After about a year of being single, I’ve decided to dip a toe back into the dating pool. It’s a really weird time to do so with a pandemic going on, and honestly probably not a good idea, but three months of quarantine has exacerbated an already pervasive feeling of alone-ness. I won’t say loneliness because that’s not right, I don’t feel lonely, I find myself and my dogs to be pretty good company, it’s the being alone that I am sometimes bothered by.
The question of what to do on a first date is a difficult one, even under normal circumstances, when you have options like restaurants, bars and movie theaters, but now that you’re kind of left to your own devices you run into an interesting conundrum. Granted, there’s some reopening going on, so I could go out on a dinner date right now if I wanted, but I don’t, and most people I know don’t feel comfortable with that yet, either.
So mostly it’s been hanging out at home and either streaming stuff or putting on DVDs. This is what I find interesting: I think what someone chooses to play for you in your first meeting is so important. It tells you something about them. If you go to a movie theater maybe that’s a little less true, since your options are limited, but if you’re watching something at home with the whole of film history at your fingertips, what you choose signifies something.
I started thinking about this because I went to meet someone last weekend and I chose the movie. I love horror, and I knew the person I was meeting also loves horror, and I can’t remember what we were talking about but a particular movie I watched sometime last year came to mind and I recommended it. We ended up putting it on that night and I slowly began to realize the horrible mistake I had made. At the time, there were only two things I had been thinking about when I said we should watch it: It’s a horror movie and we both like horror, and it’s based on a real Japanese serial killer. As the movie started, I began to remember the details of the plot and immediately began apologizing. I probably picked the absolute worst first date movie possible — think “American Psycho” or “Clockwork Orange” levels of poor judgment. What does picking this movie say about me, I wondered? What will he think of me after this?
Luckily it worked out, he found the movie interesting and this week said he had recommended it to some of his friends. When I told my friend this story, she was happy it worked out and said, “Hold onto those moments where an apology was unnecessary so that you remember that you’ve got good taste and make good recommendations.”
Some of my worst dates were ones where the person I was meeting picked something really terrible to watch. Not “terrible” in the way that my choice last week was terrible in its violence and obscenity, but terrible in that it communicated something about them that put me off. For instance, I recently met someone who chose to put on “The Simpsons” for our first meeting. I don’t really have anything against “The Simpsons,” but what does it say about someone when you’re meeting for the first time, you have a world of media at your fingertips, and you choose “The Simpsons”? At least it was classic episodes from the ‘90s, but it is a little weird to expose your strong sense of childhood nostalgia so early in a potential relationship. Maybe not, maybe it’s just me, I’m definitely open to that possibility.
Making a good first impression generally can be difficult, especially if you’re somewhat of a socially awkward person like I am, and when a pandemic limits your options it can get even harder. I’ll have to be more careful with what I choose in the future, and maybe keep a few recommendations on hand instead of shouting something out off the cuff. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for the genuineness that comes with making a recommendation on the spot, and if you end up blowing your chance then it might be for the best anyway.
Johanna Armstrong is the Lifestyle editor for The Daily Journal.