HomeCoronavirusLove in a time of coronavirus: virtual speed dating just for Miss...

Love in a time of coronavirus: virtual speed dating just for Miss and Sir

In three days’ time, 26-year-old Kate hopes to meet the teacher of her dreams. Virtually, of course. They’ll talk for 10 minutes on a What’sApp video call and follow up with texts. A real-life meeting will happen in a fortnight or so, then love, and their lives will fold into a magical future in which parent-teacher evenings will always trump over a romantic night in but, in mitigation, long summers will be spent on sun-kissed beaches without a care in the world.

That is the theory. The reality is that on Friday 31 July Kate, a teaching assistant, will take part in a speed dating event for education workers. It is the fifth time she’ll have joined the matchmaking session but she is undaunted: she has a good feeling this time around.

In this era of restricted socialising, it is always a lot of old-fashioned fun, she says. “One guy I met on a call had lined up numbered shot glasses, and got me to pick one. I got him the vodka (the other glasses contained water) and we had a good old chat – it was a great icebreaker.”

Edudate, as the dating service Kate uses is niftily named, is the idea of a secondary school history teacher, Tom Rogers. Currently between contracts, the pandemic has left Rogers with time on his hands and, as a 35-year-old singleton with some tricky break-ups in his slipstream, he was aware that being an educational professional brought particular strains when it came to falling in love.

“There are a lot of lonely teachers out there,” he says. “And with the pandemic, many are on their own much of the time and their only contact is with the children they’re teaching, so they need adult company.”

So far, more than 1,400 people have signed up on Edudate. The only requirement, Rogers says, is that they work in education. “That doesn’t just mean teachers, although of course many of our members are. But we also welcome people who work in educational administration, in school support, in universities and in colleges. Women outnumber men because of the demographics of primary teaching, but we have more and more men signing up.”

He says: “Registration is free, although if you pay a £4 fee you’ll be prioritised for a place on the date nights. What happens is that I go through all the sign-ups, and organise people depending on their age, their orientation, and their regional location.”

So far, at least five couples are in relationships – and they include Marina, 25, and Mark, 33 (not their real names). The pair chatted for the first time on the third Edudate session, on 16 May. “I felt the chemistry instantly. Mark is funny, warm and clever. He’s a science teacher, he’s intelligent and nerdy, and that’s totally my kind of guy,” says Marina.

The two teachers kept the social distancing regulations to the letter. “On our first date we had a socially distanced picnic. After that we went for walks and it was very strange not being able to touch. At times it was frustrating, but there was also something old-fashioned about it – and that seemed a strange paradox given we’d met in such a modern way.”

Edudate, Marina says, was the perfect intervention in her love life at the perfect moment. “Because of coronavirus it’s been hard to get out and meet people, and the problem with using a general online dating service, and meeting someone who’s not a teacher, is that it brings frustrations like the fact that you’re very busy during term time, but have long holidays.

“I didn’t want to date someone at my own school, but I loved the idea of meeting another teacher: you tend to have the same sort of baseline values, which is so important.”

The pair are soon heading off on holiday. “Love in a time of coronavirus means we’ve moved fast,” says Marina. “I’ve even joked with Mark that if we get married, we’ll have to invite Tom to be our best man.” She is, she says, “very optimistic” about the future, and is keeping Edudate apprised of developments.

Laura and Alex, 32 and 29 respectively, are another success story. “We met in the Edudate session on 6 June,” says Laura. “Just ahead of our video call I texted Alex to say I was incredibly nervous, and from the second I saw him he put me at my ease. He looked exactly like the sort of person I’d been looking for: he’s very kind, and that came across straight away.”

After their WhatsApp chat Laura discovered Alex on Twitter – Edudate events tend to take place in a flurry of social media excitement – and discovered he had been saying he’d had a “standout date’” and “fingers crossed for the matching”.

“Later on I asked him whether that girl he had the standout date with had matched with him – and he admitted it was me,” says Laura. “He’s going to meet my parents this weekend, and I’m planning to meet his soon.” Like Marina, she says Covid-19 has moved the romance on more quickly than would usually be the case: “Lockdown hasn’t all been bad, because we’ve had this going on.”

Alex, a science teacher, meanwhile, says he had had doubts about the wisdom of dating someone who worked in the same field. “I thought teaching would be all we’d talk about, but it’s not been like that – in our first chat we were talking about what things had been like in lockdown, and the fact that she comes from the north-east and that’s where my family are from. And the benefits are huge: we have similar holiday opportunities, and we understand one another’s stresses and strains.”

Like Marina and Mark, Alex and Laura are planning to spend the summer together.

So what is Rogers’s secret in bringing members of his profession together, and will he use it to find a new partner himself? “At the moment it’s too full-on,” he says. “This is a hobby for me, not a career, but date days are very busy and I couldn’t manage it if I was trying to do some dating myself.”

He puts his success down to its human face. “A lot of dating services are anonymous, but mine is very approachable, and I’m a real individual and I’m also a teacher,” he says. “I think putting people together when they’ve got so much common ground is a recipe for things going well: people who work in education have similar values, common experiences and the same sort of lifestyle, and that ups the chance of things working out.”

Which explains why Kate’s hopes are high for 31 July. And even if she doesn’t find someone then, she will be back the next week. Edudate, she says, is lots of fun. “I usually go to watch rugby, and I’m out socialising in clubs,” she says. “And while that’s not possible, the date nights are a really good way to pass the time, even if it takes a while to find the perfect partner.”

Source link

- Advertisment -