Eyes open for a blind date

Be­ing set up for a date can work, if you leave your pre­con­cep­tions at home, writes Deirdre Reynolds

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Feature -

WHEN Claire Mears sat down to watch Blind Date with her fam­ily ev­ery Satur­day even­ing as a girl, she never dreamed she’d end up on one, let alone marry the com­plete stranger sit­ting op­po­site her.

First made fa­mous by Cilla Black, the iconic tele­vi­sion dat­ing show re­turns to small screens here at 9pm on TV3 this Sun­day night, hosted by Al Porter.

Over 10,000 miles away in Bris­bane, beauty sa­lon man­ager Claire and hus­bandto-be Dar­ren Kelly are cer­tain to catch up on­line as they pre­pare to tie the knot eight years to the day af­ter meet­ing on a real-life blind date back home in Dublin.

“Dar­ren and I met through a mu­tual friend,” says Claire (30), who’s set to walk down the aisle in four weeks in Aus­tralia, where the cou­ple now live. “At the time, Tin­der didn’t even ex­ist, and I had never been on a blind date be­fore.

“Even though he was dif­fer­ent to the kind of guy I nor­mally go for, I was at­tracted to Dar­ren straight away. He gave me but­ter­flies — and still does.

“We are get­ting mar­ried on Novem­ber 10 in Noosa, and can’t wait to cel­e­brate with the peo­ple who are mak­ing an ef­fort to come here and cel­e­brate with us.”

Just like the orig­i­nal TV se­ries, which ran on ITV from 1985 to 2003, Blind Date sees one sin­gle­ton choose from three po­ten­tial dates hid­den be­hind a screen by ask­ing them three ques­tions.

In an age of swip­ing right, how­ever, where it’s be­ing fit rather than wit that lands you a date, per­haps the big­gest ques­tion of all is whether the old-fash­ioned method of match­mak­ing will still work more than a decade af­ter view­ers first said ‘ta-ra chuck’ to the for­mat.

West­meath-based sex and re­la­tion­ship ther­a­pist June Clyne is hope­ful.

“Very of­ten I hear sto­ries of peo­ple meet­ing up af­ter view­ing each other’s pro­file on dat­ing apps on­line,” she says.

“Af­ter numerous texts and maybe a few phone calls, they fi­nally meet up only to dis­cover that the per­son be­fore them is 10 years older than their pro­file photo. This alone can be enough to send the other per­son high­tail­ing it be­cause there is an im­me­di­ate sense that one has been duped.

“A blind date of­fers a dif­fer­ent set of ex­pec­ta­tions. Ini­tially, they both know that this could of­fer a pleas­ant sur­prise or a dis­ap­point­ment.

“With dat­ing apps, so much in­for­ma­tion is lost over text and phone calls,” she con­tin­ues. “For one, you can­not read body lan­guage through text or on the phone. If the blind date is over the course of an even­ing, this af­fords more of an op­por­tu­nity to get some sense of what the other is like.

“I think blind dates are cer­tainly mak­ing a come­back, and one rea­son for this may be the fact that for the ‘on­lin­ers’, while many peo­ple are only look­ing for short-term grat­i­fi­ca­tion, some are gen­uinely look­ing for a re­la­tion­ship — so the blind date means you have an ac­tual per­son be­fore you who is in­ter­ested in meet­ing some­one.”

Since launch­ing ear­lier this year, Ire­land’s new­est dat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, ‘A Ta­ble for Six’ — which or­gan­ises ta­bles of six sim­i­larly aged sin­gles for din­ner — has matched more than 1,500 peo­ple on blind dates through­out the land, with the next event tak­ing place to­mor­row night.

Although looks still mat­ter, es­pe­cially to younger daters, says founder Mairéad Lough­man, putting the fo­cus on age, shared in­ter­ests and lo­ca­tion gives blind daters a bet­ter shot at find­ing app-ily ever af­ter off­line.

“Lis­ten­ing to our clients about in­ter­net dat­ing, they all say about the end­less mes­sages be­fore meet­ing up, fake pro­files and feel­ing dis­pos­able as the av­er­age per­son is talk­ing to up to a dozen peo­ple at a time,” she says.

“How many times have you met some­one on­line and chat­ted for weeks be­fore fi­nally meet­ing them and know­ing there is zero chem­istry in the first 30 sec­onds? On a blind date, all you need to do is show up look­ing fab­u­lous and en­joy the even­ing.

“Some­times peo­ple can be re­ally shy or have low con­fi­dence so blind dates are ideal for them. From my own ex­pe­ri­ence, blind dates are es­sen­tially qual­ity over quan­tity dat­ing, and I en­cour­age peo­ple to not only come to me but to set their friends, fam­ily and col­leagues up on blind dates.”

De­spite fan­cy­ing Claire “100%” from the start, Dar­ren ad­mits the cou­ple may never have even met if their pal hadn’t played Cupid.

“I think blind dates are a great idea,” says the 39-year-old, who is an op­er­a­tions man­ager for an elec­tronic se­cu­rity com­pany. “You need to be open to any­body — not just the ‘type’ you’re look­ing for, but some­one you can con­nect with.

“We sat down and or­dered steak and chips and were starv­ing and ended up not eat­ing a thing - we got on so well we talked all night and I dropped Claire home with a kiss good­night on the raini­est night in Novem­ber.

“From there, we just fell into a whirl­wind of life changes and op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Keep­ing all the usual caveats in mind, psy­chother­a­pist June Clyne also urged sin­gle peo­ple here to do a Cilla by em­brac­ing the el­e­ment of ‘Sur­prise, Sur­prise’.

“With on­line in­ter­ac­tions, very of­ten sex­ting be­comes part of the process and, for some, this gets very old, very fast,” she says. “With a blind date, you get to date in the ‘old­fash­ioned’ way, and there are a lot of pos­i­tives in that.

“A word of cau­tion, of course, is to al­ways let some­one know where you are go­ing, meet only in a busy en­vi­ron­ment like a restau­rant and never leave your drink unat­tended. If you have no sense of who it is that you are meet­ing, you can ask to see some form of iden­tity. Buz­zkill, I know, but if you re­lay your con­cern, the other [per­son] should be un­der­stand­ing and meet that with re­spect. Af­ter that, have fun and en­joy the hu­man in­ter­ac­tion,” she adds. “Be hon­est with the other [per­son] — if af­ter your blind date you don’t want to meet up again, tell them.”

From blind date to love at first sight, mean­while, Claire told how she’d love to re­turn the favour by set­ting one of her sin­gle pals up with an equally great guy.

“I would love to re­pay the favour to some­one else,” tells the bride-to-be. “I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have went for some­one like Dar­ren if it wasn’t for the blind date.

“This man has been like no other. He has en­cour­aged me to be an in­di­vid­ual [and] to do things pre­vi­ous men in my life haven’t. He was never threat­ened by my male friends and is al­ways un­der­stand­ing.

“We wouldn’t know where our lives would be with­out that blind date on a rainy Novem­ber night al­most eight years ago,” she adds.

“Now we are so ex­cited for our fu­ture to­gether.”

“You need to be open to any­body, not just the type you are look­ing for, but some­one you can con­nect with

BIG DAY: Claire Mears and Dar­ren Kelly are get­ting mar­ried on Novem­ber 10.

PLAY­ING CUPID: TV3 Blind Date host Al Porter will give sin­gle­tons a chance to find love.

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