‘A fast-tracked connection’: Why Georgette chooses to date sober

‘A fast-tracked connection’: Why Georgette chooses to date sober

Want to strike up a decent online match without your beer (or wine) goggles potentially running interference? When it comes to post-lockdown dating, a growing number of single people want to keep the sober meet-and-greets rolling.

According to a survey of just over 1000 Australians in September from dating app Bumble, almost one in five people don’t want to drink on dates after lockdown, with about three quarters believing sober dating leads to better connections.

Georgette Boehm from Melbourne’s Elwood has found that skipping alcohol on a date often leads to better conversation and a deeper understanding of the other person.Credit:Justin McManus

Bumble’s Asia-Pacific communications director Lucille McCart says pre-COVID, going for a drink was often the automatic first suggestion for a date.

However, with bars and pubs closed for months on end, walking, coffee and park dates became standard.

“I think we’ve learnt how to do it differently,” says McCart. “And for some people coming back out of lockdown, sitting in a crowded pub on a Friday night actually isn’t what they want to do and that’s OK.”

Bumble now offers a “badge” that you can add to your profile, indicating your preference for sober dating.

On Hinge you can share how regularly you drink. In the past year, 6 per cent of Australian users selected the sober option, with 47 per cent saying they drink “sometimes”.

For Elwood’s Georgette Boehm, her preference is to avoid alcohol – at least on the first few dates.

The 38-year-old took a year off drinking in 2015, which changed her relationship with alcohol. She now takes at least three consecutive months off alcohol each year.

“Even if I am in a period where I’m drinking, at this point in my life, I really prefer to have those initial interactions sober,” she says.

“The value of doing a sober date is that I reckon you can really fast track your connection and your feeling of whether you genuinely want to spend more time with that person.”

And while she’s not against going to a pub sober, she finds it’s usually awkward for her date if they’re drinking and she’s not.

Instead, she usually suggests an activity like a walk or a game of Finska.

“Realistically I’m going to spend 87 per cent of my time with that person sober, so why wouldn’t we just spend the first time sober and then go from there?”

Sydney dating coach Russy Ross, of The Social Collective, has also seen a rise in more creative dates during lockdown, which by their nature (and often time of day) don’t rely on alcohol.

While Ross is not against imbibing, he says sober dating helps with an important component of dating: building comfort with the other person.

“Everyone’s going on walks, they’re talking more – you’re talking, you’re sharing, you’re connecting a lot more,” he says.

Should you be upfront about the fact you don’t want to drink on dates?

In Boehm’s experience, declaring your booze-free status on your profile can lead to “crickets”, so she usually prefers to discuss it in-person if necessary.

“My experience of giving that off through the screen is Australia has this pack mentality,” she says. “It’s like if you don’t drink you’re boring, or if you don’t drink I don’t trust you.”

“It’s like if you don’t drink you’re boring, or if you don’t drink I don’t trust you.”

But Ross says stating you don’t want to drink upfront should help filter out anyone who’s not open to that idea.

“When it comes down to dating, you want honest communication – you don’t want to date a guy that is upset because you don’t drink, or you choose not to drink,” he says.

And while a few drinks undoubtedly helps with the liquid courage, Ross says there’s other strategies to keep the nerves at bay.

“It’s just not setting the expectation – maybe it is that coffee date, the shorter date, where you don’t have to bring too much to the table,” he says.

“You’re not dating them because you like them; you’re dating them to find out if you like them. That takes a little bit of the anxiety away.”

On follow-up dates, you could take your dog on a walk, do a dance or cooking class, go kayaking, or visit a museum or gallery to make things interesting and comfortable.

And if you’re worried no one will make the moves?

“I know personally if I’ve got a few more drinks under my belt, I’m way more likely to be more confident, to ask for a second date or go in for a kiss,” says Bumble’s Lucille McCart.

“But if you’re doing that sober, it’s actually a way more empowering experience.”

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