Dating in broad daylight

Dating in broad daylight
Rhonda Dredge

Romance blossomed in the parks of the inner city during lockdown but it wasn’t of the whitewashed wedding kind.

Alyse McNeal is still looking for the right words to describe her experiences of lockdown dating.

The Carlton copywriter perfected Tinder walks through Princes Park.

“In retrospect they were a lot of fun,” she said. She was forced to work out a muscle for speaking to strangers.

Each date began in the same way with a few days of online chat, some phone messaging, during which she tried to get a sense of character.

The actual date comprised a takeaway coffee at 2pm followed by a two-hour loop of about four kilometres around the park.

At stake was the question of whether they would proceed to a takeaway bottle of wine on the median strip of Rathdowne St without glasses.

“It was a brutal way of creating compatibility with elements hitting you in the face,” Alyse said.

There is no denying that strange rituals evolved during lockdown. All dates had to live within five kilometres, for example.

She said there was a lot of small talk about the elements, sand, wind, dogs passing.

“You’re running on your nerves and caffeine. Your heart is racing. You get nervous.”

The most essential step in the ritual was to order coffee straight away so daters could take off their masks to chat. “It’s impossible getting to know someone behind a mask.”

Girls love to talk about guys and their shortcomings and Alyse is no exception.

The worst candidate refused to use names for his friends, instead referring to them as “me and my mates”. Others were witty in their messages but not in person.

The best outcome was the exercise in sociability the meetings gave at a time that was pretty desperate for those who are young, single and shy.

“It was brutal, confronting and inherently shaming but if you can work in this scenario, you can work anywhere. It’s a muscle you need to stretch. You have to pluck things out of thin air.”

Dates have now returned to the usual bar location, but the park circuit is still on the cards as an alternative.

“I’ve pivoted back to traditional dating with a drink but there’s a time and place for a walking date. It’s actually safer.” •

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