Leave preconceptions at home and a blind date can be perfect

Being set up for a date can work, if you leave your preconceptions at home, writes Deirdre Reynolds

Claire Mears and Darren Kelly are getting married on November 10, after meeting on a blind date.

WHEN Claire Mears sat down to watch Blind Date with her family every Saturday evening as a girl, she never dreamed she’d end up on one, let alone marry the complete stranger sitting opposite her.

First made famous by Cilla Black, the iconic television dating show returns to small screens here at 9pm on TV3 this Sunday night, hosted by Al Porter.

Over 10,000 miles away in Brisbane, beauty salon manager Claire and husband-to-be Darren Kelly are certain to catch up online as they prepare to tie the knot eight years to the day after meeting on a real-life blind date back home in Dublin.

“Darren and I met through a mutual friend,” says Claire (30), who’s set to walk down the aisle in four weeks in Australia, where the couple now live. “At the time, Tinder didn’t even exist, and I had never been on a blind date before.

“Even though he was different to the kind of guy I normally go for, I was attracted to Darren straight away. He gave me butterflies — and still does.

“We are getting married on November 10 in Noosa, and can’t wait to celebrate with the people who are making an effort to come here and celebrate with us.”

Just like the original TV series, which ran on ITV from 1985 to 2003, Blind Date sees one singleton choose from three potential dates hidden behind a screen by asking them three questions.

In an age of swiping right, however, where it’s being fit rather than wit that lands you a date, perhaps the biggest question of all is whether the old-fashioned method of matchmaking will still work more than a decade after viewers first said ‘ta-ra chuck’ to the format.

Westmeath-based sex and relationship therapist June Clyne is hopeful.

“Very often I hear stories of people meeting up after viewing each other’s profile on dating apps online,” she says.

“After numerous texts and maybe a few phone calls, they finally meet up only to discover that the person before them is 10 years older than their profile photo. This alone can be enough to send the other person hightailing it because there is an immediate sense that one has been duped.

“A blind date offers a different set of expectations. Initially, they both know that this could offer a pleasant surprise or a disappointment.

“With dating apps, so much information is lost over text and phone calls,” she continues. “For one, you cannot read body language through text or on the phone. If the blind date is over the course of an evening, this affords more of an opportunity to get some sense of what the other is like.

“I think blind dates are certainly making a comeback, and one reason for this may be the fact that for the ‘onliners’, while many people are only looking for short-term gratification, some are genuinely looking for a relationship — so the blind date means you have an actual person before you who is interested in meeting someone.”

Since launching earlier this year, Ireland’s newest dating experience, ‘A Table for Six’ — which organises tables of six similarly aged singles for dinner — has matched more than 1,500 people on blind dates throughout the land, with the next event taking place tomorrow night.

Although looks still matter, especially to younger daters, says founder Mairéad Loughman, putting the focus on age, shared interests and location gives blind daters a better shot at finding app-ily ever after offline.

“Listening to our clients about internet dating, they all say about the endless messages before meeting up, fake profiles and feeling disposable as the average person is talking to up to a dozen people at a time,” she says.

“How many times have you met someone online and chatted for weeks before finally meeting them and knowing there is zero chemistry in the first 30 seconds? On a blind date, all you need to do is show up looking fabulous and enjoy the evening.

“Sometimes people can be really shy or have low confidence so blind dates are ideal for them. From my own experience, blind dates are essentially quality over quantity dating, and I encourage people to not only come to me but to set their friends, family and colleagues up on blind dates.”

Despite fancying Claire “100%” from the start, Darren admits the couple may never have even met if their pal hadn’t played Cupid.

“I think blind dates are a great idea,” says the 39-year-old, who is an operations manager for an electronic security company. “You need to be open to anybody — not just the ‘type’ you’re looking for, but someone you can connect with.

“We sat down and ordered steak and chips and were starving and ended up not eating a thing - we got on so well we talked all night and I dropped Claire home with a kiss goodnight on the rainiest night in November.

“From there, we just fell into a whirlwind of life changes and opportunities.”

Al Porter will host a new series of Blind Date.

Keeping all the usual caveats in mind, psychotherapist June Clyne also urged single people here to do a Cilla by embracing the element of ‘Surprise, Surprise’.

“With online interactions, very often sexting becomes part of the process and, for some, this gets very old, very fast,” she says. “With a blind date, you get to date in the ‘old-fashioned’ way, and there are a lot of positives in that.

“A word of caution, of course, is to always let someone know where you are going, meet only in a busy environment like a restaurant and never leave your drink unattended. If you have no sense of who it is that you are meeting, you can ask to see some form of identity. Buzzkill, I know, but if you relay your concern, the other [person] should be understanding and meet that with respect. After that, have fun and enjoy the human interaction,” she adds. “Be honest with the other [person] — if after your blind date you don’t want to meet up again, tell them.”

From blind date to love at first sight, meanwhile, Claire told how she’d love to return the favour by setting one of her single pals up with an equally great guy.

“I would love to repay the favour to someone else,” tells the bride-to-be. “I probably wouldn’t have went for someone like Darren if it wasn’t for the blind date.

“This man has been like no other. He has encouraged me to be an individual [and] to do things previous men in my life haven’t. He was never threatened by my male friends and is always understanding.

“We wouldn’t know where our lives would be without that blind date on a rainy November night almost eight years ago,” she adds.

“Now we are so excited for our future together.”


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