By Leah Scheitel
The obsession with dating shows started after my second oral surgery. The drugs and recovery time required to heal forced me into a fort in my bedroom, filled with cats, sleeping bags, girlfriends, and shitty reality dating shows. There were five of us and I don’t think any of us changed our underwear for the four days. We got into it.
By “it,” I mean the worst of the worst in the world of dating entertainment: Take Me Out Tonight, Dating in the Dark, Beauty and the Geek, Bridalpalsty. All seasons were binged-watched with enthusiasm. And for the curious, all shows are available for streaming on YouTube. I recommend the Australian versions of each of these shows — the contestants are cruder and hornier, making for a higher pedigree of entertainment.
It was around this time that a co-worker posted online that her friend was looking for people to participate in First Dates Canada, a Canadian spin-off of a UK dating show. Slice Network was hoping to match people and film them as they sit awkwardly at Earl’s. And, unbeknownst to me, the show’s website had a “Nominate a Friend” feature. My best friend Jenny dutifully nominated me.
After spending four days in my blanket fort with ice to my mouth, neglecting all hygiene habits, she probably thought I needed to talk about a male other than my cat, Hank.
Two months later, I got a call from the producers. They saw my application and wanted to interview me for the show. I took it as seriously as a job interview, wore heels and red lipstick, and tried to keep by profanity to a minimum as the entire thing was filmed on camera. There was a female producer and a male cameraman who was rather cute. So cute, in fact, that when the producer asked me to describe my perfect man, I flirtatiously described the cute one pointing the camera at me.
“He’s tall, but not too tall that I have to keep these on to kiss him,” I divulged.
“He’s got facial hair, but not too much, he wears white shirts, but not too white.”
The asked me about my dating history (which is best told drunk), what my ideal guy is like, and what interests we would share, if any. I answered all of them to the best of my ability. I distinctly remember saying that I like politics, like to argue, and am at the age where winning a Scrabble game makes my ovaries pulse just a little bit.
A week later, I got a call saying they had found a match for me, someone their algorithms calculated I would get along with, and I agreed to go on a date on national television at 4:30 p.m. on a Wednesday.
Let’s preface this by saying that no one should go on a date at 4:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, at an Earl’s, while televised. I realized that about five minutes before I was scheduled to meet the producers.
Panicking, I did what all millennials know how to do very well – I called my mom and cried about it. She reassured me, told me it was one little date and asked how I would I feel if I was stood up on national television. So I wiped the tears, pushed up my boobs, and went to meet the other ladies destined for a blind date that night.
There were about eight of us mustered in a small apartment in Yaletown. The producers served us champagne to ease the nerves while they told us how the night was going to play out. We were to all drive – yes, drive – the two blocks to the Earl’s in Yaletown, where we would then be sent up to the restaurant one by one, so they could film us escalating the staircase individually, in case they needed it for footage.
As I climbed the stairs, I was hoping for two things: not to fall on my face and for there to be a bucket of wine for me at the top of the stairs. The cameras made me more insecure than I was before, and I knew the only thing that would immediately ease it was booze. When I met the Maître D’ at the top of the staircase, he politely asked my name and told me he had a special spot for me over by Alamir.
After the awkward-as-meeting-last-night’s-Tinder-date-while-on-another-Tinder-date introductions, Alamir and I ordered drinks. We both asked the appropriate questions: what we did for a living, where we were from, and what we did for fun. The restaurant was filled with single dudes at tables, waiting for their dates to arrive, and there was one such sucker about four feet away from us who kept looking at me. I thought it was odd until the cute Maître D’ showed up with another girl to the table and told me he got my name wrong. Alamir was supposed to be on a date with the girl to his left, and I was supposed to be on a date with the lonely guy who kept looking at me. So I kicked my purse over four feet, splashed a little of my wine on the floor in haste and started to have the same, redundant conversation.
At this point, I was past being nice. When he asked me what I wanted to order, I replied, “More white wine – let’s get Aunt drunk.” And so we did.
We ordered at such speed it was like we were nuns out of the convent for the night and had just tasted tequila for the first time. The waitress asked us if we wanted food three times before we reluctantly agreed to appetizers, and they were left behind as we opted for a liquid dinner.
This guy’s name was Andy, and he was the third in line of four brothers, which he claimed was the reason why he was so loud and outgoing – it was by necessity. And while he was cute in his own way, he wasn’t what I would normally go for in a bar. I like guys who look like Seth Meyers, and he looked more like a healthy John Belushi.
I wasn’t taking this nearly as seriously as anyone else in the restaurant. Some people were truly there to find lovers and be a little less lonely, which I commend. But I took it as an excuse to get drunk on a Wednesday and a way to get $25 off of my Earl’s tab. So I became a sassy, cynical bitch. I had witty retorts for everything, and he couldn’t explain a single story without me interjecting with an anecdotal story or comment.
It backfired. The less into I got, the sassier I became, and the sassier I became, the more into he was. It made for a vicious circle.
When it came time to leave, we both paid our own tabs, which tripled the $25 I was given to go on the date. When we realized it was only 7:30 p.m., he said we were going for a drink somewhere else and as uncomfortable as the date was, I agreed. Do you know when you and a friend are so drunk that you know the only other person that you can possibly hang out with at that moment is that one other drunk person? It was exactly that. While I may have wanted to go home, I wasn’t done with the wine, and he was my sole companion.
We found another place in Yaletown that featured $12 bottles of wine. With the cameras off of us, things got a little feistier. We were arguing about the current state of Canadian politics, and I finally understood why the producers matched us. We playfully cuddled and shared a little kiss in the booth – yes, we were those losers that you look at during dinner, making out in the booth. But it escalated, and quickly. When he invited me to go back to his place to do cocaine, I knew it was time to get out of there. I excused myself to call my friend to come get my drunk ass.
“Where the hell are you?” she asked.
“I have no idea. Just drive around Yaletown until you find me. It’s a place with big windows.”
She did. It took her 15 minutes to find it, but she pulled into a stall in front of the restaurant and waved at me to leave. I got up, thanked my date for the evening and when he pulled me in for a kiss, my friend wailed on the horn with such vengeance, I just ran away. I literally ran away from my date at the end of the night. It was 8:15 p.m. My friend swears it was the drunkest she has ever seen me.
When the show aired in the fall, I watched every episode and I’m glad that they showed only three shots of our date. One where I look rightfully drunk, blushed red in the face, one where he is laughing really hard while I’m glugging wine, and one of us leaving, where my date is high fiving the Maître D’. Honestly, I enjoyed the show way more than I thought my cynical self ever could. The contestants were interesting, it wasn’t bound by heterosexual or gender normative standards, and it featured some people who genuinely just wanted to be less lonely, which I applaud them for. It might not have worked for me, but if it did for someone, it’s one less lonely person in Vancouver.
And it almost worked for me. The next day, I was swiping my life away on Tinder while suffering from a vile hangover, and I found the cute Maître D’ that sat me at the wrong table. It was match, we started talking and we didn’t stop for a week. That’s the third longest relationship I’ve ever embarked on.
Leah loves a stiff drink, is obsessed with Saturday Night Live, and lives for her cats. She’s the most articulate date you’ll ever have. Voting turns her on.