A lot of us watch “reality” dating shows (whether we admit it or not). But with so much toxic behaviour on display, they’re not exactly the kind of shows that leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy. There is, however, one very real dating show that will restore your faith in love and humanity: Love On The Spectrum.
The ABC reality series follows young adults on the autism spectrum as they navigate the dating world. The first season was such a hit that it was picked up by Netflix. And season two is here to coach us all in dating with respect. Plus the teaser already hints at a wedding, so we know there’s a happy ending.
Michael, one of the stars from season one of Love On The Spectrum, is happy to be back.
“I’m on my quest for true love and I cannot give up on that,” he says in the first episode. “I just can’t bear the thought of being single my entire life because it’s lonely, it’s boring, and it’s unfulfilling and it makes you feel like you lack a purpose.”
While Michael laments the amount of money he’s spent on dating services to no avail, his mum — a real life Wonder Woman, honestly — offers him some perspective.
“But if they’re not interested, they’re not interested,” she kindly says to him. “What do you expect them to do? So you just have to keep searching. Not every girl is going to be interested in you.”
Truly, we need Michael’s mum on shows like The Bachelor and Married At First Sight.
Michael jumps into the deep end in episode one with a speed dating event (my idea of Hell, quite frankly) where he meets Heather, who admits she does watch The Bachelor.
“The women on there, they’re horrible, very nasty,” she says. And she’s not wrong, ey?
Also in episode one, we’re introduced to Kassandra, who describes herself as having high-functioning autism. She cops a lot of “but you don’t look autistic”.
“You can’t see my brain, and it’s my brain that’s different,” she explains.
“I’ve read books, both fiction and non-fiction, on what love should be, but I don’t know that I’ve ever been in love.”
But Kassandra does “love being weird”.
Now prepare for your heart to break a little — and full warning: spoiler ahead — Kassandra has a panic attack on her first date on Love On The Spectrum. She handles it with such grace (I’d be crying in a corner, quite frankly), but it’s a stark reminder that first dates are tough, and the stars of this show are dealing with a lot.
“If I’m having a panic attack I’ve had to learn to hide my panic and get out of the situation before I’m allowed to break down,” Kassandra says. “Some days there’s just no explanation why your brain can’t cope and that’s ok as long as I take the time to deal with that.”
Sexoligist counsellor Jodi Rodgers, who specialises in helping people with autism navigate the dating world, is called in to offer Ronan some tips with his conversation skills.
“We’re not born with social skills, we’re taught social skills… for many autistic people, learning social skills is not easy,” she explains.
Ronan — who also has an absolute superhero of a mum — knows exactly what he’s looking for: “My dream girl would be wonderful and splendid.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes to find a girlfriend,” he says.
“When I see my brother hanging out with his girlfriend it made me feel jealous.”
Now episode one ends on a cliffhanger with Ronan heading out on his first date — a picnic, no less — but I’m sure there are beautiful things ahead for him.