I love First Dates. On the telly. Love the interaction between the couples. The chemistry. The absence of chemistry. Love trying to figure out if the couples will gel and opt for that second date when asked: ‘Would you like to see each other again?’ I especially love the extroverts, the outrageous, who don’t mind being different. Who ARE different. And proud of it. I love their bravado. Their bravura. They are who they are, to resort to the cliché; they know who, and what, they are and are probably more at ease with themselves than many of us.
If I have learned anything from watching First Dates it’s this, when asked: ‘would you like to see each other again’ always let the other person answer first. Do not risk getting egg smeared all over your face by saying ‘I would’ only for herself, or himself, to turn around and say: ‘I really enjoyed the evening, I think you’re a wonderful person but…the spark just wasn’t there.’ Well I have no idea what that statement sparks off in the mind of the rejected participant but I know what it would spark off in my head – embarrassment, anger, rage and an intense inclination to murder.
But then, like many a writer, I’m a tad temperamental and emotional. How those unfortunate rejects remain so calm and composed in the high-definition glare of TV is beyond me. I can only assume that they head straight to the pub afterwards and get blotto; if not I guess they go home and bang their heads off the wall for being so silly and foolish. And the lesson again - in case you should you be so lucky to participate in the show - always answer last on First Dates.
Of course why anyone would go on First Dates in the first place is a total mystery to me. I understand the extroverts and the outrageous, they’d gladly appear on The Angelus. Any platform will do. The majority of participants, however, seem normal. But is it normal, I wonder, to appear on television, in the unforgiving, critical public gaze, seeking a date? A mate even. But then again what’s normal? It’s horses for courses, I guess, and one’s man meat, after all, is another man’s poison.
My first date.
The programme, of course, always reminds me of my first date. Which was pathetic if you must know. P-A-T-H-E-T-I-C. I was maybe fourteen or fifteen, green as grass, wet behind the ears, and an innocent at large (at large on Daly’s Hill) Plus I am coming from the dark ages of an Ireland where, can you believe this, we were actually afraid to be seen with girls! I swear. An Ireland where the WORD sex was a sin! I mean I’m a grown man (in fact I’m at an age when I’m beginning to ever so slightly shrink) and I’m still am not totally comfortable mentioning the word sex! Sad or what?
Anyway, here’s how that first date came about. We are three ‘guys’, they are three girls and we used to regularly bump into each other, deliberately/accidently sort of, at the Sunday matinees in the Regent cinema. My best friend eventually plucked up the courage to talk to the girls and somehow or other arranged that the six of us would sit together, as couples, the following Sunday. And we did. And so I found myself sitting beside Mary (her real name, not that it matters now). Thirty minutes in, and with much fear and trepidation, I slid – no I did not - slid would have been far too graceful, too smooth, I slowly, very slowly and awkwardly, edged my arm around her shoulder. And left it there for the duration of the film!
She never said a word. I never said a word. And to this day I cannot be sure if she was even aware of my arm, parked like a comatose baby boa constrictor, across her shoulder. For a solid hour! All I am sure of is this – it made no impression. Apart from a little indentation in her jacket. If even. And that was it. We left the cinema as if nothing happened (and nothing did) and went our separate ways. Our first, and last, date together. And Mary, I very belatedly, apologise for being so dull, boring and pathetic. In the meantime having watched the most recent edition of First Dates with my wife, I turned to her and asked (and this after 37 years we look angelic almost in our freshly starched, snow-white surplices of marriage) ‘Would we like to see each other again?’ I won’t tell you what she said.