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What Better Date Than Never stars learnt from dating for the first time

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Heading out on his first-ever date, Charles couldn't stop running through worst case scenarios in his mind.

"I thought I'd make things awkward, stammer all the time and not speak fluently," the 27-year-old says.

"I worried I'd spill my drink on my date, or that the venue would be too loud and I would just keep asking: 'What? What? What?'"

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The international student is one of five singles who appeared on the ABC's Better Date Than Never, a new docuseries from the creator of Love on the Spectrum.

Charles and his co-stars beat nerves, awkward silences, and the stress of outfit choices on first dates — all while on camera.

We asked Charles, Olivia, and Dianne what they learnt along the way.

Charles (Sydney)

Dealing with dating nerves

Before my first date, I felt like I was going to make a lot of mistakes. It's more difficult when English is my second language too.

Going on a picnic date helped, because I love nature and I love walking. So I felt more comfortable, and I feel like it's less awkward to have an outdoor date.

And when I went on the date, I found out that my date was very nervous as well.

That really surprised me, and made them more relatable. I didn't judge them for being nervous, because we're all nervous! So it made me feel better.

Charles on a picnic date, in front of a historic building.
Charles found picnic dates less stressful than meeting in a bar or restaurant. ()

Questions to ask on a first date

The hardest thing for me was to come up with questions, to keep the conversation going. But I guess that's hard for both of us.

I always ask them: "What's your hobby?" but other than that I had to improvise — and sometimes I improvised badly.

I think it's good to avoid controversial topics, which can come across aggressive or strange. Like politics, religion, or controversial news.

I like to keep it positive. It's better to talk about the good things of each other's lives — what you enjoy. Not what you don't like.

How to get ready for a first date

I called my mother for advice about what to wear, and she told me I look good in red — so I wore red for my first date.

I also established some rituals to help me feel less nervous.

I'm a fan of musicals, and heavy metal.

So [before a date], I'd put on very loud heavy metal in my place.

Heavy metal gives you that vibe of, "I don't care. I don't give a damn".

It helps get rid of my mental build-up. But of course the neighbours don't like it.

Think of dating as practice

The biggest thing I learnt from the experience is that it's just practice.

I can't really have successful dates from my first date. That's just so rare and unrealistic.

Scientifically, you need to respect the learning curve. Use every chance to date as a practice, and don't expect to find the right [person] on the first one.

Even if it's a bad date, a disaster, you still gain something — it's a learning curve, so you build up the function. And later, you will hit the peak.

Dianne (Regional NSW)

Dianne smiles, wearing a pink top and pink glasses.
For 68-year-old Dianne, listening is key when getting to know someone.()

What did you expect going into dating?

I didn't date much before I transitioned.

I've always known, since I was five years old, that this is the real me. And in my teen years, I was terrified that if I dated a girl, she would go: "Hang on, this isn't a guy, this is a girl".

Dating this time around, I didn't really have any expectations. I just wanted to meet my soulmate.

I went on as many of the dating sites and apps that I could, but it's pretty much impossible where I am, out in the country.

[My goal] was to find someone who's compatible, and who's comfortable with the transgender thing.

Dealing with dating nerves

I was pretty nervous on my first date — I got lost trying to find the place.

I felt a bit like a teenager.

There's no magic bullet for coping with nerves, really.

But once you meet the person, you can kind of relax into conversation. And lucky the woman I met was a real conversationalist. It was a really good day.

Questions to ask on a first date

Everybody's got stories. You just need to listen. And that makes them feel valued as well.

We're getting too old to play games — or I am.

You can just say: "Why are you on a date? What are you looking for in a person?"

By asking questions like that, you'll know whether you're ticking any boxes or not.

And be 120 per cent honest. You don't have to hide your light under a bushel, but you don't have to embellish it either.

Taking the plunge

In terms of dating, just dive in head first. And don't wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow's a long time coming.

If there's someone you really like and you want a chance to get to know them better, and they're showing some interest — ask them out!

Olivia (Brisbane)

Olivia grins on a date, holding a large flower.
Olivia dances to Taylor Swift to pump herself up for dates.()

What did you expect going into dating?

I thought it would be quite scary. I did want to have one of those movie moments.

I love all rom-coms, really. One of my favourites is called The Kissing Booth. I didn't think my dates would be like that — I would say the dates on the show are so much more real.

Dealing with dating nerves

My advice would be just to be yourself, and to ask open questions.

Don't just talk about yourself — talk about what they're into.

When there's awkward silences, I usually just compliment someone. I do it a lot. Like I might say that I like their shirt or their shoes. And that can be an icebreaker.

How to get ready for a first date

It kind of depends what date you're going on.

For example, if I went on a mini golf date, I'm not going to go in a ballroom dress and heels. Go in something that you feel comfortable in.

I always dance before going on a date. I have a very, very long Spotify playlist, and like to listen to love songs. I pump myself up with Taylor Swift.


Source: ABC

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