“You don’t have to wear anything below the waist!” declares psychologist and dating coach Jo Hemmings, who’s advising me on Zoom dating. Heavens! This sounds saucy. “Well, you’re not going to see it,” she reminds me, as I wonder whether high heels are de trop for sitting indoors at my laptop.
But won’t dressing up make it more exciting? Doesn’t it seem drab if you don’t bother? “I think you should bother – you need to feel your best. But it’s more casual. It’s what you’d wear for a coffee date rather than a dinner date. I wouldn’t be dressing up in dinner suits or evening gowns,” says Jo, as if she can see inside my brain.
Seeing as I’m making some effort, is it alright to line up Zoom dates back to back? “I’d say two maximum in an evening, with time for consideration in between. A conveyor belt of Zoom dates isn’t ideal for your mind space, and it’ll feel like an interview process,” warns Jo.
I am armed with advice to wear a cashmere jumper, and not to line up too many men. But after a day of meetings, how do I put the vavavoom back into Zoom? And how do I end my date without the excuse of a train to catch? Jo tells me everything I need to know …
60 minute romance
In the first lockdown, unless you were paying for Zoom, you were confined to 40 minutes, which was a good length of time for a date. Now you can go on and on, but I’d suggest an hour. Set the invitation for say, 6.30pm-7.30pm, and when the timer comes up as a reminder that your call’s coming to an end, say: “We’ve only got a few minutes left, but it’s been lovely talking to you!”
Play it by ear. If you’re not getting on especially well, you probably won’t want to take up the full hour, so you can say: “Oh I’ve put supper on, I’ve got to go and get that out.” There’s always something you may need to do at home, or someone else you need to speak to.
It’s good to talk
Don’t over-invest in anyone you’re Zoom dating. You can’t gauge chemistry via Zoom, so if your expectations get raised, you’ll be disappointed if you meet in real life and the chemistry isn’t there. Don’t prolong Zoom dating any longer than you have to – you need to meet up for the relationship to progress.
Until that’s possible, restrict your Zoom dates to once a week, and punctuate these with a couple of texts or a chat on the phone. That way you don’t have to look your best, and you can get more of their character because there’s something almost more intimate, and funny, and easier, about not seeing somebody. NOTE: if you’ve scheduled a phone chat don’t call via Facetime or WhatsApp video call. My female clients say guys are doing this and it’s not welcome.
Zoom gives you the option of backgrounds – the trouble is, they’re all a bit weird. Picking palm trees swaying in Hawaii almost makes it look as if you’ve got something to hide. So choose somewhere in your home that’s got a bit of your character behind you, but which doesn’t give away anything you wouldn’t want a stranger to see.
The sitting room or the kitchen is probably best. I definitely don’t think you should be on the bed. The bedroom is too intimate, unless you’ve got a chair in your bedroom and your bed doesn’t show in the background. Test it out. It’s easy to see what your background looks like by starting a meeting with yourself – and remember Zoom has an option to blur your background.
Keep it simple
I don’t think you should have a meal together on Zoom. You hear of people cooking dinner with their Zoom date, and sitting down to eat together, but it’s an unnecessary complication, and it means you’re paying attention to the cooking rather than the person.
Eating and talking at the same time isn’t attractive and it could be messy, so do not eat during your Zoom date. It’s not a great look. It’s different when you’re in real life, sharing a meal with someone, but it doesn’t work on a video call. By all means, have a glass of wine together, maybe even have the same wine – but definitely forget the food.
From AM to PM
Differentiate between a Zoom call for work, and a Zoom date. For work calls, you want a background set-up that implies you’re working – for a date, adjust the lighting to feel more like it would on a date. Don’t have full, bright lighting, and don’t do it in the same room or position as you would for a work call. Having a glass of wine rather than a cup of coffee always makes a difference, but don’t put any music on – it’s distracting.
If you need help smoothing out the worry lines left by the strains of the day, there’s the option to soften your image. Go to “Settings” then, “Touch up my appearance.” You can use a slider to adjust the effect. It slightly blurs the edges, and it can make you look ten years younger.
Samantha Rea can be found tweeting here