I Filmed My Dating Life For A Year
From the awkward pick-up lines to the “don’t you dare film this” threats, turning your personal life into reality TV footage is not as easy as it seems.
By Joe Elvin
How would you feel if a whole year of your dating life was filmed for national TV? Every dumb pick-up line you uttered, every drunken bad decision you made would be captured on camera. That single tear you shed after getting ghosted by a crush? That, too, would be filmed for everyone to see.
Perhaps you’re cringing at the thought of the whole world witnessing these moments. I don’t blame you. Dating is hard enough even without an audience.
Yet, as an aspiring dating and relationships writer, that’s exactly what I did. Capturing my pursuit for love on camera seemed like a great opportunity, and I was willing to do anything for that precious exposure so integral to success these days. And, even if I didn’t find love or get famous through my pursuit of it, I knew, at the very least, it would make for a funny story.
A year to fall in love
During my Skype casting interview with the U.K.’s Channel 4 television station, I revealed that I don’t drink alcohol and don’t use online dating.
“Wait wait wait, so you just walk up to girls and talk to them?” a member of the production team asked me, flabbergasted.
This “revolutionary” approach was enough to secure me a place among 20 other U.K.-based singletons on the network’s latest reality dating program, A Year To Fall In Love.
We were each given an iPhone 7 and instructed to use an app to film every element of our dating lives — from the pick-up lines to the rejections, the romantic dates to the first utterances of “I love you.” Everything.
And, lest we had regrets about something we said or did, we couldn’t go back and delete or edit the footage. The app automatically sent everything we filmed in real time to the producers.
What could possibly go wrong, right?
Meeting women in “real life”
Online apps and drunken hook-ups have dehumanized dating. Plus, if you’re short, bald, and funny-looking like me, it’s difficult to outcompete the tall handsome, rugby players that seem to proliferate in those worlds.
That’s why, over the years, I’ve learned how to meet women during the daytime. On the streets. In cafes. At parks. Wherever I am. As long as you’re respectful — and maybe even a bit funny — in your approach, it’s possible to break through that invisible shield and make real connections with others. I’ve met many women this way and it is easily my preferred method of getting a date. There’s no loud music, no overprotective friends dragging her away, no better-looking dudes competing for her attention. It’s a tactic that gives you a chance to shine, and to bond with her over something other than what she’s drinking.
I wanted to use my appearance in the TV show to demonstrate just how magical it can be meeting women this way — naturally, casually, spontaneously.
It’s called your “private life” for a reason
Throughout the year that I filmed my dating life, some wild things happened. There was the time I invited 100 girls out for pizza on the same day, and the night I got cock-blocked by a screaming child. It was fun hooking up behind a trash can and in the darkest depths of our local forest.
However, when it came to actual dates, women were terrified of the camera.
“I’ll meet you, but only if you leave the camera at home.”
“You’re filming your dating life? Why would anyone do that to themselves?”
“You can film our food, but not my face.”
These were just some of the responses from my dates after hearing about the TV show I’d agreed to be a part of. I began to panic. Just months before it was set to air, I’d had zero dates agree to appear on camera with me.
The producers warned me that they’d need to see some footage if I wanted to feature heavily on the show. TV viewers need proof, they said, not promises.
Gathering haters and some doubts
For some filler content, the production team asked me to share my views on marriage, so I filmed a chat with my buddy Tom in a local pub.
I realized that if I wanted to make sure I appeared on the show, I had to attract attention to myself. I decided to do this by arguing that marriage is a sham and that men get nothing out of it.
“You wouldn’t jump out of a plane if the parachute had a 50-percent failure rate. Why take this plunge?” I asked Tom.
Our conversation caught the attention of two happily wed-locked women who’d clearly been guzzling wine for some time. They stumbled over to where we were sitting along the bar to share their pro-marriage opinions with us. The longer they talked with us, the louder their voices got until they were essentially yelling at us and a friend had to drag them away. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure one of them was ready for a scrap.
“Imagine if she heard your wheelie bin story,” Tom joked.
It dawned on me then that love, sex, and romance are more sensitive topics than we realize. Bringing them up can make people feel upset or embarrassed, and lead to many an argument. I started wondering if all of this — all of the filming and socializing and schmoozing and trying oh-so-hard to land a date — was worth the potential rewards?
The show hadn’t even aired and I was already collecting haters. I was freaking out my dates, annoying the producers, and angering people’s wives. Did I still want to appear on A Year To Fall In Love? How badly did I want to be a famous dating writer?
I wasn’t so sure anymore.