Love in the Time of Corona: Part III

“Let’s Fucking Date” Creator Serena Kerrigan on Reinventing Online Dating During the Pandemic and Cultivating Self-Confidence

September 30, 2020

Photo: Serena Kerrigan

If anyone knows how to navigate the minefield that is pandemic dating, it’s Serena Fucking Kerrigan (aka “SFK, the Queen of Confidence”). When quarantine began, Serena felt disheartened by the loneliness of self-isolation and the meager romantic options that dating apps provided. Instead of giving up, Serena created Let’s Fucking Date (LFD), the first reality show ever created entirely on Instagram Live.

As the producer and host, Serena is now living the Bachelorette dream, but without all of those men in tuxedos starting unnecessary drama every five minutes (wait, is that a downside?). Each week, thousands of Serena’s friends and fans tune in to watch her experience blind first dates in real time. If Serena and her viewers like someone and they make it through to a second date, they must withstand the challenge of orchestrating a creative experience that can be virtually shared and hold the attention of a large audience — as if having thousands of people comment on your first date isn’t intimidating enough!

Of course, Serena isn’t meeting just anyone on her show. After contestants are nominated by friends and/or family, Serena has a production team that screens for potential matches that can entertain thousands of viewers and keep pace with the Queen of Confidence herself. So, what’s it like to virtually wine and dine with well-vetted men whilst in the comfort of your own home? Serena told me everything you need to know. 

Before the show, how were you navigating dating when quarantine hit? 

As the reality of the situation sunk in, I started to feel anxious about being single, which is super off brand for me. I began craving a “corona boyfriend” to keep me company through quarantine. To be clear, a boyfriend and a “corona boyfriend” are two different things. I define the latter as someone who you wouldn’t date under normal circumstances, but who you like enough to hit up when you’re feeling a fit of quarantine-induced loneliness. With no corona boyfriend in sight, I shifted my focus from my love life to my empire. And that’s when I came up with the idea for Let’s Fucking Date. I was able to kill two birds with one stone: dating virtually while entertaining a large audience. 

Were you video chatting with people you met on apps or was that shift in communication style spurred only by the development of the show? 

I was barely dating at all. I had just quit my job in February and was focused on making something of myself, in the midst of a global pandemic. Moreover, women are indoctrinated from a very young age that in order to live happily ever after, we must find our Prince Charming. I fell victim to that sentiment as a young girl and struggled a lot with my self-esteem through college. It took years of therapy to break the cycle, and to eventually learn to find happiness and validation from myself and no one else. I found dating in general a huge waste of effort and time… the superficial swiping on the apps leading to a frequently disappointing, prolonged date wasn’t appealing to me. However, after I launched LFD, which normalized dating virtually, I found myself more optimistic and excited about dating (on and off the show!)

   

As someone living in a hot spot like New York, what were the first few months of imposed isolation/quarantine like for you in terms of mental health and maintaining social connection?

The first week was definitely confusing and scary, but I’m not one to let my anxiety get the best of me! I noticed that quarantine meant people were isolated and on their phones, craving some sort of escape from reality. I knew I only had a small window to capitalize on this very unique opportunity to engage with my audience when I had their full attention. Being isolated by myself and unable to see people, even my family, inspired me to take creative risks in ways I hadn’t before. As I look back on quarantine, I realize that this rare experience accelerated intimacy. The limitations pushed me to connect, create and reassess what is important to me: being self-sufficient. 

Tell me all about how it has felt to host LFD — Do you feel more in control of your dating experience? 

Yes, and no. I feel in control as a producer, host, and contestant, which kept me from auditioning for shows like The Bachelor. In terms of dating, all of the dates are blind. They are submitted by friends and followers, and then vetted by my producer and team. I actually like this approach, because it keeps me genuinely curious and open-minded. 

When your producers are scouting men for your dates, what criteria do they follow? Has this criteria changed now that you’re going into a second season? 

I think the criteria was to find a man. There’s such a clear distinction between a boy and a man. I’m someone who is extremely driven and confident, which means I need someone who will not only match my energy, but challenge me as well. Other than that, I didn’t give criteria. Sure, I may prefer someone tall with an athletic build, but honestly, beauty comes from within. After any date, I ask myself: Are they smart? Sophisticated? Confident? Driven? Successful? Funny? At the end of the day, that’s truly what I’m looking for. 

After meeting this first “season” of men, how do you feel about this new way of dating? Do you have confidence that you can meet your ideal partner through this platform? 

I fucking love this new way of dating. Last week, I went on a date without asking to FaceTime first and immediately regretted it. Within the first five minutes I knew he wasn’t the one for me, but I was stuck for not one, but two rounds of drinks. It’s very difficult to exit a date IRL, and time is the one luxury we can never get back. Alternately, virtual dating makes it easy and takes the pressure off. You don’t have to get fully glam, you save money, time, and have the option to exit the call whenever you want. I find that virtual dating keeps things relaxed and enables you to be yourself. Ultimately, that’s what we all want on a date, isn’t it?

What about him tipped you off that it wasn’t a good match? 

I could just tell right away that he was a boy, not a man. I could tell right off the bat there was a lack of sophistication and maturity that I believe comes with age. I mean, it is proven that men mature three years behind women, so going on a date with a 25-year-old might not have been the best call?

Do you think that dinner and/or drinks is a good way to get a sense of someone’s personality and your compatibility? 

I think conversation is the best way to get a sense of someone’s personality and your compatibility. Once you have established that you can have a thoughtful, invigorating dialogue with a person, meeting them for drinks/dinner gives you an idea about how they interact in the outside world. But the most important part of any relationship is communication, so virtually dating them before strips away all the distractions and zeros in on what should be the most important part of the date.

Moving forward, now that you’ve established that you enjoy connecting with people virtually, do you think that you will “screen” dates via FaceTime before meeting them in person? 

Yes, I totally see myself screening dates, unless they are set up by a friend. Regardless of what the activity is, meeting in person requires coordination, grooming, planning, effort, and (most importantly) time. By meeting them virtually first, you are able to establish if it is worth your time pretty quickly. And time is money, honey.

Quick safety question: When you met up with this guy in person, did you take any COVID-related precautions? 

We didn’t hug when we walked in, which was awkward, but felt like the right call. With New York opening back up, my personal safety call will be dating virtually on Let’s Fucking Date Season 2.

Catch up with Serena on Instagram @serenakerrigan and tune in to Let’s Fucking Date on IGTV @letsfuckingdate!

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