Until April, I hadn’t gone on a “real” date in well over two years. “Real” meaning sharing food, drinks, or an activity with someone I’m actually interested in versus that one early-morning walk I went on with a dude from an app who mostly talked about himself. A variety of factors contributed to this pause: feeling jaded from a decade of cringeworthy dates, burnout from work, and—oh, right—a global pandemic that made in-person dating dangerous.
Of course, as a result of the pandemic, dating experienced a major shift during the past year. Many of my friends enthusiastically embraced socially-distanced and virtual dating. They talked about how nice it was to have a reason to take time to get to know someone and build trust before considering next steps (a switch from our 20s, when we might’ve shrugged and skipped to the physical), and many built relationships. I was happy for them but avoided arranging meet-ups for myself. I was tired. Dressing up and trying to charm someone was the last thing I felt ready to do.
Still, another pandemic winter alone reminded me that sometimes, cats aren’t enough for company. I craved companionship and touch, or at least, some sort of connection with a person not in my pod. And then two events neatly coincided: I received an announcement of the launch of a Virtual Date Night Kit from the dating app Hinge, and my friend introduced me to her nice, cute friend who lives in another city.
I was a little surprised that the kit was only now just launching, given that we’re over a year into the pandemic, but the concept of a premade date makes sense given the popularity of virtual dating. According to Hinge, two out of three of their users say they’ve felt a connection with someone they met via video, and one out of three are into the idea of becoming exclusive with someone they met totally virtually. I wasn’t sure where I fell into those camps, but how could I criticize what I’d never tried?
The opportunity to test and review the kit and get to know this guy my friend kept talking about as someone I’d get along with appealed to me. Maybe I was late to the virtual-dating (and, hell, dating) game, but I figured that at minimum, we’d both have an amusing story, and hopefully, a new friend.
I texted him, and thankfully, he was game. I explained how the kit works: The “date planner” (me, in this case) orders the kit and sends the other person a redeemable code for their own kit, eliminating the need to learn your date’s address. The kit itself is a nicely packaged box which includes the ingredients to prepare three different cocktails (or mocktails), as well as curated questions to spark conversation with your date. Once you both have your boxes, cue the date!
From the get-go, we faced a bit of trouble. The redemption code didn’t work, my date was charged for the kit to his credit card, and I wound up needing his address to send the kit on my end. This might have been an issue because I was using a press pass, not buying through the Uncommon Goods site. Regardless, this led to an awkward week of texting back and forth most days to check in on the package. Not exactly the flirty banter I had in mind, but my date had a good sense of humor, joking that maybe this runaround was all part of Hinge’s master plan to force us to talk.