MORGAN HOOVER, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
August 9, 2009 12:00 AM
A first date with dimmed lights is pretty standard and maybe even romantic, but a first date with no lights can be downright awkward.
That's according to a Santa Barbara man who will appear on Monday's episode of ABC's reality show "Dating in the Dark," which puts to the test the saying love is blind.
Cormac O'Brien, a 30-year-old medic, not only participated in the light-lacking show, which airs at 9 p.m., but he agreed to sit down with the News-Press -- in a totally dark room -- for a little Q & A, in which he and the interviewer never saw one another, something quite out of the ordinary for both.
Q: What was it like to date in the dark?
A: It was very awkward. You think you know what you're getting yourself into, and then as it all kind of plays out, there are parts of it where you're super uncomfortable, and then there are other parts of it where you have the opportunity to be yourself and kind of let your personality come through. But the rule of that game that we were playing is we're all there looking for a connection, and you know the possibility of finding a connection in the dark is just like, "Wow, OK, sure, I'll give it a shot!"
Q: How did you come to be on the show?
A: I was talking to a friend here in town, and we were like, "Hey, it'd be so cool if we could do something like the 'Amazing Race' or 'Wipe Out' or something," and I looked into it, and then I fired off one e-mail and a photo, and I got a reply back within 45 minutes.
Q: How long was the whole process?
A: It was roughly about a week, all condensed down into 43 minutes of television.
Q: What was it like? Did you have to rely on other senses? Did you touch their face?
A: Absolutely. We were kind of encouraged to get to know them as best as we can. This is your opportunity to potentially meet someone in this environment, and you'll never have this opportunity again, which is kind of cool, right? So you have to really rely on the voice inflections. If there's an awkward silence, you know that's really bad. As much as you want to think that your eyes are going to get used to the dark, and as much as you think you can guess what the person looks like, you really have no idea.
Q: What did you feel when you wanted to know so badly what this person looked like?
A: It's just hard to say. You knew that you had an option; there are three different women that you're going to get to know. You've got to kind of feel it out. You've got to really cut to the chase. For me it was important to ask some direct questions: What do you want out of life? What's your favorite thing you get to do? What kind of music do you like? I think it's important gauging all those small personality traits that you can get out of a person to try and build a bigger picture.
Q: Did you find yourself censoring what you were saying?
A: I think at first in general everyone kind of goes through that. You have to kind of get used to knowing that there's some recording device around at all times. And then finally you get to the point where, at least for me, I just didn't really care anymore, and I think I said a few things that were probably a little too revealing, but it's whatever plays, it plays, you know? It's a family show, right?
Q: And on that note, I was reading that you were encouraged to kiss the other people. Did you experience that or bypass that?
A: I definitely experienced it.
Q: What was that like?
A: Well, going into it, I was talking to a few friends, and I was like, "This is kinda what I might be doing," and they're like, "Well, dude, check for an Adam's apple first." Nothing too crazy happened, but it was pretty wild. It was really cool though. You can't make it an organic experience because you can know everything about a person: you can know their smell or their pheromones -- you name it, but not knowing if they're rolling their eyes when you're trying to kissing them or not knowing if they're like, "Oh, God, here I go," not having that visual cue -- there's no lean-in, you know?
Q: Why would you do something like this that's so outrageous? Because you wanted to be on TV?
A: No. I don't have a great desire to be on television. I'm little bit of a ham, a little bit of a performer, but I have no great desire to be on television. I'm not a very private person, but it's still way too all up in your business. I just thought it'd be a fun idea, and the opportunity presented itself. I'm like, "Well, why not? It can't really hurt, right?" Well, potentially!
Q: You didn't feel that what motivated you to be on something like "Amazing Race" propelled you to do this? Or did you actually want to find a connection?
A: That was another moment where I had to kinda realize, you know, "Hey, I'm single, and I'm not dating anyone at the moment, and it would be a really cool experience because never in your life would you have an experience to try to genuinely get to know someone without ever knowing what they look like so whatever prejudices or types you have go out the window." So I thought, "Wow, what a powerful experience it could've been or could be." And then I thought about it and, "Yeah, definitely. Why not?"
Q: Would you do it again if given the opportunity?
A: Absolutely. It was a really cool experience, and it was definitely eye-opening in the whole television business, you know not (having been) terribly exposed to it in the past.
Q: And did they give you any guarantee? Did they give you anything to assure you it wouldn't be something humiliating?
A: There was nothing guaranteed. You kind of get the general feel of it, but knowing in the back of your mind, and me being a little bit of a pessimist, wondering, "Well, this is reality TV, so however they want to spin it they could spin it." I've heard of horror stories before, so I was a little pensive at first, but when you're in the dark you really have no clue what's going to hit you.
Q: Did it teach you any life lessons about beauty being skin deep?
A: It teaches you to be humble and to be yourself. You always have the best results and the most genuine results when you're being honest with someone, as opposed to putting on a facade.