Undressed: A lesson in accelerated intimacy

This was written on the train back up to Manchester. I would love to post it but I signed a non-disclosure agreement and I’ll have to wait till it’s shown. From my reading, it might also have to be later due to the legality of it being shown on encrypted subscription cable/sat.

So as some of you know, I took part in a dating show called undressed. The concept is quite simple, but not for the fearful. Think of it as First dates with balls.

Meet a blind date in a studio for the first time, take each other’s clothes off down to their underwear then lie on a bed next to each other while a big screen suggests a few of those 36 questions for you to ask each other. At the end of the time, make a decision if you would like to see each other afterwards.

Yes I just did just say striped to your underwear, by a stranger.

This is intense and rocket fuelled accelerated intimacy. You can’t really get much more accelerated than this? It certainly makes channel 4’s first dates look like a snail crawling across the floor. The whole experience lasts all of 30 mins.

My experience

Today started for me early as I caught the 9:35am train to London, then the northern line all the way to South Wimbledon, where I grabbed a coffee before the cab came and took me to the studio. The studio was a bit like the Pie factory in Media City UK, bit old and worn but functional. Sara the researcher who had been my main contact through the process was there to greet me and finally give me a giant hug. Other staff ran around doing their thing while another production researcher sat with me and led me around.

There was a man already in the changing room, who obviously already gone through the experience (he was wearing a night-gown) and was saying nothing about what it was like. After looking at my selection of clothes (I decided to pack most things (deliberately over pack to be sure, as the criteria for clothes which could not be worn was vast) so tomorrow I could just change a couple of things and hop on a plane to Berlin)

NO LOGOS OR BRANDING ON UNDERWEAR or CLOTHES, NO MATTER HOW SMALL
No thin or see-through fabrics as studio lighting emphasises transparency
No small polka dots
No checks
No small thin stripes
No busy /detailed patterns
No black clothes
No white clothes

Turns out the white shirt and plain-ish boxers I bought, was fine with the new summer jacket. I did have to pick the lighter trousers and not wear my striking blade trainers, due to the Adidas logos. But everything else passed the camera test. Then came the question about what to call myself, as the title of producer was too closely related to TV and they were worried about this. So in the end we settled on futurologist, which I only said as a joke. I shouldn’t have joked because likewise my firestarter title, got picked up on too.

After a bit of food, carefully chosen to not cause problems with my allergies and not drop any on my white shirt. Some make up, removing the hair oil I applied earlier. It was time for a the pre-interview.

The room was small, very hot and the whole process was tricky with the producer (Katherine?) rewording what I had said into more simple sound bites. I would reply to her question and it would be quite wordy, and she would boil it down quite a lot. Sometimes she would make it sound almost comical, and I wouldn’t repeat it because it was quite distorted from what I was trying to say. In the end, I would say what I was thinking or happy with and she would go with it or say the question in another way. I’m sure it will be taken out of context, which will be a shame but alas I knew it would.

During the interview, a couple of things stuck in my mind, which she dug deep into. feminism, bi-sexuality, red hair and curvy women. I didn’t know then but it turns out my blind date was most of these.

Afterwards, we waited for a bit before being taken to the actual film set. It’s worth saying I also had developed a cold this morning and was very stiffly. I was taking cold & flu meds and blowing my nose quite a bit, especially in the air-con controlled rooms. When showed the set and shown what I will need to do, I had the opportunity to stand by an open fire exit and breathe some fresh air; this did wonders for my nose, thankfully. While explaining to the onset production team, they had me put tissues under the pillow just incase I needed them in the middle.Of course I wouldn’t have access to my clothes, once in my boxers. Although they did say, I could find a way to pause the date and blow my nose. I was cursing myself for developing the cold on a critical day.

As I waited full clothed behind the scenes, looking out of the fire exit on a lovely bright blue sky. I couldn’t help but feel quite calm about everything. My biggest worry was actually my nose and since that seemed to be getting better, I thought more about who I was about to meet. What incase the team had got it all wrong, what incase she was the total opposite? What incase it was a setup like previously? I considered it all in that time at the fire exit. I also considered fact I hadn’t really thought too deeply about who the other person was? The casting producer, Anouska who was with me most of the day was lovely and honestly wanted the best for me. She had been involved in the production and choice of who was matched; and I could tell she had really high hopes for this match. She didn’t say anything but you can just tell (well at least I felt I could) when people are guanine about these things.

