18 April 2018

Hopeless Romantic

Joseph Kent

If my flirting were as fine as my cooking, I wouldn't have needed apply for a dating show. As my close friends can attest, modern dating really isn't my forté - apps don't generate many matches, I struggle to speak to anybody over loud music in bars, I'm lousy at writing even a mildly humorous text message, and if by some miracle I do secure a date, I have zero chat. It's led to my feeling strangely apathetic to single life.

So I apply for ITV's Dinner Date, hoping that: 1) the casting team will do much of the legwork for me; and 2) my passion for food will compensate for what little flirtaciousness and banter I possess. I succeed, at least in point number one, because a two-person production crew is in my flat, and I'm preparing a three-course dinner for a young woman called Lois. What I fail to appreciate is how many shots the team would require of each action (stirring, pouring, opening the front door, nodding to conversation, etc), just how unnatural and stilted the date would feel with no ambience and a large camera pointing at us across the dining table, and how long a day of filming would actually take for fifteen minutes of limelight. Seventeen and a half hours, if you're wondering.

Suffice it to say, it was among the most surreal - and exhausting - experiences of my life. And ten months later, it finally airs on ITVBe. My friends and I host an unofficial viewing party, and as I'm snuggled up on the same corner sofa as on the television, I'm feeling more anxious than on the actual date. How will I be portayed? What did Lois have to say about me? Who were the other men competing for her affection? And perhaps the most important question of the night, was my food the best of the three dates?

Joseph Kent
Heart & Dagger overcoat | Noose & Monkey shirt | ASOS skinny jeans | Jeffery West Cuban heel boots
Halfway into the episode, I'm cringing as I watch my date unfold into a socially awkward mess. In fact I'm barely watching, too distracted by the swarm of butterflies fluttering madly inside me. And yet, my friends are in hysterics around me. They tell me afterwards I came across very respectful, and - most importantly - that my food looked the most delicious. Is it possible I actually came away from reality TV unscathed?

Social media takes a different angle. As a blogger, it was inevitable I would want to live-tweet my Dinner Date debut; instead I stumble upon a small number of individuals who think it deeply important to debate my heterosexuality, despite my being on a dating show. I'm not particularly fazed by the theme of their comments, because it's a presumption I often face when out and about. Rather I'm disappointed that people are still shortminded in 2018.

That isn't to say I haven't ever wondered if my flamboyant character impedes my ability to find a girlfriend. I'm at an age now when my dad half-jokes about wanting grandchildren, and my mum worries I may not bring home somebody special to meet the family, particularly when my elder sister is married and my younger is in a long-term relationship. Indeed, it's very possible that my quirks and colourful nature overshadow other qualities of my personality, but I'm not changing for anyone. Although it sounds awfully cliché, I deserve somebody who loves me for me. And if my chances are one in a million over one in a thousand, so be it.

Joseph Kent

In my naïve years, I may have compared my love life to the hopeless best friend in a teen movie, constantly sidelined, and wondering why their sensitive and well-mannered demeanour didn't win the heart of his BFF. But I've grown to despise the term "friendzoned", and anybody who feels bitter their friendliness towards a person doesn't translate into romantic or sexual relations isn't deserving of said person's acquaintance. Sure, I would be lying if I said I hadn't fancied each of my best friends at some point or another, but I love them unconditionally, and it’s an absolute privilege to have them as friends than not at all.

I suppose the message I want to finish on is that hurrying to find that special someone in life isn't the be-all and end-all. So before you go making the wild decision to cook a romantic dinner on national television in a bid to find your soulmate, it's worthwhile acknowledging the people around you, who already love you for all you are.

Joseph Kent

Photos taken lovingly by Paige Joanna Calvert

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