Belfast Telegraph

First date disasters

Northern Ireland women tell Jane Hardy of the faux pas that left them blushing.

Ah, the first date. In ads and romantic movies, they’re prettily backlit and lead to perfect clinches and the happy-ever-after. In reality, they’re often more Bridget Jones — you know, the nervous getting his name wrong, the spinach on the front teeth you only discover when consulting the mirror in the ladies, the foolish reference to the ex, the spilling of your drink on your outfit or even worse, his.

A recent survey listed eight top first date no-nos, including mentioning your ex and coming across as over-keen. We spoke to some local women and found out their disasters, including the five minutes from their first dates that they’d like to rewind. Yet some of these encounters led to happy marriages, in spite of the first date faux pas, but some definitely didn’t.

He was wearing the same outfit as me ... I knew we wouldn’t last

Niamh Perry (22) is a singer and actor from |Bangor now living in London and appearing in the Boy George musical, Taboo. She says:

I remember one terrible first date when I went out with this guy, a friend of a friend, who I wasn't that keen on, to be honest.

We went to a cocktail bar in London and as soon as we sat down and removed our coats, I realised we were wearing almost the same outfit.

He and I both had red tops on, plus skinny jeans, which were becoming fashionable for guys, and boots.

I laughed inside but he wasn't amused, and I think I knew then it wouldn't last.

Funnily enough, I'm not really a dating person. The men I've got together with have nearly always been friends first.

I've been in a relationship with Matt, a drummer, for eight months and we knew each other as friends for seven years before that.

It's because I'm not immediately trusting and it takes a while for the guard to come down.

My eyes glazed over when he talked about farming ...

Jo-Anne Dobson (45) is UUP MLA for Upper Bann. She lives in Banbridge with her husband, John and sons Mark (19) and Elliott (21). She says:

My first date was at the Belmont Hotel, Banbridge, and it was with my husband. We met when we were 16 and have been married for over 20 years.

I was a bit nervous, I guess, and as a townie brought up in Banbridge knew nothing about farmers, thinking they’d probably be in wellies all the time. John was a farmer and I guess when he spoke about farming — and farmers, as I now know, are passionate about their job — I glazed over a bit. It’s ironic as I am now the agriculture spokesman for the UUP, am fascinated by the subject and have my informal agriculture advisor at home.

Katrina Doran (38) is the founder of sugahfix.com. Married to Peter, she lives in Belfast. She says:

On one first date I can remember this guy made the mistake of calling me Karen, which is my best friend’s name not Katrina. OK, so both our names start with Ka, but he seemed fixated with her and I quickly realised he wasn’t for me.

My embarrassing first date occurred at my school formal at Our Lady’s Grammar School in Newry. I’d fancied this guy and this was the opportunity to ask him out. But I got a terrible stomach bug and had to keep disappearing to the bathroom. I thought I put a good face on things, reapplying the make-up each time and keeping the smile. When he asked me ‘What’s the matter?’ I said nothing. He said later he thought I’d an eating disorder.”

Eva Grosman (37) is the programme co-ordinator of the Northern Ireland Assembly Legislative Strengthening Trust and lives in Belfast. She says:

When I was in London I dated this lawyer who was really charming and the spitting image of Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones. I remember on a warm summer Sunday evening, we went for dinner to a jazz club in Chiswick.

We sat outside and a bottle of Champagne arrived at the table.

I was both stressed and excited and as a pretty energetic person, managed to knock over a glass as he was pouring the drink.

It went all over the table.

I burst into laughter, but he didn’t laugh, just said my glass seemed to be empty in a very proper English manner and kept pouring.

I really liked him but I think that it was |really the beginning of the end for us.”

Emma-Louise Johnston (35) is a broadcaster and lives with her husband Jonathan Crawford and daughter Emily (15 months) near Maghera. She says:

When I started university I went out with this lovely guy and early on in the relationship, his dad took us out for dinner with his family.

This was quite a big deal for them and then his father ordered a bottle of wine but I was 18 and hateful.

I honestly knew absolutely nothing about wine but I found myself saying, ‘Oh, Liebfraumilch that’s really disgusting stuff, very cheap and horrible’ — just as the waiter placed a bottle of it down on the table. His dad had been really nice but I went beetroot and ever since that night I’ve thought why on earth did I say that?

