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Image / Self / Relationships

The seven stages of app-dating in a pandemic


By Hannah Kingston
04th Oct 2021
The seven stages of app-dating in a pandemic

Hannah Kingston reports on the joys (and trials) of post-break-up dating in Australia as she faces another lockdown in Melbourne.

If you are looking for a sign to take a day off work to go to a pottery class, or move to Capri, let this be it. Melbourne (where I reside) is set to top the charts as the city that has spent the most time in lockdown. To everyone in Melbourne, we did it guys! We won!

I am not going to sugarcoat this. Lockdown six in Melbourne is flitting between the desire to furiously masturbate and feeling too flat to lift my head off the pillow. It’s the hysterical purchase of a new Fitbit and 4kg dumbbells. It’s the blending of a green juice. It’s the eating of full packets of ravioli. Hello Yoga with Adrienne, how have you been?

Don’t get me wrong, I did try at the start of this month. Boy did I try. For myself and for you, reader. What is life without a flirt? You know you’re in dire straits when you’re actively seeking out an awkward moment. My mind is craving a toe-curling juncture to break up the mundane.

I tried, reader. We had a couple of competitors to be Hannah’s Next Top Lover. There was a tall curly-haired Nora Ephron fan who ghosted me after about six essay style messages (rude). A hot yoga teacher who I was very interested in until they told me that they HATE Notting Hill because they HATE Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts (rude). I promptly ghosted them. There was a person that seemed extremely emotionally available so I of course got the ick, another person who continuously texts me even though they seem really uninterested in me, I’m fully invested in that situation, of course.

As cliche as it is to say, the problem of choice is a total nuisance when it comes to app romance. If we didn’t have apps, we wouldn’t accidentally overshare too soon, we wouldn’t realise that someone doesn’t like one of our favourite movies until we’re too invested to do anything about it. We wouldn’t make assumptions and we wouldn’t get the irreversible ick after one week of speaking. With so much time to think, I have noticed some of the patterns involved in dating, as they specifically relate to apps, as opposed to those spontaneous meet-cutes. I want to share them with you, largely in the hope that you will tell me that all of this is normal as opposed to maladaptive.

The seven stages of app dating

1. The flirt

This is my favourite stage. High intensity, low commitment. The flirt is the match, it’s the promise, it’s the “omg this human is really hot and loves gin too, we have so much in common!” The magical moments of introductory messages that are full of potential. They could be my lobster, I am high on life, I cannot wait to go on a date!

2. Creating fake scenarios

You set a date. Wheels are in motion, you are the main character, you are about to meet the Pam to your Jim, the Danny to your Mindy, the Julia to your Hugh. This is when you begin to create fake scenarios. You see yourself walking into the bar with blow-dried hair whipping gracefully in the breeze and perfectly applied lipstick. Your eyes lock across the room. They are everything their profile picture told you they would be, but they are somehow funnier in person. One date leads to several and the next thing you know, you have someone to nudge when Uber Eats says they’re outside and you really don’t want to go collect it because you’re just out of your post-hike pre-Netflix marathon shower. They oblige and go get the takeaway. They are sound like that.

3. Jeans and a nice top

It’s always jeans and a nice top. Dresses take up too much headspace and you don’t want to look like you tried too hard. Skirts and a top seem to take even more deliberation because there are more items of clothing to think about. Jeans and a nice top, the true match made in heaven. Versatile, not too try-hard, chunky boots for a bar, a pair of your best trainers for a daylight date. Done.

4. Mild to severe nervousness

You’re on the way to the date. Nerves set in. Flight or fight. Cancel or keep putting one foot in front of the other. You try to summon all of your best anecdotes to your prefrontal cortex. You think of filler text for any potential quiet moments. You remember that you didn’t take your clothes out of the washing machine, you chastise yourself for not calling your mom in a while, you buy chewing gum, you send a ten-minute voice note to a close friend, you’re twenty minutes late.

5. Vague disappointment or love heart eyes

There is no middle ground.

6. Yeah, I don’t care either way

You arrive home from the date and you are giddy, no matter how it went, because look at you out living your life! It’s just like all of the rom/sitcoms you have been guzzling since the age of 8. You are overcome with a feeling of accomplishment. You sit on the couch and relay the full transcript of the conversation to your favourite second cousin with gusto. You finish your monologue with a “Yeah they were nice but yeah, actually I don’t care either way.”

7. Sitting in a towel. Wondering if you’re ugly.

*Two hours pass since you said “Yeah, actually I don’t care either way.” You have not received the follow-up validation text confirming that a nice time was had. Now you sit in a towel wondering if you are ugly or deluded, or both. You are overcome with dread and shame thinking about any of the weird things you may have said or done. You stare longingly at your phone. You draft a follow-up validation text and promptly delete it. You wonder if Samantha Jones ever let herself feel this insecure. Hours or days pass and you receive a text asking if you would like to do that again sometime. At this point, you have burnt yourself out wondering if they died or their phone fell down the toilet. “Sure” you reply, though at this point you do not wish to relive this agony.

I’m going to be honest with you, lockdown six is not the perfect backdrop for finding the love of my life. I have, on occasion, asked my favourite second cousin to respond to my Hinge messages, due to the fact that I simply cannot discuss predictions for “when this will all be over haha” with strangers from the internet anymore. I have turned cynical in my restricted woman cave of rolled out yoga mats, just in case I actually do the yoga this time. Sigh.

Reader, if you’re still here. I am tired of the seven stages of app dating but being locked down has made me want nothing more than to pop on my jeans and a nice top and throw myself to the lions. I asked my therapist why people want what they can’t have for the purpose of this article. Therapy is extremely expensive so I’m going to tell you what she said.

“We tend to want what we can’t have because those things act as a distraction to the things that actually serve us. Often the things we can’t have are low risk. We know they probably won’t work out anyway, whereas the things we truly need and value are high stakes. There is more risk involved in pursuing those things that are good for us, the things that nourish us. To distract ourselves from thriving in what we need, we go after what we don’t.”

Does the above insight make me rethink my gusto to woo strangers off the internet? Absolutely. Will it stop me? Absolutely not.