It’s exhausting work avoiding exes. If you’ve ever leapt off a train carriage just as the doors were beeping shut and then tripped over a small child – all because you suddenly realised you’d spotted your ex-boyfriend – you’ll know what I mean. People duck, dive, hide under tables, feign illness, deafness and total confusion in the name of Staying Away From The Past.
So that’s why the first instalment of the new First Dates series is so heart-thumpingly tense. Single mum Emma is confidently sipping her drink at the bar, looking far more relaxed than some of the other daters around her. She’s been on loads of dates, gets her fair share of male attention and has two daughters she’s bringing up alone – so for her, being set up with a stranger isn’t too daunting. Plus it’s spring! Love is in the air! It’s the season of hope!
Oh, hang on. Winter is coming. Emma sees her date walk in, looks incredulous and mouths something suspiciously similar to a swear word. It turns out her date is a man named Peter who she already knows extremely well because she went out with him for a few months. Until he dumped her in one of the top three worst ways to dump someone.
The thing is, Emma can’t sprint out of the restaurant and forget the whole thing ever happened with a gallon of wine and five Creme Eggs and a cake because she’s on a TV show where she now has to have dinner with Peter the Pest for several hours.
It’s a really memorable episode, not least because it defies our expectations. The pair end up dissecting what went wrong, why they both behaved in certain ways and they talk about second chances. Would you go out again with someone who had already dumped you once? It certainly makes you think. Emma gets through the date with great dignity, humour and some top-class comebacks, finally getting her say after all this time.
My new motto? Be More Emma. Maybe next time I encounter The Past at 8.17am on a tube to work, I’ll stick around and have a mature, thoughtful discussion. Ha who am I kidding? I’ll just stick on this First Dates episode and watch again, admiringly.