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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

I’m a single girl, in a Covid world.

Ah cuffing season. It’s like the 2am minesweeping at Coppers (Dublin's most prestigious night club for degenerate partygoers). The evenings are suddenly darker and those left standing clamber to find someone to 'score' before the lights go off. Except now it’s worse because we are in the grips of a pandemic and the public health advice is to stay away from indoor gatherings. I guess cold, rainy walks with a two-metre stick are my future.

One of the problems with telling people you have MS means never being able to un-tell them. Yet, at a time where dating is the kiss of death for ‘at risk’ singletons, you have to inevitably bite the bullet. I did recently see a clip that made my eyes bleed and my stomach recoil in horror. Two people were kissing passionately, or if you’re Mel B, ‘snogging the face off each other’… wearing masks. WEARING MASKS. I’m not sure but I think we may have reached peak 2020. Can we eject and reload?

I mean being single is hard. I am reminded of Channy, our tour guide in Cambodia who told us that he had been single for years before he met his wife: “I didn’t know how to flirt. I can’t say stuff like oh your face is like a moon, your fingers are sharp like a thorn, your skin is white like banana peel!” I didn’t want to tell him at the time, but it was probably a good thing he didn’t try to say any of those things.

When I lived in Brussels, I took the first plunge into the online dating world having had a series of unfortunate events with various “Latin lovers”. My life prior to online dating hadn’t exactly been inspired. I had dated (?) an Italian who took his mother’s phone calls at exactly 8pm every evening, regardless of where he was. Sweet, I imagine some of you thinking. No. When you are sitting at dinner watching other people eat, while he croons ‘Mama, mama’, at what point does that become worrying for a grown man? Perhaps therein lay the issue.

Dating in a multicultural world was certainly an experience. I mean, I didn’t get told that my face was freckled like a potato but there were definitely some miscommunication mishaps. What invariably came to pass was that cultural differences, mainly over what constitutes good humour and, in many cases, an unforgiveable lack of understanding when it came to sarcasm, dissolved any future rendezvous. This meant sifting through an awful lot of detritus before happening upon someone that was more or less acceptable. That lacklustre feeling associated with the online dating world only mildly dissipating with the expectation that you may get some craic out your date. Sadly, most of these dates ended up in my swiftly downing a Duvel (Belgian courage at 8.5%) before offering apologies due to some pre-planned emergency. My friends and I became so despairing of the online dating scene that we would meet to discuss our various misfortunes and put the world to right over a few glasses of cheap Belgian wine in a dingy pub in Ixelles. The first rule of Date Club was don’t talk about Date Club but since it is long disbanded, I’m sure my fellow members will indulge me. My friend once likened Tinder to jumping into a steaming pile of poo and seeing what sticks. So I did.

The more I tumbled down the rabbit hole of the online dating world the more I became aware of the online catfish. When men don’t smile in photos, there’s usually a reason and it’s not always easy to hide the shock behind a 33cl glass of beer. There’s the guy that has great texting game and then when you meet him has about as much charisma as dial-up internet. There’s the guy who comes on strong, talks about settling down and vanishes into thin air. Or even worse, the breadcrumber. He who leaves a trail of sporadic messages in his wake, messaging out of the blue but never quite has time to meet. Next. At one point, I jumped headfirst into aforementioned pile of excrement and ended up with a 32-year-old man child from Belgium. He had recently decided to become a Buddhist, mainly, I strongly believe, as an excuse to judge people who drank alcohol. We had been dating for about six weeks when we had arranged to cook dinner together at mine. He called me at 3pm to double check dinner was at six. When six turned to seven and then eight, and he hadn’t shown up, I grew worried. He read my messages and after several hours, I asked if he had fallen down a manhole and died. He never showed up despite having read my WhatsApp messages, text messages and then blocked me on Facebook. I was impressed, he had used nearly every mode of communication to leave me alone with two pieces of cooked salmon, which I ate in spite. As it transpired, he had not fallen down a manhole. He wrote to me three days later explaining that he knew why he had stood me up. Aside from this mind-blowing revelation, he proffered no further explanation.

I dusted myself off and somehow ended up dating a series of ever more questionable men. I dated a crusty, bongo-playing stone mason from France who had dreadlocks (I suspected more from a lack of brushing his hair than any intentional foray into the world of Rastafarianism). He spoke little English, so our conversations were conducted in French. It was only after several weeks that he revealed he had a girlfriend but said that it was OK to date me ‘as she lived in the Congo’. At some point in the haze, I ended up on a date with a man who told me with gumption that he was an avid porn enthusiast, followed in unfortunate succession by a date with a man who had failed to divulge on his Tinder profile that he was polyamorous and was looking for someone to join him and his partner on a fun adventure. Stories like these have become synonymous with online dating everywhere because people can hide behind a profile picture. I’m sure women do it too. Although some kind men out there do let us know in advance to swipe left. Some of the more interesting photos I have come across are men posing with comatose tigers, holding up pictures of big fish, wearing terrifying hallowe'en masks or posting random pictures of gun paraphernalia and artillery. Of course, the mirror and gym selfies are great too. So, to quote Friends, my online dating record reads like a who’s who of human crap. (Exempting the handful of genuinely lovely guys I did actually enjoy dating and for whom I have too much respect to write about.)

Online dating seems to now be the only way to meet anyone in a Covid World. Thankfully, most Irish men have considerable levels of banter and not too many of them play the bongos. Contact tracing might be a little awkward. “Yes, hello? Name of the last person I saw? Bob. Bob… Tinder? Yes, like the app.”


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