First Dates Ireland: How Reality TV Led To My Real Life Romance

With the return of a third season of First Dates, Geraldine Carton reflects on how the show brought her not only entertainment, but a boyfriend too.

I’ve been a big, if not HUGE, fan of First Dates ever since it started airing on Channel 4. When the concept crossed the Irish sea and was embraced by RTE, well, I was nothing short of thrilled. Many Irish takes on foreign TV show concepts can be cringey at best, and god-awful at worst, but it was clear from the get-go that this production was top quality. I was hooked.

Every Thursday night few things delighted me more than sitting down in front of the TV with a glass of wine, a slab of dark chocolate, and a fellow First Dates enthusiast with whom I could share my many sage observations. Every episode was accompanied by intuitive predictions on whether a second date looked plausible, live readings of the best #firstdatesireland tweets, and the occasional eruption of screams and squeals when the arm or back head of a vague acquaintance was spotted, having obviously made the cut as a “background dater”. 

When season two began, and I noticed the familiar face of a boy I had known in college as a main dater, well I nearly fell off my chair. You might remember this boy as the Dublin tour guide with the red shoes who had difficulty “coming down off that tea buzz” as he waited at the bar for his date to arrive. I only vaguely knew him - we had been in a play together seven years ago at college, but had long since fallen out of contact. Who had he become, and how was his date going to fare?

With every random quip and bizarre question he presented (“Do you ever think of where you would like to die?” and “As a good Dundalk woman, what are your thoughts on a 32 county republic?”), my sister put her face in her hands and roared laughing in embarrassment, whilst I, I must confess, swooned. A sucker for a good weirdo, I couldn’t help but find his array of oddball exchanges altogether very... Endearing.

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Away he jabbered, and away she giggled, until the date came to an end and the two decided to go on for a drink after. The camera cut to her tottering along in cute little heels and him happily pushing his bike along. At this point I noticed something bubbling within me… Jealousy. It had been seven years since I had even seen this guy, and yet I felt hard done by when I saw him side-by-side with her, and not me.

In work the next day I gushed about him to my colleagues, on my lunch break I brought him up to the waitress completely out of context. She didn’t have great English, but I think she picked up on my sentiment. When my sister saw that I was still going about him that next evening she said, jokingly, “If you’re so obsessed with the guy, why don’t you just message him?!” I said, “No way! It’d be so random! I couldn’t!”

...OR COULD I?

And so I retreated to my bedroom to formulate a text. I knew he was probably going to get loads of similar messages from people who had seen him on the show so mine needed to stand out all the while balancing between fun and friendly, and cool and nonchalant. After all, this was just a casual message of congratulations from one vague acquaintance to another! Totally chilled! Not the faintest whiff of desperate fangirl off me!

I congratulated him on having the balls to go on the show, avoiding the use of emojis and that dangerous “x” button. I then pressed “send” and took a brief second to imagine our entire future together including marriage, children and a dog named Marty (don’t worry, the daydream was carried out in an entirely cool, off-the-cuff way – not stalkery at all).

A week later I finally got a response. Something along the lines of “Hey. Thanks so much for the message! Hope all’s good with you.” Not much to work with there. However, taking inspiration from the 2017 feminist sentiment of “nevertheless she persisted”, I hounded the boy with messages until he finally suggested we meet up for a drink. “Pester power” serves me as well as a 26-year-old as it did in my days as an annoying, whiny child.

I’d like to say “and the rest was history”, but being totally honest, it still took another three dates before he copped that I wasn’t just looking for friendship. He did eventually take the hint though, and now whenever we find ourselves in need of a pick-me-up, we look back on those first few messages and chortle over my abandoned pride, and his inability to read social cues.

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