Then the moment came. In clearing my nose, I kinda forgot what I needed to do, once I marched along the spotlights and reached the end of the bed. The floor managers reminded me quickly. The crux was to meet at the bed look each other in the eye with some distance so the camera could see us and the big screen behind. Then she will take my clothes off and I’ll do the same. Once in our underwear, we need to sit on our side of the bed and questions will flash up for us to ask each other. The amount of questions and type of questions will depend on the conversation and how things are going. Aka we won’t answer all 36 questions and photos from our past will pop up for us to talk about.

Stepping out

Ok I can remember this, as I waited to cross the back of the screen, I saw her name. Jessie. Nice name I thought, must not forget her name (people who know me, will know I tend to forget names quickly). As I crossed behind the screen, and waited at the other end the impact of what I was about to do hit. I smiled as I was held and thought about all the people who told me don’t do this, its insane. I thought about Jane who originally sent me the email, saying this sounds like your kind of thing. This was going to be an experience which I will have fun telling people about in the future, so its time to experience accelerated intimacy.

I stepped out and my eyes were transfixed on Jessie who was standing there at the end of the bed dressed in a purple dress. I’ll be honest, when I say holly crap they got just the right looking woman. She was cute but the smile on her face was so warming and put me at ease straight away. I’m sure my face was a picture too. We embraced with a hug and if I remember a bit of a single kiss on the cheek. Stepping back to our marked spots.

Time to undress

We stood facing each other smiling in a slightly coy way, unsure what was going to happen next. The production staff told me they wouldn’t interject unless things went quiet and to just carry on normally. As normal as standing in a black TV set with mood lighting and a bed can be? Slightly unsure, we talked about undressing and Jessie walked over to me, as the production staff said before; I get undressed first then her afterwards. I wasn’t meant to help but Jessie was having a bit of problem with my shirt buttons and my slip on shoes. I honestly started feeling self-conscious when sitting at the end of the bed with her pulling on my shoes; it felt a little wrong so I helped a little. I remember thanking Jessie for nicely folding up my clothes on the end of the bed. The whole undressing wasn’t as painful as I’d first imagined, but I feel that was because Jessie made it so.

Anyway, once I was undressed we stood back at the spots looking at each other. Then I moved across to undress her. I was having a slight problem with the buckle on her shoes and the only way to solve it was to get on my knees and pull quite a bit. We laughed about it a little and finally it was done. Stepping around the back of Jessie to unzip her dress I was surprised to find there was no zip. Jessie told me I would need to pull the whole thing over her head. I tried to be gentle but firm about it but it was tricky and not very elegant. Finally we did it and I stepped back around the front to see Jessie in her underwear. Yes I was impressed but honestly I was focused on her face and that warm smile.

Its bedtime

We climbed on to the bed from our respected sides. Jessie was sat up a little more than myself. I noticed around the set there was quite a lot of cameras in the black background, it was obvious but not as painful as first imagined. Anyway, it didn’t matter because my attention was firmly on Jessie. The big screen in front of us, finally kicked into action with pictures of Jessie’s past as a young child. She talked about her past and the pictures changed a little. I asked questions of her and frankly we just had a nice conversation; while lying on a bed in our underwear.

Then it became my time to have pictures of my past and places I had been.

I don’t know how it happened but we just kept talking and talking. The screen would somethings jump in with some probing questions. For example, at one point it just said… “Feminism.”

Jessie instantly said this must be her; and to be fair I just sat back and let her chat. There was a slightly apologising tone but I jumped in and said how impressed I was with her rich history around feminism. We then talked about how I would only date feminist and the problems I’ve had previous around women who don’t identify with being one. It was a great discussion which was only cut short by the screen throwing out the word… “Sapiosexual.”

Jessie had not heard the term before but I explained and yes Tom, I did say it was heavily dismissed as a sexuality. But as we talked about it, the deeper the conversation became. Not that I’m saying it was wasn’t already deep. We just kept chatting and chatting, we shifted position a little (I tried to sit up a bit, sure mum wouldn’t be happy with my lying position). Every once in a while we would go on a tangent and the screen would ask one of the 36 questions.

