Colette Sheridan: Dating in front of the camera is not for life's wilting violets

First Dates Ireland had their oldest participant recently, a sprightly 81 year old man who might have just restored our faith in romance, says Colette Sheridan
Colette Sheridan: Dating in front of the camera is not for life's wilting violets
Lorraine and Michael on First Dates Ireland

FIRST dates are scary. There you are, trying to play it casual (but not offhand), revealing your best self to a stranger, in the hope that they’ll want to see you again.

That, of course, assumes you fancy the person sitting opposite you.

It’s a whole other story if the person repels you or fails to ignite some latent spark in you.

Yes, it’s a minefield. What to wear? Who pays for dinner? What will you talk about? Are you wearing too much make-up? Does your bum look big in your figure hugging dress?

These and other questions will plague you as you make your way to the designated restaurant. And if all that wasn’t enough, some people opt to go on the telly to be filmed on a blind date for First Dates Ireland.

Are they completely mad? Why would you want to have the cameras prying on you as you negotiate the starter and try to sound effervescent, all the better to impress your date and the viewing public?

Yes. You’d have to be a complete hoor for the publicity to take part in this programme.

I don’t know what’s worse. Being weighed in your belly-exposing Lycra top for the TV weight loss programme, Operation Transformation or being watched by the nation during what could be an excruciating encounter where you’re asked if you fancy the person you were paired with?

With Valentine’s Day approaching, thoughts turn to love and all that romantic stuff, hyped by Hallmark and florists, milked by restaurants, and dreaded by many. But for the exhibitionists on First Dates Ireland last week, there was very little humiliation.

Even when Cork man, Shane, aged 25, told his date, Dylan, that he is HIV positive, only a momentary silence registered the gravity of this revelation.

Shane is handsome in a fresh-faced way. His admission didn’t freak 24-year-old Dylan from Dublin. Dylan, presumably, has seen it all.

And besides, he’s a scientist who was able to talk about the medication available to those with HIV.

Dylan reckoned that he’d had about 60 dates last year. 60? That’s more than one a week. Nobody can accuse him of not being pro-active enough. But did nobody measure up?

He said he finds dating easy. But staying around is the hardest part. You could feel the chemistry between these two young men. Not surprisingly, they continued their date away from the cameras. We were told that they drank, gossiped and shifted. Result!

The reason I tuned into First Dates Ireland was to witness the oldest ever participant on the programme. When it was announced that 81-year-old Michael was on his way to the restaurant where the daters dine, I expected him to be a doddering old man, on his last gasp to ensnare a young one. A bit like something out of a John B Keane play, starring a lonesome old man suffering from woman hunger.

Instead, what we got was a spry octogenarian with a good head of white hair who was very well turned out in a beige shirt, chinos and a light jacket. He was almost trendy and, still quite good-looking, must have been a lash when he was young. He revealed that he goes to the gym four or five days a week. He has arthritis but does all in his power to keep active. He lives by himself and admitted that “there’s no joy in living alone.”

Onto the scene came his date, 75-year old Lorraine. When Michael pulled out a chair for her to sit on, my heart melted. He was chivalrous without being showy about it. When do you ever see guys these days doing that most mannerly thing? Let’s face it, they’d probably be too scared of being called patronising.

Michael and Lorraine really hit it off. Lorraine looks like a conservative woman but somewhat surprisingly, said she loves punk and was a fan of Sid Vicious from The Sex Pistols.

She adores Shane McGowan and his two-fingered attitude to the world. She also likes ‘Meatloaf.’

This pair continue to see each other regularly which is very reassuring for those of us who are single and well beyond the spring chicken phase.

It’s not that we necessarily want to meet someone special but it’s good to know that getting on in age doesn’t have to mean we’re no longer invited to life’s party.

Michael spoke of how he was expected to become a priest but backed out of being ordained. He’s not religious in a formal sense but “firmly” believes in angels. Maybe that’s because he considers Lorraine to be an angel. In ninety minutes, he “got very close to her.” They left the restaurant in a taxi together. It would — almost — restore your faith in romance.

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