It is 8 PM and he has sent you the Zoom link for your first date. You’ve been talking on Tinder for two long, witheringly boring weeks, and while he’s not exactly your typical choice for a summer fling, standards? In this economy? Please. Besides, in your defence, you were losing your sense of self and needed a break from the full-time job of being your family’s sole bread burner.
8:01 PM. You have to keep him waiting for the next four minutes to successfully trick him into thinking you have a solid grasp of time, and that you complete important tasks outside of lying down and gazing out of the window with tortured-artist ennui.
You skilfully prop up your laptop in a way that hides the extra pockets of binged snacks that hang around your stomach like tiny joeys. (Fuck Chloe Ting, if the government can’t flatten its curves, then why should you?) Maybe you should add ‘remote cinematography specialist’ to your CV. You know, to show potential employers that you’re upskilling during the lockdown and whatnot. It’s all about branding. You even pull out your Notes app where you have made a handy little list of responses for when he inevitably and unironically will ask, “how has the lockdown been treating you?” or, if he’s feeling vaguely adventurous, “so, what have you been up to?” or perhaps even a vintage, “how are you?”
And thus far you have:
Realised that 50-year old neighbour’s cute cat will bite whoever tries to use her for a ‘Lion King’ recreation
Tried and given up on the Times’ crossword puzzle eighteen separate times (like some poets, crossword puzzles, or pseudo-intellectuals, say—11 letters)
Focus, girl. 8:02 PM. You give yourself a full minute to miss the days when your pre-date rituals included facemasks, selecting overpriced/underappreciated lingerie, and practising martial arts to pepper spray the man if he turned out to be an aspiring rapper or worse, a Star Wars guy. Those were the golden days.
Look at yourself in the mirror and allow the existential anxiety to creep in for just a single, sore second. 8:03 pm. Your hair has been blow-dried for the first time in months. The strange lines that were forming on your eyelids from sleeping too much have been concealed, and you’re absolutely certain that your hands look more toned thanks to all the Wednesday Games Nights you’ve religiously cancelled. How many times did your friends need to hear it? No, you’re not “slowly disconnecting from everyone that loves and cares for you”, you’re practising self-care. Look it up—damn, it’s already 8:04 PM.
Your mother was right; you are too negative these days. Is this how Taylor Swift would react? Of course not. This date is you taking a chance on one of the mythical fish that allegedly inhabit the sea. Maybe he could be the one! Maybe this is the quarantine meet-cute they’ll base the next ‘Modern Love’ episode off of! Sure, he’s an insurance consultant who thinks your writing is “a little intense but pretty cool, I guess”, but—diamonds come from, like, coal, right? Who knows what could happen. You are now going to Be the Change You Want To See by Practicing Manifestation.
Like, for example, you read Michelle Obama’s new book last week (technically you bought it last week for some lockdown reading; you’ll get to actually reading it soon enough) and you decided that you are now a proud intersectional feminist. In the spirit of smashing the patriarchy, and entirely unrelated to your incurable lethargy, you didn’t shave your legs for tonight’s date. Instead, all the time you saved by not shaving was spent mourning how this date of yours will have the opportunity to disappoint you only conversationally and not physically. In the last few months, you have been feeling the virginity return to your body like some unholy late-stage baptism. If this dry spell goes on for much longer, you might turn to your 50-year old neighbour with the cute cat. He’s offered that you “be alone together” once or twice, but you grudgingly accept that there’s a chance he may have been high on catnip at the time.
But it is 8:05 PM and there’s simply no time for your kitschy cynicism. You have precisely thirty seconds to join the call before ‘fashionably late’ turns into ‘rude’ and ‘inconsiderate of other people’s time.’ You’re in the waiting room. Breathe. Smile, even. This is going to surpass your threadbare expectations. Nobody just forgets how to interact in a social setting, you’ve got this.
“Hi! It’s so good to see you,” he says. “So, how has the lockdown been treating you?”