How to date and social distance

Dating has a new normal - here’s how to navigate it

Absence might make the heart grow fonder. But distance? That’s a trickier beast entirely. Sure, there’s a certain romance to a long distance relationship (or haven’t you seen Dear John?), and yes, some of my most convincing teenage girlfriends went to fictional schools in far off counties (and could kickflip, by the way). But when it comes to the rituals of courtship, distance is much more of an obstacle than a boon. The flirtatious brush of the arm; the gentlemanly drape of the coat around the shoulders; the good, firm handshake at the end of a competitive game of tenpin bowling; the overladen fork of spaghetti carbonara thrust suddenly into her face — each ritual has been cast away in this new era of fearful reticence, elbow taps and prayer hands. So, how do you date successfully in the time of coronavirus while maintaining the proper ‘social distance’? Here are a few suggestions.

Play tennis

A regulation tennis court is 23.77 metres long, which means a competitive topspin rally takes place at an average of 11.89 x the government’s social distancing guidelines (and there’s nothing sexier than excessive compliance — or a decent double-handed backhand).

But the multiplying effect of tennis on romance? Now those are exponential. Those short shorts. That Lacoste polo shirt. The Hurlingham membership. The tanned thighs. The unexpected grunts. The squabbling over line calls. The 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 drubbing. The debate over the gender pay gap of Wimbledon finalists. The sweat. The tantrums. The Babolat. There’s a reason Tim Henman is such a sex symbol (and it’s got nothing to do with his lifetime supply of Robinson’s squash). In tennis, love can mean “nothing”. But it can also mean absolutely everything.

Go to the cinema

Person; popcorn; nachos; popcorn; person. The logistics of the post-pandemic cinema seating plan aren’t just guideline compliant — they’re a snacker’s delight. And where once a jumbo hotdog with extra mustard was seen as a first date faux pas, now it can be pitched as an act of artistic patronage. These cinemas can’t now survive on ticket sales alone, you see — so it’s every suitor’s civic duty to consume as much pick’n’mix and Tango Ice Blasts as possible. You’re not a glutton — you’re a modern Medici; Peggy Guggenheim with extra Haagen Dazs and a specially adapted face mask (usually a concealed hole in the front for straws/Twiglets/flirtatious sighs).

Do a Zoom quiz

Zoom quizzes were de rigueur in April, then quickly passe in June, and are now au courant again, in a similar life cycle to flared trousers, moustaches or French phrase books. They’re handy for dating, too. You can artfully curate your background to imply a level of sophisticated mid-century living, or light yourself cunningly to disguise even the most persistent double chin. Better still, a Zoom quiz will allow you to niftily assess the IQ, reading age, and suitability of your prospective life partner in 40 minutes or less. Suggested questions: “How long is the Peter Jones returns period?”; “What is the capital of St Barts?”; “Which is the correct sauce for McNuggets?”; and “What do you think about square plates?”

Play Zorb football

Zorb football, once the province of overly regimented stag dos and Office Parties That Nobody Asked For, has now come into its own as the ultimate sport for the pandemically panicky. Not only does it ensure a minimum social distance of more than a metre, it also allows you to show off your completely-down-to-earth-and-not-taking-yourself-too-seriously credentials from within a hermetically sealed chamber. It’s like karaoke or life drawing class, but with the added excitement of potential whiplash. What’s more, any excess quarantine lumber can easily be disguised by the enveloping rotundity of inflated PVC. Game on!

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