Dating expert explains how to find a partner in time for cuffing season

It’s Saturday night, you’re home alone — and it feels like you’ll be single forever.

But while Covid has left a generation of singles in despair, one expert claims that dating has changed forever — and there’s never been a better chance to seize that moment.

‘People spent a year in lockdown and it was lonely,’ says dating expert Camille Virginia, ‘but their priorities changed over that time. They’ve had the time alone to think about what they really want in a partner.

Before Covid, so many people wanted someone to look good with at a party — someone who was handsome and Instagrammable. Now they’ve realised the importance of companionship, personality and a proper connection over fickle things like looks and image.

‘Covid was a wake-up call for so many singles. Now they’re more prepared than ever to go out of their comfort zone to try and meet that other half.’

But don’t simply turn to online dating, says Camille. Instead, do the maths.

‘Back in 2015, singles spent ten hours a week online dating — that’s like having a second, part-time job,’ she says. ‘But if you leave your house on a busy afternoon and walk past 250 people over the next two hours, half will be men and half women, then half of those will be single — you’ve passed 63 possible matches in just one walk.’

How do you take it further?

‘Find your icebreaker — something to comment on,’ she says. ‘Say “I love your dog. He’s really cute — what’s his name?” or “You look familiar. Have we met before?” or “I like your scarf.” If the conversation gets going, great. If not, it’s just 20 seconds of your life.

‘The pandemic left so many people with FODA — fear of dating again. But take one action every day that pushes you out of your comfort zone.

Don’t be held back by feeling embarrassed or self-conscious. Remember that others have been so lonely and starved of connection that they’re just as ready to engage as you are.’

So there’s never been a better time to date. And how to get started? Here Camille, 38, gives five top tips.

1. Dress for conversation

Everyone’s been living in joggers but try dressing with real confidence before you leave the house. It changes your energy and can be an instant conversation starter.

I saw a woman wearing a beautiful red dress to the supermarket — and heads were turning. She wore a mask and it added to the allure of mystery. So don your own red dress and impress.

2. Ditch the resting bitch face

If you want to look more approachable, simply breathe through your mouth. It’s a simple trick that relaxes your facial muscles.

Smiling softens your facial features and makes you look friendlier. If you’re wearing a mask, smile behind it.

3. If you feel uneasy, you’ll look awkward

So change your body language by playing the imaginary party trick. If you’re on a crowded Tube train, look around and pretend you’ve invited all these people to your party, and they’re all your friends and you’re thrilled to see them.

It changes the way you stand and hold your body — you’ll look more relaxed.

4. Try the 20-minute trick

Arrive anywhere you need to be 20 minutes early because while you’re alone, you’ll be far more approachable. I’ve always found this a great way to meet men.

They’re more likely to risk rejection if they come up to you when no one is around — and people now feel more vulnerable socially. But you never know what may happen in that 20-minute window.

5. Imagine you’re on holiday

When you’re away in a new place, your inhibitions are lowered and you feel freer because you’re not afraid to run into someone you know. But you can re-enact this wonderful sense of holiday inhibition in your own home town by going to new places.

Take a new bus route, try a different supermarket, take a walk around an area you don’t know and try making conversation, safe in the knowledge that if you do embarrass yourself, nobody you know will be there.

Is he Mr Right or Mr Right now?

How do you know you’ve met ‘the one’? According to Camille Virginia, ‘if anything, the blinding flash of love is not necessarily a good thing’.

She goes on to warn that ‘you can feel this rush of emotion at the beginning of a relationship but that initial burst can mask other warning signs. So be clear on what your values are, and see if he/she shares them.

‘Listen to the words they say — are they speaking well about other people? Or do they put them down relentlessly behind their backs? Are they being honest about situations and their own behaviour — and do their actions actually match their words?’

Finally, says Camille, listen to your own gut instinct. ‘Are you feeling good around this person or are you genuinely excited to see them? If so, congratulations. You may have found your Mr or Mrs Right.’

Camille Virginia’s The Offline Dating Method: How To Attract A Great Guy In The Real World is available now

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