We carried on with the relationship for a bit, but his family quite frankly weren’t wild about us being together and no doubt thought ‘City girl, thinks she’s something!’”.

Kirstie McMurray (39) presents the Downtown Radio breakfast show with Gary Miles, is engaged to Andy Brisbane, and lives in Bangor with him and her children, Conor (12) and Katie (10). She says:

The embarrassment concerns my first adult date with Andy. We’d arranged to go to the first Paranormal Activities film which was on quite late, and went to the Christmas Continental Market in Belfast for a bite to eat first.

Of all the foods I could have chosen, I had to go for a bratwurst in a baguette. The difficulty of eating it in a ladylike manner was immense. It was quite embarrassing but we did giggle about it. Of course, he chose a burger which was easier to handle — and he has a big mouth anyway.”

Emma Heatherington (36) is a novelist and works in PR who lives in Belfast with her three children Jordan (15) Jade (10) and Adam (9). She says:

My disaster date was when I was 15, I went bowling with a guy of the same age.

He fell down on the way into the bowling alley and when he put on those goofy looking bowling shoes — I’m nearly sure they were blue on one side and red on the other — I sensed things weren’t going to get any better, quickly played the game, and left.

My mistake was to be too nice. He called me at home the next day and seemed to think our date had been more successful than I did.

At that point I plucked up the courage to tell him I didn’t really think there was any point in seeing each other again, and he actually started to cry. He said he had ‘pampered me with his trust and I had abused it’. That line has stayed with me and I’ve used the incident in my new novel ‘One Night Only’. When he said it, I knew that I’d made the right decision.”

Leesa Harker (34) is the author of the new bestseller, Fifty Shades of Red, White and Blue and is about to publish Dirty Dancing in Le Shebeen. She’s single and lives with daughters, Lola (4) and Lexi (2) in Belfast. She says:

One date that always tickles my friends was a kind of blind date with this guy who was a friend of a friend of a friend.

He picked me up from work in his pink van then said we were going for a drive. Later on, saying he hadn’t eaten at work, he stopped at a service station, bought himself a sandwich and a massive bag of prawn-flavoured crisps which he ate and spat out while talking.

He did offer to buy me a sandwich but I wasn’t interested. And he wasn’t even that good looking. The next day, the friend who’d set me up contacted me, wanting to know how it had gone. I texted her back my reaction, then sent it to him not her. I tried to get Orange to get the text back but couldn’t. Oddly, I never heard from him again.”

Cllr Claire Hanna (32) is an SDLP councillor on Belfast City Council. She lives with husband Donal and baby Eimear in Belfast. She says:

It depends on what you mean by disastrous but I first met my husband Donal at a conference. And I remember our first meeting was a row about something really boring, corporation tax. He isn't a politician but about seven years ago he was a political activist for the Labour Party. I converted him and we're all on the same side. And he’s now convinced me he was right about corporation tax, that it’s a silly idea. We've been married now for two years, and I guess it's true that certain romances like Lizzie and Mr Darcy began with rows.”

Kim Lenaghan (50) presents This New Day on BBC Radio Ulster and co-presents Arts Extra. She lives with her partner in Belfast. She says:

The worst one was when I invited somebody to dinner and whisked up a special meal. It was all supposed to be romantic and as cooking is very much my thing, it was the whole fine dining experience. He told me at the end that the rich food had made him ill, which wasn’t very nice. I don’t think there was a second date.”

Dodgy dates caught on film

  • Bridget Jones’ (Renee Zellweger) first date with her boss, |dastardly Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), doesn’t go according to plan. He tells her he doesn't think they should get involved and it’s just a bit of fun as he unzips her skirt.
  • 50 First Dates, the UK rom com from 2004 which stars Adam Sandler as a womaniser and Drew Barrymore as a cute amnesiac. Cue disaster when they’ve arranged their hot date and her memory loss kicks in.
  • Gregory’s Girl: The first supposed date that Gregory (John Gordon Sinclair) has with the girl on the school football team that he fancies. Gauche Gregory is handed from girl to girl, by prior arrangment, until he ends up with Susan (Claire Grogan).

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