All The Things Cilla Black And Blind Date Taught Me About Dating
The Debrief: Cilla Black brought a lot of love into this world
I love the 1964 hit Anyone Who Ever Had A Heart as much as the next man. And the next man is Paul O’Grady. But, for me, Cilla Black was and always will be the queen of block-coloured skirt suits, a sliding screen, a saxophone-heavy theme song and a little curtsey as she walked to the bottom of those famous pink steps.
That’s right: I am a child of Blind Date. Not literally. My parents didn’t meet on a TV show – they had a two-week fling after a house party in South London. But the Saturday nights of my childhood were poured out between two absolute foundations: Gladiators and Blind Date. I learnt most of what I know about dating from one of them and the other featured Cilla Black. I’m joking, of course. Blind Date was my Karma Sutra, my Romeo and Juliet and my Marvin Gaye all rolled into one. To whit:
Everybody loves innuendos and bad puns
Give a Blind Date contestant the merest whisper of an opportunity and they would always, always, manage to mine it for some rich seam of smut and filth. Tell them you like gardening? They’ll offer to show you their hose. Tell them you’re a chef? They’ll offer to whisk you off your feet. Tell them you’ve just written a PHD on the applied nonlinear science of metamaterials and they’ll shuffle their legs like a barn door, fiddle with their blazer button, before leaning in to murmur: ‘I’d like to see that metamaterial in a pile on my bedroom floor.'
Blind Date was a 45-minute celebration of fatuous, tortured word play and meaningless smut, resulting in, at best, an awkward kiss and a full debrief with your friends. So it was in Blind Date and so it is in life.
A whole weekend is a bit intense for a first date
Remember how the occasional Blind Date couple would win an all-expenses-paid trip to Gran Canaria or Barbados? And remember how by the end of day two they’d be rubbing tile grout into their eyes or flirting with the 19-year-old waiter just to try and get away from yet another awkward dinner chat about watches? Well, the same is very much true of non-Blind Dates too. I once went on a two-day road trip with a man I barely knew and, by the end of the weekend, was genuinely considering pushing my foot into a piece of farm machinery so I could go home. And not just because he asked me if I believed in dragons. Don’t go on holiday for your first date. Go for a drink. And if you don’t drink, just don’t go roller-skating.
Voices beat shoulders
I’m loathe to admit it, but there is more to sexual attraction than simple muscle density. What Blind Date tapped in to, years before people went on television dating shows just to get famous, back when you might go on Blind Date because you were actually just looking for a relationship and because Tinder hadn’t been invented yet, way back when dating was as exotic a concept to the British as fresh pasta and Orangina, was that sometimes looks can be deceptive.
The audience may have wolf-whistled and honked the hunk of the trio, poured into one of those ridiculously high stools behind the screen, but it was the funny one who often got picked. The one with a sprinkling of shared interests. The one who would make you smile, rather than the one who would offer to ‘let you run a data analysis on my package.’ Blind Date taught us that love can come in many different shapes and sizes; we just have to be willing to give it a bash.
Everybody is fascinated by everybody else’s sex life
At its peak,18.2 million people tuned in to watch Blind Date on a Saturday night. Families, grandmothers, single men cleaning out their drill bits, bored nurses on the renal ward, teenagers eating Doritos in Stourbridge and flatmates sitting uncomfortably on their sagging sofa bed. The Great British public loved Blind Date like a fever. Because, basically, we’re nosey. We like to know who’s putting what in who and how.
Which meant that, even at the tender age of eight, I learnt that people will ask you incredibly invasive questions about who you fancy and what you want. And you don’t have to tell them. Unless you’re on national television and the person asking you is Cilla Black. Because, when it comes to dating, discretion is the better part of valour.
Nobody looks good on a high stool
The squashed testicles, the nervously crossed knees, the straining gussets and ill-judged buttons – sitting on a high stool is the dating equivalent of trying to eat a banana underwater – unnecessarily hard, unflattering and extremely unsexy. If you’re meeting a date in a pub, get a table. If you’re going for dinner, get a table. If you’re going anywhere that involves sitting then, for the love of stretched seams and building middles, just get a proper table. And leave the highchairs for children.
Sometimes, you’re being too harsh
We all can be very quick to judge. We can all give people an insurmountable series of hurdles to get over. We can all pick apart a stranger out of insecurity and low self-esteem. But, sometimes, if you really do want to be happy, you have to allow somebody in. And to do that, you need to listen to your flame-haired, warm-hearted auntie Cilla when she tells you: 'He’s a lovely, lovely lad.'
Cilla knew about love. She knew about fun. She knew about adventure, attraction and acceptance. And the world, not to mention Saturday nights on ITV, is a less lovely place without her.
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