From memory we got…

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

Tell your partner something that you like about them already

Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner and tell your partner something that you like about them already came up

Rocket fueled intimacy

I was feeling very comfortable with Jessie and the whole thing, and the production staff could tell. The questions got more about physically smelling and touching each other. So at one point Jessie was asked to describe how I smell and me straight afterwards. The only way to do this was to really get close, and it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. After a quick chat about how smell is important, the next question from the screen/production staff was to hug each other for 20 seconds. We kneeled in the centre of the bed and hugged. Jessie was warm and very huggable. I was trying to keep things polite for TV (if you know what I mean), which was tricky but I think it was ok. We moved back to our lying down positions on the bed and talked about what just happened. But things were short-lived when the screen interrupted with the next question

Would we kiss each other?

Now honestly as the question echoed in my mind, I looked at Jessie and there was a voice reminding me of my 2016 new years resolution

Make some bold moves with my love life

But the biggest factor by far was the honest & open look on Jessies face. She was ever so lovely and I wanted to kiss her. I always said to myself, I wouldn’t do what I’m not comfortable with, even if that means walking off the set. Especially if the chemistry wasn’t there. Honestly I would have declined or gave her a peak on the cheek. But no, I wanted to kiss her and so we did.

Yes, lying on the bed kissing and cuddling for a short while. I’m sure the production staff must have been so happy with themselves, but not as happy as I was. (ironically last year, I mentioned something about the escalation from eye contact, free hugs and to kissing a stranger, wonder what Elizabeth would think now?)

The experiment/show was coming to the end and like the italian version, we had 60 seconds to ask any more questions we may have before answering the question, would we want to see each other again by pressing on tablet screen yes or no. We both pressed yes (it was obvious) but the production staff couldn’t help but add tension to things (unknown to us at the time). The big screen spun between yes and no on both sides (same as the italian version)

Jessie’s yes was set but my side kept spinning and spinning. It was painful and we even talked about it out loud. I had said yes and pressed it again on the tablet to make sure it had registered correctly. Finally after a few more spins, it was a yes | yes. We shifted back on to the bed waiting and chatting between ourselves as the lights went down.

End of the experiment

We then were separated off and gave another interview about how things had gone. The interview had to be done in our underwear, to show it was after the experiment. There was quite a few questions about what Jessie had said including her feminist answer, the smell and of course the kissing.

I was also told to reflect on her looks and some of the questions I answered. This went on for quite sometime but it wasn’t as bad as the first time. I’m sure there will be some slicing and dicing for the show.

There was one last thing to do after getting dressed getting my things and having Sara and my production runner express how much they loved it and always hoped it would be a great match. I congratulate them on such a great pick.

I waited in a room for Jessie to finish her exit interview and I was joined later. We embraced quite a bit and after some pictures taken together including a bunch of those ones you do at weddings. Swapping numbers, we shared a cab to South Wimbledon station together. It was a shame to leave early, but I have a flight to Berlin booked tomorrow morning (5am). We travelled together discussing what had happened on the show, till Clapham, where Jessie continued her journey on another line home. I hadn’t quite clocked it was still a Tuesday and I couldn’t get on a train till 7pm (due to London peak time hours). But by the time I could text Jessie, it was too late.

It would have been great having some more private time together, but I went to our Euston Square offices, got changed in the bathroom and caught the first off-peak train home to Manchester. The train I’m on now.

In reflection

I was very pleased with the way things went, except the questioning which I know will get manipulated. Being in my underwear on TV still isn’t a thing I would do again but it really worked out. It’s a shame I had to go straight away but I am going to stay in touch. Even if things don’t work out, the experience we shared was so unique and the chemistry was pretty electrifying.

I always did say… The drive to push my limits socially, is fun to me. This was fun but honestly without Jessie, it would have been far less fun and enjoyable.

Watch this space….

That was the end of the post.

Most of you are wondering what happened next? Well theres a blog and audio for that.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

7 thoughts on “Undressed: A lesson in accelerated intimacy”

  1. A great read on your experience! Really want to see the episode now.

    Glad you and Jessie got on so well and fair play for having the guts to do this! 🙂

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