Is it possible to be sanskaari on a dating app? Or is it a contradiction? The question is particularly a troubling one for women.
‘Let’s grab a drink sometime’ is perhaps one of the most used first date ideas on dating platforms. But with the latest surge in Covid cases of Omicron variant, and with cities and states across India imposing new restrictions, the dating scene too might return to alternating between virtual and real.
And so, while grabbing a drink may seem like the most logical idea, couples needed a new way out.
Enter sober dating
The concept is not new. There are exclusive ‘sober dating’ apps. In a country that constantly oscillates between ‘is it a dry day today’ to ‘drinking means no sanskaar’ — at least for women — dating and drinks or sobriety can be quite a deal-maker or deal-breaker.
Bumble now has a sober badge, which is helpful for anyone checking your profile, and can also act as a filter for those who think it’s non-negotiable to have partners who do not drink.
In a survey by Bumble, 32 per cent single Indians said their relationship with alcohol has changed during the pandemic and they prefer drinking a lot less now than before. The survey also shows that more than half (51 per cent) Indians are now more likely to consider going on a ‘dry date’ than they were pre-pandemic. Globally, this trend is even higher among GenZ who are bucking the ‘dry dating’ trend, opting not to drink on a date at all.
Sobriety is not just a social decision, but one that involves health. With the pandemic forcing a lot of people to confront fitness, reducing or abstaining from alcohol consumption could be a response to taking care of one’s body.
To drink or not to drink
2020 was probably the busiest year for most online dating apps, as the world came to a grinding halt due to Covid, and romance moved online. And so did all aspects of social life. The alcohol consumption went up. From long queues outside liquor shops to many states offering home delivery, alcohol was what kept many people going during the lockdown, clearly.
But once restrictions were eased and IRL (in real life) dates were being planned, the question of whether or not one drinks became important. Let’s face it, it is a no-win situation honestly, more so for women. If you do not drink, you are too prudish, and if you do, you are easy and fun.
Social stereotypes associate drinking with ‘being cool or just more socially acceptable in a lot of urban spaces. Similarly, a teetotaller could be held as ‘uptight’ or too ‘tame’. For a lot of people, drinking functions as social lubricant to be more ‘acceptable’. The same applies for dating too — it can help ease awkwardness or nervousness when you meet someone for the first time, who you are looking to interact with romantically or sexually.
There are people who say, go to matrimonial sites for sanskaar and dating apps for fun. I wonder if sobriety is inching towards instilling sanskaar in dating apps, especially in India.
Would you ever dream of meeting a potential husband/wife via a matrimonial site and asking them for drinks? Probably not. Coffee or chai might be your go-to beverage. And within matrimonial sites, the answer to the question of whether or not you drink may most often be a ‘no’ because parents are usually involved, something that is not necessarily true of dating apps.
And then there is the question we often don’t want to ask — will most Indian families be excited at or even accept the prospect of their damad/bahu drinking? I don’t think so.
But sober or not-sober, online dating remains a maze trickier than the one in Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire’s Triwizard tournament. There is really no way out, especially when online dating means making snap judgements based on photos and 50-word bios, and now a sobriety badge.
Views are personal.