Ian, 38, Engineer
*Pictures of him at Machu Picchu, him topless at a waterfall and him with random children at an orphanage in Mali.
In a strange and terrifying move, Ian decides to call me before any potential meet up. Ian has an astonishingly hoarse voice with a very thick Northern accent. He sounds like a 70-year-old miner. His confidence soon shifts into cocky when he says, “You look like you enjoy sex.”
I was not aware of this.
“I hate women who put profile photos of themselves drinking beer. It’s so unfeminine. I don’t find it attractive at all.”
Kieran is a tall bloke in his late 30s with short dark hair that sticks to his head like a GI Joe doll. He has some excellent freckles and is genuinely a good looking guy. It’s a pity about his personality. We are having a chat in the tiny back garden of a renovated villa in upmarket Ponsonby. I finally decide that a sneaky ciggy is not worth the lecture, about what kind of woman dickhead Kieran finds attractive, so I go back inside.
Looking around, the party is in full swing as various strangers stand talking to each other as their eyes wander around the room in an attempt to find a more attractive person. Everyone is in their 30s and 40s, professional and probably living in equally hipster flats with mid-century vintage decor and obscure lights. They are also single and this is a singles party started by my friend Emma. Much like her namesake in Jane Austen’s novel, Emma wants to help lowly singles, such as myself, find mates. The rules are simple: only singles are invited and each single must bring another single of a different sex (it’s a very heteronormative binary kind of party). They are then let loose.
It’s an interesting foray into the modern dating world that no reality show could ever capture. Nearly every guest suddenly finds their inner Casanova and confidently approaches strangers. It is unlike the usual parties where Kiwis often stick to their own groups, terrified of even acknowledging the presence of others. At the beginning everyone is polite and somewhat shy, jugging down their alcohol to help conversate with actual strangers. Soon it becomes obvious that everyone has a mission ranging from finding a potential mate for life, a mate for the night or ignoring any mating whatsoever but enjoying the booze and snacks. Some girls become instant allies helping their friend target the one lone boy who seems to be the Brad Pitt in a sea of pitiful Brads. They force their friend forward and create a protective shield around her, stopping other women from entering the perimeter. Generally speaking, after attending a few of these parties, I notice that it is women who are making the most effort. Most men seem to just hang around oblivious to the strategic manoeuvres operating around them. Aggressive women? Kieran would hate it.
Tim, 39, work in government
Music, surfing, wine, great chats.
The night before I met Tim, I realised that years ago, he used to date a good friend of mine from high school. One day he told her to stop dressing like a child and they broke up. In retrospect, this should have been enough for me to have cancelled at the last minute, but I naively believe people have the capacity for change after fifteen years. We met after work at an overpriced pub in Britomart. Tim has no sense of humour. He doesn’t even smile. Neither of us contacted each other again.
The first official dating app for straight folk was Tinder, created by friends, Iranian-Americans Sean Rad and Justin Mateen in Southern California. It began as an app for “rich and affluent” college students, particularly those in the Greek system. In its first year, Tinder claims to have been making 13 million matches a day and is now worth billions.
Adam, 38, Software Engineer
Dying for a drink after the apocalypse is over.
Rhys, 35, Construction
Let’s have our first date on a socially isolated picnic. We can share sanitizer and wine.
Roopesh, 40, Entrepreneur
Looking for a bubble buddy. Lockdown chat?
As Aotearoa went into lockdown in March, days were spent glued to the news cycle sprouting alarming statistics on a daily basis and evenings watching dystopian films at night. The air felt unsettled and unnerving as many of us were on edge, terrified of the unknown. And yet, it felt as though people were closer to each other than before as we all shared a common bond. I found it fascinating to browse through the same dating apps as before. In isolation, the loneliness is obviously more amplified. Apparently, during the pandemic, there was a surge in new online dating apps. People still want to connect even if it means meeting on a video chat. Tinder even made a few of its usual paid options free, including a free-for-all to “swipe” on anyone in the world. The intention to find someone is still there, even in the midst of a terrifying human catastrophe. Perhaps there does exist something deeper than smiling photos of men finding themselves on Machu Picchu.
Ghazaleh Golbakhsh is an Iranian-New Zealand writer, filmmaker and Fulbright scholar. She has recently published her first book of personal essays The Girl From Revolution Road (Allen & Unwin) after winning the CLNZ/NZ Society of Authors Research Grant in 2019. Her writing has appeared in publications including The Spinoff, Newsroom, Ensemble and Villainesse. Ghazaleh has made various award-winning short films, including the recent documentary This is Us for RNZ/NZ on Air, and is now developing her first feature.