When my husband Jon and I first met in college, we spent one alcohol-induced night together at the end of the semester before parting for summer break. We saw each other just once that summer at a house party. Other than that? The early days of our relationship were built exclusively on talking over the phone, without being able to see or touch each other. When Love Is Blind came out, I instantly understood how two people could fall for each other that way. So, when my editor asked me to recreate a Love Is Blind date, I was curious to try it out.
If you haven’t seen the Netflix series, it places singles in separate rooms called “pods” where they date — and eventually get engaged — sight unseen. After the proposals, the couples go on vacation, move in together, and plan their weddings. While some duos instantly hit it off outside the pods, contestant Jessica Batten struggled to transition her auditory and emotional attraction to her fiancé Mark Cuevas into a physical connection. In an effort to win her over, Mark planned a romantic date night (wine, candles, red roses) with a twist: They would sit separately on opposite sides of the wall. Jessica loved it. “This is my comfort zone,” she told him during their non-traditional date. Ultimately, the pod-style evening helped her open up to Mark about her fear of abandonment.
Jon and I have been together for nine years. We got married a year and a half ago. I wondered — how would we fare on a Mark and Jessica-inspired date?
I poked my head into Jon’s office. (We both work from home.)
"We're having a date tonight," I told him.
"Huh? It’s Wednesday,” he said. (Translation: "I was going to play Fortnite all evening, thank you very much.")
"Yeah, but I got an assignment," I said. "It'll be fun, I promise."
"Fine," he mock groaned, turning back to his computer. "Just for you."
When I watched Love Is Blind, what shocked me most wasn't the idea of strangers getting engaged before ever seeing each other. It was the way the women curled their hair and put on makeup to flirt with men who couldn’t see them. But as I prepared for our date, I understood: My husband wouldn’t see me, but my peeling Pi Phi shirt didn’t make me feel the most confident.
As I showered, deep conditioned, exfoliated, and shaved, I realized I was nervous. Sure, my husband and I are together all day, every day, but it's not often that we hang out without distractions. Our phones are always beeping, the dogs are always barking, and Netflix is always insisting we watch another episode before falling asleep, exhausted and separate, in our spacious king-size bed. What would we talk about?
To set up the date, I prepared two spots for us to sit on opposite sides of the wall separating our bedroom and walk-in closet. I took the throw blankets and pillows from the couch to create comfy corners in each space, scattered artificial rose petals I found in my box of old wedding decorations, and lit candles. I dimmed the lights and sprayed my wedding perfume in the air. Like Mark, I set out meals and a bottle of red wine. I also laid out a few essentials of my own: shots of rum, paper, pens, a laptop or iPad in each room, and a deck of conversation starter cards my therapist gifted me.
My final step was to put on the white, gauzy lingerie set I had purchased for my wedding but never got around to wearing. With a fluff of my damp hair, a touch of red lipstick, and a glance in the mirror, I was ready. It didn’t matter that he wouldn’t see my outfit. It was purely for me.
I yelled at Jon to get in his pod. My heart was pounding.
"Are you in there?" I shouted at the wall between us.
"Yup!" he shouted back. "It looks so nice!"
I eased the door between us open a crack. “No peeking, OK?” I reminded him.
I heard him open the door on his side. “Let’s do this,” he said.
For the first 20 minutes, we ate our dinners, asked about each other's days, and talked about our plans for the weekend. It was normal, but removed.
When a silence stretched between our rooms, he ultimately broke it. “This feels weird. It’s weird not being able to see you,” he said.
As two people who communicate by busting random dance moves in the kitchen or giving quick shoulder massages to show love, being physically removed was uncomfortable at first. I don't know how long it had been since we just sat and talked without distractions.
"What are these? Conversation cards?" he asked.
Thank God. Something to do.
"Yes!" I said. "Let's do that, but first, the shot."
We tossed back the rum. Between that and the wine, it became easy to pull card after card out of the deck, answering questions like What do you wish you could ask your mom? What movie makes you sad? Are you a better leader or follower? With that initial barrier of “What do we talk about?” down, conversation flowed effortlessly as we navigated through harder topics. We talked about our desires, our fears, our dreams for our children, and what we hope our family dynamic will look like. We discussed things that normally would get us worked up (like gun ownership, for instance). Without distractions, we were able to talk through our feelings more effectively and really listen to what the other had to say. We didn't have to worry about what our body language gave away or whether or not a look would be interpreted wrong. We just got to work through our thoughts as a team.
"I need to pee," he interrupted, after we had decided where our kids would go to school, what we wanted to do for our 50th birthdays, and whether or not we were going to build an addition onto our house.
"Same," I agreed, standing up for the first time in hours. My hips ached from sitting still for so long. "And we need more wine."
With nothing but conversation to keep us entertained, I understood why the cast appeared to drink so much on the show. For another four hours, we continued to sit on opposite sides of the wall, chugging cheap wine, laughing over stupid jokes, and saying “I love you” over and over again.
"This feels like when we first started dating," Jon said, attempting to catch his breath between fits of giggles. "When we would just talk for hours without seeing each other."
He was right. Not only were we chatting like we had during our dating years, but not being able to see him, to touch him, made me want him that much more.
"So," he finally murmured into the darkness as our laughter eventually subsided. His voice was suddenly deeper. "What are you wearing?"
I looked down at my lace teddy and my stocking feet and felt a mischievous smile spread across my crimson lips. This was gonna be fun.
And Then... Things Got Wild
If my parents or in-laws are reading this, I'd like you to know that after that we brushed our teeth and said our prayers, we went to sleep.
If we don't share blood, I can confidently tell you: Things got hot.
When the Love Is Blind cast dated in pods, they couldn’t test out their physical or sexual chemistry. But as anyone who has ever had phone sex or FaceTime sex can tell you, distance doesn’t have to get in the way of a good time. As a tipsy test subject, I wasn't going to let this experience pass me by.
In hushed tones, we said what we would do to each other. Where we would touch. Kiss. Stroke. I could hear that our breathing synced up, speeding up and slowing down with each description.
"I have an idea," I said, adjusting the pillows behind my head and reaching for my MacBook. "Open up the iPad."
Originally, I had placed the devices in our rooms for one reason — to watch TV together but separately, something we used to do when we had stints of long-distance between us.
Instead of navigating to Netflix, however, I typed in a few choice words, clicked a link, and sent him an AirDrop. I heard the "ping" as the iPad received it and his quick, sharp intake of breath as he clicked.
We watched the porn together, commenting on what we liked, what we didn't, and what turned us on. We watched as the people on screen fell into bed, limbs intertwined, mouths on each other, until finally, with almost a growl, he said, "That's it, I'm coming over there."
I tossed my computer aside as he knelt next to me on the blanket. His heart pounded under my outstretched hand.
"You're so beautiful," he murmured, easing me back onto the pillows. "I missed you." His lips landed on mine as, at last, we got to finish what we had started together in the pods.