and strangers trying to talk to me on the internet.
Sure, it has its perks. If my date is a serial killer, there’s a 0% chance I’ll be murdered via video chat. I can secretly text my friends updates offscreen. I control the lighting and angles of my camera, and above all else, I don’t have to shave my legs.
But while all of this may seem like a dream come true, there are many horrible factors of Zoom dating that often slip the mind when finally setting up a time to talk. Here are some things I never thought I’d have to worry about on a first date in my life.
The Pre-Date Prep
I normally allow myself a few hours to get ready for a date, setting aside enough time to work at a leisurely pace but not enough time to sit and overthink all of my choices. I have a standard date look that says “I look cute, but you don’t know for certain that I got all dolled up for you. For all you know, I could’ve gone to brunch with my friends earlier.”
So what am I supposed to look like when he knows I’ve been sitting around all day binge-watching Ozark in the same sweats from yesterday?
If I put on a full face of makeup, it’ll look like I got all fancy to sit in front of a computer screen. If I don’t wear makeup, he’ll be able to see the acne that has somehow erupted from the surface of my skin despite not wearing makeup for the past month. So I usually settle for a compromise: concealer, mascara and a silent prayer that he’s far-sighted. Also, how many days can I go without washing my hair before it starts to show through my computer’s camera?
On a first date, I tend to aim for arriving five minutes early. Why? If he already beat me there, it means he cares about being on time. If he arrives after me, I have a few minutes to compose myself and run to the bathroom for a last-minute mirror check.
But what’s an acceptable time to arrive at a Zoom date? Do you show up a few minutes early and stare at your reflection, wondering if your aforementioned makeup looks too crusty on camera? Do you show up a minute or two late knowing there’s literally no excuse for not being on time because really, what else are you doing? The 5-minute rule goes out the window, and I truly have no idea what to tell you.
In my experience, most first dates have some sort of activity so you don’t have to sit in awkward silence and stare at each other, trying to remember what he said he does for a living. I’ve been bowling, I’ve gone to sports games, but I haven’t sat in front of my laptop and awkwardly asked, “How was your day today?” to a man who probably threw on a clean shirt 30 seconds before logging onto Zoom.
What you do at the end of a good date is entirely your choice. But how do you end a date that went well when you can’t show any physical sign of affection? On Zoom dates there’s no kiss, no getting invited back to his place—all you have left is the awkward scramble to not be the last one left on the call.
Am I supposed to wave? Throw up some peace signs? Pretend my internet is glitching?
Whatever the answer is, there’s no viable solution to the moment that any good videochat date can turn awkward. Here’s to hoping he wants to Zoom again… I guess?
Lauren Knight Lauren is a California-based journalist, writing about arts, culture, and relationships.