I discovered the First Dates TV programme on C4 quite by accident and was charmed by Gallic host Fred Sirieix and I am now enjoying the follow-on “First Dates Hotel” set in beautiful Provence. There is something particularly compelling about this reality show, perhaps because it is simply fascinating to watch other people go on blind, first dates. The addition of the French countryside as a backdrop to romance in the new spin-off is an added bonus for this series that entertains by being hugely comic as well as well as appealing to age-old sentiments.
Romesh Ranganathan neatly summed up First Dates Hotel in the Guardian: “ It takes all the usual trappings of the First Dates experience – lovelorn singles, friendly bartender, chirpy voiceover – and checks them into a 13th-century castle in Provence, where guests are given 48 hours to find love before they’re forced to pack their bags.” Romesh has an interesting complaint about the situation the singles find themselves in here. He says: “Anyone can imagine they’ve found love when they are eating in a French restaurant next to a swimming pool, with Fred the maître d’ and the restaurant staff turning every conversation into an innuendo.” But, let’s not worry about that too much, because this is after all a show created to entertain, and I imagine that like that other ‘dating’ special from ITV, “Dinner Date”, any romance that does start during 48-hours in France may not make it back across the Channel.
When I first started watching the programme, I was also delighted to see that it included a balanced number of older participants who brought both a sense of fun, and reality as I understand it, to the show; they demonstrated how to have a conversation that was honest and in the cases of widows and widowers, were refreshingly honest about their feelings and what they were looking for. When compared with the younger daters, I couldn’t help but think that the over 50s are better at first dates than the younger generation, which set me off on a search for tips on how to re-enter the dating scene after time out from it.
First date advice for over 50s
Where better to start than with a dating coach, a new breed of professional who specialises in dating advice for all ages. It is true that various cultures have a tradition of using match-makers and the modern variant is truly cross-cultural thanks to the Internet. Erika Ettin, founder of A Little Nudge, is a successful dating coach specialising in online dating and she has some specific pointers for the over 50s dater that are interesting and helpful.
Over 50s daters are a package deal
It is more than likely that at this stage of life, the person you meet for a first date will have past relationships and family commitments. It is wise to remember that and not expect to be a priority immediately. There may be grandchildren and other family members who demand their time. Pushing a person to choose you over family rarely turns out well.
Manage your expectations
When you go on a first date keep your expectations realistic. Don’t pin all your hopes on a person just because you’ve got on really well online or during phone chats. Approach the date as a fun experience that may lead to another date, but be prepared to come away from it knowing it isn’t something you want to repeat. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed; you just know what yourself and what you want.
According to Erika Ettin, her over-50 male clients tell her that women don’t age as well as men and, guess what, the over-50s women say the same thing about the men. She makes this very interesting observation, which is worth remembering: “For some reason, when we picture someone else our age, we picture someone “old.” If you’re not “old,” then perhaps neither are they.”
When meeting a first date that you’ve met online, use your common sense and arrange the date for a public place and let a friend know where you’re going. There are lots of scare stories about online dating, but consider the fact that you may be just as likely to meet unsavoury characters offline.
Remember that it is more important to find somebody who complements you rather than searching for a person to complete you. In the First Dates Hotel episode aired on 23 January 2017, Belinda and Steven demonstrated the art of using these tips and were to my mind, the winning ‘first date’. They were honest about their history, laughed a lot together and they both wanted companionship and passion. I hope they’re still seeing each other because they made a charming couple. Perhaps it will inspire you to ‘first date’ again.