First Dates is back on Channel 4, and if you missed it, be more disciplined.
If you've never seen the show, it's a gloriously simply premise: strangers meet for a blind date, and Channel 4 films it. The dates always take place in the same, seemingly mythical restaurant which is actually Paternoster Chop House. I've been there. It's OK.
First dates are the romantic equivalent of vomiting: everyone fucking hates vomiting. This is crucial to the show's success, however, because as audience members we get to be voyeurs of this often excruciating experience, empathising from a safe distance. We are privy to the small-talk without having to make it; we can watch unwanted advances without having to fend them off and we can eat our dinner, replete in the knowledge we haven't shilled out £30 for the privilege. Neither are we forced to create a semi-believable excuse as to why we should/shouldn't leave as fast as humanly possible. (NB: 'I have an early start' is a gentle, universally recognised sign that you're not interested; 'I accidentally forgot I was supposed to be helping my aunt move house to Uganda tonight' lends itself to too many follow ups.)
So why are first dates so bone-achingly awful? Is it because they are essentially job interviews to asses your competency at being yourself? Is it the worry that conversation will run dry, leading to protracted, uncomfortable silences? Or is it the latent but very much real fear that your date might turn out to be psychotic, or racist, or the blonde one from Made in Chelsea? Yes and no. But mainly yes. The problem is that first dates are all of these things, all at the same time; there is no let up in the ways they can make you despise yourself, or see you running to your local corner shop to bang on the window, until Adil takes pity and just gives you a Ristorante frozen pizza to make you go away (I paid him in the morning, alright? Geez.)
And it doesn't stop there. So far, we've discussed what happens when a date goes badly, which they always do, because first dates are an affair conceived by Hitler and Dapper Laughs. But there is one thing worse than a bad first date, and that's a good, first date.
In anticipation of a lousy evening, you haven't bothered to do your make-up properly, and you're wearing your second-best jeans. As soon as you realise it's actually going well, you will suddenly become a doubting, cautious, self-conscious angst ball as you try not to mention the time you got so pissed you urinated on your bedroom floor. But mention it you will, because you're going to get drunk here, too. Sure, you're only drinking in a valiant effort to fend off your nerves, but it is a sad inevitably that you will make a tit of yourself. You will portray yourself as being of dubious moral standing, borderline alcoholic, and quite probably promiscuous. This is literally the best outcome you can hope for from a good first date.
And you know what's worst of all? A good first date will mean you want a second date. I sympathise. Now hell, if your date is a promiscuous, borderline alcoholic of dubiously moral standing, you might be alright; after a second date, you can go on to enjoy three, potentially four more before it all goes horribly wrong. In dating parlance, this is called 'excellent'. But if s/he is anything other than this, your first date will result in nothing more than disappointment and a hangover, or, if you're lucky, a mild case of thrush as a result of the drunken sex. But we really are talking best case scenario here.
By now, you may be wondering why we go on dates at all if they are so dire. Well, the answer is this: hope. Hope, i.e. the Batman to the Penguin's reality (i.e. Danny DeVito from Batman Returns, which is terrifying). The reality of dating is that you will meet a swell of people who aren't right for you before you come close to meeting someone who is; from the man who invites you to a wedding, in Austria, on your third meeting, to a woman who attempts to show you her boob job scars in McDonalds, a litany of weirdos, liars, drunks and ex-convicts will cross your path before you find one of your Ones, and it is hope that will push you forward. The One, singular, does not exist; that's like saying there is only one type of chocolate that makes you happy when...oh, who am I kidding; Munchies cannot be bested. OK, so it's like accepting the Communist premise that we should all be happy with the single toothpaste option we've been prescribed and I just don't think Communism is always the answer to everything. I'm sorry, I just don't.
So there you have it: first dates are rubbish, but we continue to hope that our second first date - our twelfth, our seventieth - will be different, and so we do them anyway. I wish all you first daters the best of luck in all your endeavours (of which there will be many. I know a guy who's been on seventy-three first dates. And he's not THAT ugly) and tonight, here's to all those individuals who are brave enough to do it on TV.
Confessions of a Tinderella by Rosy Edwards is out May 21st, 2015.