Has the pandemic changed how we date? Olivia Petter reckons so – and wants to share how love after lockdown might look

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  • Because nope, the summer of sex isn't quite happening as predicted...

    Scratching your head at what love after lockdown might really look like? Yeah, me too – which is why, when a bio of Olivia Petter’s new book Millennial Love landed in my inbox, I responded straight away.

    The book, based on her podcast of the same name, promises to provide a ‘guidebook on what it means to love today’, and has been praised by Charly Cox, who called it ‘a mouthpiece for our anxieties and a tonic for our hearts’, and Pandora Sykes, who coined it both ‘funny and honest’.

    If we’ve learned anything in the past year and a half, it’s that not even the best sex toys could replace IRL intimacy – so safe to say, we’re more than a little fascinated to see how post-pandemic dating will look. While the current fixation seems to be on rampant casual sex and laissez-faire dating, Petters reckons we need to reframe the narrative.

    Ask yourself this: do you reckon a pandemic automatically eradicates all of the difficulties of the contemporary dating scene are overnight? Short answer: no, it doesn’t.

    So, we picked the author’s brains about dating in said new normal, love after lockdown, and how to approach new romances during what many are calling the summer of love. Don’t miss our guides to the best dating sites, sex apps and home date ideas, while you’re here – and keep reading.

    Love after lockdown: how will it look? 

    “It took me three hours to realise he was never going to call. Jake and I had been on two dates together; two fantastic dates. Just as I was gearing up for our third, he announced that he was off to Paris for a week, but he’d ‘love’ to chat to me while he’s away.”

    “I didn’t hear from him for five days after that. “Did Paris swallow you whole?” I messaged him. “Hey, so sorry. Just about to pass out. Call you tomorrow?” Tomorrow?! I love tomorrow! Tomorrow is perfect! “Sure,” I replied.”

    “By 10pm, there was still no call. “Veering into naughty phone call territory here.” I wrote. He replied instantly. “Kind of what I was going for?” OH MY GOD. “Into it,” I replied, chomping at the bit. I woke up the next morning to no missed calls, no texts, and my vibrator resting on my pillow.”

    “This happened last summer. Coronavirus restrictions were slowly lifting across the UK, giving single people their first opportunity to date IRL after months of being sequestered with nothing but screens and sex toys. The mood was feverish and febrile. I’d just gone through a big breakup and was desperately searching for something to shake me out of my solipsistic stupor.”

    “I wanted fun, freedom and, well, a fling. In short, I wanted a summer of love.”

    Love after lockdown: Millennial Love

    “One year later, and, as restrictions start to lift once again, it transpires that many people want the same thing: a lusty period of sexual liberation filled with satisfying no-strings encounters to make up for the incidental celibacy single people have endured for the best part of eighteen months. Everyone wants to simply feel something – or someone – again.”

    “But if I’ve learned anything from the last year, it’s that having high expectations almost always leads to disappointment. This is never more true than when it comes to love.”

    “When I met Jake, I was convinced it was the start of a great love story. It was instant fireworks. It was a meeting of like minds and souls. It was my summer of love.”

    “But so caught up was I in this fantasy I’d created that I missed all of the signs that Jake didn’t want to be a part of it. Like the fact that he never gave me his phone number – he had mine, but we only spoke via Instagram DM.”

    “Or the fact that he frequently made plans with me and never followed up.”

    “Or that he told me how much he liked me, and then in the same breath explained he’d be moving to Italy for the rest of the year.”

    “My point is this. Yes, we’ve all been through a pandemic. And yes, we could all use some of the optimism that subscribing to the idea of a summer of love provides. But sex and dating won’t suddenly become easier as coronavirus restrictions lift.”

    “In fact, considering the fact we’ve all been deprived of social contact for so long, it’s only likely to get harder. Circumstances have changed. We’ve lost loved ones. Every facet of our lives is different from how it was before the pandemic. It would be myopic to think that dating would be any different.”

    “While you might well embark on a summer of love this year, my advice is not to rely too heavily on the idea. Otherwise you could wind up spending your summer nights scrolling furiously through Instagram, trying to find out where in Italy the person you fancy has moved to so you can ‘bump into them’, only to eventually discover that they didn’t move to Italy at all.”

    “They’re still in London…”

    Millennial Love is published by 4th Estate and is out on the 8th July. Olivia is a senior lifestyle writer at The Independent.

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