Spoilers: The first two episodes of Netflix’s Too Hot To Handle
Let’s set the scene. It’s early March and you’re feeling pretty great about your sex life. You’re communicating with a couple individuals from a smattering of dating apps and everything is moving forward as planned. Out of your pot o’ matches, a few will simply fizzle out immediately, a few conversations will sputter along like the embers of a fire about to die, and you’ll convert a couple to actual in-person meet-ups. Welcome to The Great Millennial Dating Show!
Then the world seemingly ground to a halt. With the incredible virulence of Covid-19, within a matter of days, everyone on the planet was forced to quarantine themselves to stave off the deadly spread of the virus.
Now, if you, like me, were single at that time, that means that you’re quarantining with yourself or you’re a small group of others who you don’t sleep with. The days of bringing home a stranger you met at a bar are now echoes of a bygone era. In its interminable wisdom, Netflix has risen to the call and gifted us shut-ins another gem to spark joy in our lives: Too Hot to Handle (THTH).
A mixture of all your favorite dating competition shows, this iteration brings together a group of sexy, mostly-hetero singles from across the globe who have one thing in common: They’re all dating app reliant commitment-phobes. The first 12 hours are a carbon copy of a show you’ve seen a hundred times: The singles meet and greet, begin the courting process, and some get to first base.
However, the fun comes to a screeching halt when Lana, the computerized nanny (picture a sassier and more sentient Alexa), informs the group that they are on a retreat to learn how to form more lasting and legitimate relationships. In order to do that, they will not be allowed to have sex or make out with one another for the entire experience; additionally, they can’t even pleasure themselves. Every infraction will be a deduction from the total prize money, which is $100,000. Things start moving pretty fast from there, with the first infraction coming in episode two, along with a heavy dose of toxic masculinity and a group takedown reminiscent of Lord of the Flies.
In the sizzle reel of the entire season, Lana’s calm voiceover explains that the experience will seek to drive these individuals to understand themselves better and why they make certain choices in their relationships; a host of activities and group exercises attempt to peel back the insecurities of the singles. Moreover, new singles, one-on-one dates, and nights in a private suite will be “grenades” thrown in to derail their progress and cost them money. For example, the first infraction was simply a makeout and it carried a charge of $3,000.
While watching the show, I realized that the singles on TV and me on my couch had a lot in common: Suddenly, the physical nature of dating was surreptitiously removed. The only difference is that their celibacy could add zeros to their bank accounts while mine can simply prevent the spread of a potentially deadly virus.
Having been told that you don’t have to take your clothes off to have a good time, I am diving into social distance dating with two feet, and I have had two Facetime dates thus far. The concept of a first date via Facetime seemed strange at first, but after the initial few moments of awkwardness, it was very relaxed. Once you remove any hope of sex from the equation, you have to rely on other attributes to determine whether or not you actually like the human on the other side of the screen. I found myself probing harder to uncover their true nature and volunteering more information about myself than I would normally. Maybe that was due to the fact that I was on my home turf or that I was still wearing the sweats I had worn all day—who knows.
Considering the big picture, I spent no money, I wore a comfy outfit, and I wasted no time (because, really, what else do you have to do?). While both boys were nice, they weren’t the type of people that I could see myself with post-COVID, so I was able to cross them off my list much faster than usual. I am certainly guilty of going on multiple dates with the wrong guy just because he was handsome or the sex was good. FaceTime dating cut away the superficial veneer and focused my attention on compatibility, which is really the crux of any great relationship.
Time will tell whether or not this dating experiment will offer positive changes for the THTH singles. However, I hope to bring the lessons I’ve learned from social distance dating into my post-COVID life. I am still excited to have sex again after I can become socially close with another human; however, I might be more apt to withhold sex for a while to really discern whether or not that human is appropriate for me.