7 top tips for surviving those first dates

First dates are tough, but much more so when broadcast on TV, as the lonely-hearts on First Dates Ireland are about to learn, says Michelle McBride

AN Irish version of First Dates — the Great British Bake-off of dating programmes — is about to debut on RTÉ. First Dates Ireland starts on Thursday, April 21, at 9.30pm, on RTÉ2

The programme pushes the cringe factor of its ancestor, Blind Date, to a new level.

What makes First Dates so comical? It’s funny because it’s true (but not as cruel as it’s distant cousin, Take Me Out, on which many men were left in the dark before they knew what hit them).

Each one of us can relate to at least one cringe-worthy dating moment, and some of us can relate to more.

You may be considering filling in an application form to get yourself on the season finale and give The Walking Dead a run for its money.

But, perhaps, you may want classes in method acting, before you have the nation peering through their fingers at you, as you make faux pas after faux pas with the starter, main course, and dessert.

It’s best to practice your lines before you get your 15 minutes of fame — the whole country will be watching. First Dates takes social media to the extreme.

What could be worse than your mammy seeing you tagged on Facebook with your date? Your mammy watching you and your date on television. And you’re bound to have known your date beforehand; Ireland is small. Best to try a few auditions before you enroll for the next season of First Dates.

What to wear?

The problem with first dates is finding that elusive balance. You want to put your best foot forward, but if, like me, you’re close to hitting the 51st date mark, you will want to just turn up in your ‘trackie’, with the logic that if they ‘really’ like me they’ll see past my clothing. Right?

There may be truth in this, but beware that it’s akin to turning up in the Dáil sans suit and tie — what impression do you want to make? You might also get refused at the door by the bouncer and find yourself having to do some late night shopping, ala Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, just to get in the door. Maybe keep the tracksuit for date number two.

Prepare for the Worst

If you do this, the only way is up. Some of us have a tendency to build our date up to be an Adonis of the body and mind. But they generally aren’t. They, like you, are only human.

But, if you prepare yourself for someone with the personality of a brick, well, then, you’re bound to be pleasantly surprised, no matter what they look like. And if you are unfortunate to find yourself with the ‘worst’, fear not.

Remember, these are only the auditions. The cameras aren’t on you just yet, so you can make your excuses — polite or not — and exit stage left.

What to eat?

If you are going to stay true to the First Dates format, you can’t have a quick coffee to ease yourself in. It’s straight in at the deep end with dinner. And, no, chippers doesn’t count.

It’s a sit-down meal, minus the luxury of any dimmed lighting — there is nowhere to hide. With this in mind, there might be a few things you want to consider before the waiter calls your table. Do you really want to risk the spaghetti? Or the chicken wings?

You’d have to be able to see beyond more than the active wear to pull off eating chicken wings, or spag bog, with style.

But it all comes down to how much you actually fancy your date. If there’s about as much chemistry as a soggy bread roll, then knock yourself out and get the ribs, with a side of garlic.

The Controlled Environment

One of the reasons First Dates works so well is that everyone is in on the action. From Fred, the French maître d’, who greets when you come through the magic doors, to the barman who mixes your poison to settle the nerves, right down to the waiter, Sam, who had to substitute when one unfortunate datee was ‘stood up’ — they’ve all got your back and are willing you to succeed.

Unfortunately, this may not be the case during your ventures in the real world. Your waiter would probably be shown the road, if he sat down for dinner mid-shift. Best thing to do is give the maître d’ a discreet heads-up when you arrive.

Maybe work out a secret code, should you need assistance mid-meal. Two blinks for dessert. One for the bill. Just don’t sneeze, or you could blow your cover.

The Repeat Offenders

Another feature of First Dates are the repeat offenders — the star-crossed lovers given multiple opportunities to find ‘The One’. One such Casanova, Rajan, is fast-becoming a restaurant regular. But his dating style is so erratic he’s showing where his heart really lies. It’s clear it’s the lure of the camera that really attracts him.

Perhaps the producers feel he’ll have the same effect ‘Jedward’ had on the X-Factor. You weren’t quite sure what you thought of them, but you couldn’t look away.

These serial daters exist in the real world, too. At times, they can be difficult to spot, but a giveaway is someone who is saying ‘all the right things’ before the waiter has finished reading the specials board.

If someone has told you what wonderful company you are before the drinks have arrived, it can only mean one of two things — a) they are easily amused or b) they do this a lot and have a ‘go-to’ script that rolls off their tongue easier than a song off Jedward’s.

Fear not. The more dates you go on, the easier these serial daters are to spot.

After all, it takes one to know one. The only difference being that some choose this life of romantic crime, while others are victims of romantic circumstance, trying to avoid getting stuck in a line-up with the usual suspects.

The Review

The producers of First Dates do not allow the potential suitors to depart after the awkward ‘getting the tab’ tango. Do you go Dutch or old school?

The pair are summonsed to a room for a debriefing and asked a question that a garda wouldn’t ask of you: ‘Will you see each other again?’ Perhaps this is something that should be adopted by all who venture out on first dates, televised or not.

It’s nice to know where you stand, and if, like me, you seem to have developed romantic dyslexia when it comes to deciphering the real meaning behind the follow-up text message, such a question clears up any confusion.

But it’s just slightly awkward and potentially a little crushing, especially for our sensitive Irish egos. And who does the asking?

It would be much easier if a third party would put it to you both, as you get your coats.

Maybe you could tip the waiter an extra few bob for the additional service?

Happy Ever After

Some of the First Dates participants have inspired a spin-off episode, First Dates: The Proposal.

It would seem that, for some, there is light at the end of tunnel of love. But, in reality, the chances are you’ll hear more proposals of the indecent nature, before you can tell your friends to buy a hat and save the date.


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