During lockdown I had been speaking to a guy who popped up in my DMs. He was cheeky, cute and had great banter so when we were finally allowed to come out of hibernation, we decided to meet up.
I was a bag full of nerves! All day before our date I was trying to distract myself with podcasts, cleaning the house from top to toe and generally trying to act like everything WAS TOTALLY FINE and I wasn't at all anxious.
I realised that because of lockdown, and a theory that it would be yonks before I would actually get to meet him (if at all), I was completely myself in our texts. I could be silly, ridiculous and just enjoy the connection – without having to back it up with a real date and my best behaviour.
So now that the time had come to actually meet this guy who I had formed quite a close connection with … well … eeeek!
I worried that in real life I might come across differently. Perhaps my hair wouldn't look as nice as it does in pictures, or perhaps my smile was a bit goofy, or my voice would be different to what he thought it would be.
Then about an hour before we met up, he sent me a text saying: "I shouldn't be telling you this but I'm really nervous." I literally exhaled with relief. Phew! This guy was just as nervous as me.
As soon as I read his text it felt like I instantly let my guard down. I didn't have to fake being in control of my emotions, and "playing it cool".
I wrote back, "Ha ha me too!" and from there it just became easy. We had shown each other a small vulnerability and it did wonders for our first IRL meeting.
I brought the topic up in my Kinda Sorta Dating podcast chat this week with sexologist and relationship expert, Chantelle Otten, and she exclaimed: "I'm a big believer in putting all of your cards on the table!"
Chantelle explained that everyone is coming out of lockdown a little anxious about dating, but you can actually turn it into something positive.
"How cute is it when someone tells you they are really nervous, or say, 'Gosh I really haven't done this in so long, so go gently with me,'" she said.
"You can turn it into a fun conversational kinda thing. Tell them exactly how you're feeling, the good, bad, and in-between. Just lay it out there because you've kinda got to show a bit of your baggage – but also let them know that 'this is what I'm working on at the moment.
"I'm working on my anxiety around dating, and I'm working on my 'who am I now in 2021 compared to 2019 when the pandemic began'."
Because let's face it, we're all human after all.
I saw a funny meme the other day that said: "I don't care how much money you make, show me your therapist receipts so I know you're working on yourself". I had a bit of a chuckle but also thought YES!
These days it seems there is no stigma around working just as much on your mental health as you do your physical health. So perhaps it's not a crazy idea to talk about it more openly when dating?
I felt this weird sense of relief when Chantelle said it was perfectly fine to share your anxious feelings rather than hide them. It was almost like I needed her assurance that it doesn't mean you're weird or unusual for feeling nervous when dating.
In fact, it's pretty darn normal!
So what should you do when you get a case of the jitters before a date? Here are just some tried and tested methods:
• Spend some time preparing for the date so you're not having last-minute outfit-induced panic attacks.
• Go for a walk and get some fresh air, it's incredibly grounding.
• Put on a great playlist that's going to pump you up.
Also remember that just because you're going on a date with someone, doesn't mean that it's going to be THE person you're going to spend the rest of your life with. You're just taking a small step towards something you want.
Stay present. Order a delicious drink and savour it, or really enjoy the meal you've ordered.
If it turns out to be a dud date, at least you've got a great story to tell!
• Jana Hocking is a podcaster and collector of kind-of-boyfriends | @jana_hocking