Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

“The anxiety was real but I didn’t think it would kill me”: one woman on what it's really like to appear on First Dates

amelia-murray-041-1000.jpg

Journalist Amelia Murray, 26, appeared on Channel 4's First Dates in November 2015. Here, she discusses what she gained from the experience and what it's really like to go on a blind date and have it filmed in all its glory for national TV...


It’s as hard to ignore the whispers on the dance floor and the cartoonish double takes as much as it is the direct question of “Excuse me, were you on First Dates?” as you’re waiting at the traffic lights or popping out in pyjamas to get some loo roll on a Sunday morning.

But, really, what did I expect?

Truthfully, I’m not sure.

I applied after a particularly heavy bank holiday weekend, suffering the kind of self-destructive hangover that roots you firmly in the present: no idea what happened yesterday and no sense of future repercussions – not least those of signing up to a matchmaking reality TV show.

So that’s what I did: applied to join the swathes of hopeful singles sent to a camera-rigged restaurant to await a first date with their ‘perfect match’. From the moment they totter through the glass doors, we’re there with them – through every course, every stuttered compliment and every joke that falls flat.

Amelia Murray appearing on Channel 4's First Dates

Amelia Murray appearing on Channel 4's First Dates

Applying was easy. I wrote a few flippant sentences about being from the seaside, uploaded a video of my band, plus a photo of me and a bulldog called Biggie I met at a party, and that was that.

I didn’t apply to be famous and I wasn’t so naive as to believe I’d meet the man of my dreams. Rather, I think the reason I decided to bare all on TV was to jolt myself out of misery – kind of like a dating defibrillator.

I’d split from a boyfriend of five years six months earlier. When we agreed to finish things I tried so hard not to be sad that I ended up talking myself out of feeling anything. My crushed-Coke-can chest hurt and I wasn’t ready to succumb to my inner Havisham. Instead, I’d boot around town wearing Dr Martens and a scowl, challenging any man who dared pay me a compliment.

By the time I applied for the show I was sick of being a battleaxe. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to date, but I thought I could fake it until I made it. Plus, I’d get to meet someone potentially interesting. And I'd get to eat.

In the filmed interview beforehand, questions about past relationships were a given, although I was surprised to be asked about my parents, my appearance and my views on immigration. It was a hot room and I can’t remember too much (although my dad was furious that I “bad-mouthed him to the nation” and made it look like I was from a “broken home” – it was all he could bang on about at Christmas).

Then paranoia sets in. You ask yourself firstly if you want to go on a blind date and secondly, if you want to do it on TV, probably accessible forever to every Tom, Dick, Harry, employer/boyfriend/future child’s headmaster. The anxiety was real but I didn’t think it would kill me. So on I went.

amelia first dates

Everyone always asks me what Fred Sirieix, the maître d’, was like, but quite simply I hardly remember. I was so flustered and worried about falling over in my housemate’s shoes when I arrived that I walked through the wrong door – by the time I got it right, I had little but the bar in sight.

Merlin, the barman, tries to put you at ease, but it’s a bit like making small talk with the doctor during a colonoscopy: it’s hard to engage when you’re that uncomfortable. But to the date: he was OK. Easy-going and friendly, but totally opposite to what I’d suggested I liked.

For one, I was sure I mentioned I liked slightly older, confident men. My date, Josh, was a student. And 21. Obviously, age is just a number but when you’re dishing out careers advice to someone who’s never heard of Donna Summer, it’s hard to shake off the older sister vibe. Ain’t nothing romantic about that.

Later, I worked it out: we had been styled as the “hipster” couple. While my date was a self-confessed hipster, I’d never considered myself as such and none of my interviews had touched upon it. However, I’d clearly been labelled without knowledge, slapped on the back with a “kick me” sticker.

I was turned down for a post-date drink. Several times. I wrongly assumed he’d also want a quick debrief following a good few hours under surveillance, but he didn’t. Friends, relatives, drunk strangers and a couple sat next to me at the National Theatre one evening all tell me with pity in their eyes that I shouldn’t worry about it, that I’m sure to find someone soon.

Twitter was also kind enough to chip in.

Going on First Dates was more about getting back out there and claiming a bit more of myself back than finding love, so I wasn’t too disappointed that it didn’t work out.

However, it did reignite my desire for spontaneity and surprise, which I feel doesn’t exist much in the modern dating world.

Let me be clear, online dating can be an amazing way for potential soulmates to cross paths: I’m all for planting the seeds of love in every field, party or web page and I haven’t ruled it out forever. But it’s far too easy to Google someone we’ve just met and scope out their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram profile. Heck, we can even stalk them professionally on LinkedIn. We can browse at our leisure, be it on the bus or in the company of our friends, and pick out those we fancy, like an especially juicy apple.

True, waiting to meet someone I’d never seen and knew nothing about had the worst effect on my bladder and blood pressure, but I'm all for anything that makes the heart beat a little faster.

Main image: Stephen Wells Photography / Channel 4

Related

couple watching tv on date night.jpg

Netflix and Chill: watching these TV shows boosts your sex appeal

dirty dancing remake.jpg

Are you ready for the new Dirty Dancing movie?

istock-94033355-large.jpg

How to “friend date”: the art of pursuing new female friendships

airportcrushestout.jpg

People keep falling in love at these airports

balloons.jpg

Revealed: the startling thing we really won't do for love

woman-bed-.jpg

This is why millennials are having less sex than their parents

love the nelsons project.JPG

Grandparents celebrate 63 years of love with heartwarming photo shoot

couple hold hands.jpg

The surprising factor that is most likely to lead to divorce

man-tinder.jpg

Why men don’t message first on Tinder, according to science

More

Jennifer Lawrence was forced into a naked line-up by a producer

In the name of weight-loss “inspiration”

by Amy Swales
17 Oct 2017

Abigail Breslin’s photo reveals how domestic abuse can stay with you

The actor has opened up about the realities of living with PTSD

17 Oct 2017

“Why Liar is proof that TV's depiction of rape is damaging to women”

The proliferation of rape in TV and film is a real problem for the representation of women

by Harriet Hall
17 Oct 2017

Nigella Lawson reveals why red is the ultimate foodie colour

As she tracks her gastronomic love affair with all things crimson

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Oct 2017

Reese Witherspoon says she was sexually assaulted at 16 by a director

“Producers made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment”

by Amy Swales
17 Oct 2017

Courtney Love tried to warn us about Harvey Weinstein in 2005

This video shows her speaking out against Weinstein over a decade ago

by Susan Devaney
17 Oct 2017

Hillary Clinton praises NHS after receiving medical treatment in UK

Clinton spoke about the UK’s health service during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show

by Moya Crockett
17 Oct 2017

Maisie Williams’ response to Sophie Turner’s engagement is perfect

There’s a reason these two have been dubbed #BFFgoals, you know…

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Oct 2017

America Ferrera reveals she was sexually assaulted as a 9-year-old

‘I believed that I was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man’

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Oct 2017

The best A-list Instagrams from the weekend

From Ella Eyre’s autumnal spirit to Serena Williams’ mother-daughter selfie

by Nicola Colyer
16 Oct 2017