Paul and Jim

It is a tingle, definitely. A cautiously euphoric pins-and-needles feeling, that you don’t dare take notice of until you’re on your own, where nobody can see. It’s the feeling when you know a first date had gone well. Or when you think it has, anyway. Immediate sensations after a date can range from relief to revulsion via a two-hour stopover in shame and depravity, but the best one of all is that slightly jittery, sugar-rush tingle you get when you have met someone new and you want to see them again. You want every time to feel like the first time. It rarely does, by the way – so savour that tingle. Just in case.

Hoping that the tingle they’re feeling is post-date excitement and not the early warning signs of a stroke are 27-year-old web developer Paul, on the left and Jim, 26, an innovation consultant. Right. I’ve had a quick Google and looked at three job ads on LinkedIn and I have no idea what an innovation consultant is, but it does sound like it involves an awful lot of fiddling with PowerPoint decks, and sticking your head round a meeting-room door and shouting “synergy” at bewildered clients. See for yourself.

Read what happened on the date between these two men before I do what anyone sane would do when handed lemons – throw them at someone.

Paul starts us off:

paul-hope

Something to tell the grandchildren, perhaps. Of course what we really mean by a story to tell the grandchildren is a story we can tell to our open-mouthed mates, doing loads of funny voices, pulling faces, and widening our hands as a form of measurement until our pals’ eyes actually pop clean out of their head with envy. “Decent food and conversation” – aim higher, baby.

Over to you, Jim, in the pink:

jim-hope

madonna-opera-vogue

paul-1st

“Better than I imagined.”

And they do, they do imagine what you’re like before you get there. In my experience, the ones I was most excited about tended to look like Plug from the Bash Street Kids when they turned up, while the ones I couldn’t care less about usually ended up being the ones you can’t get enough of.

Well-dressed is also good. I mean, sure, these things don’t really matter, because clothes come off after all. But a shop with dreadful windows probably isn’t going to have too much to offer on the inside. People who say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover usually a) have terrible taste in literature and b) dress like they fell face first into the bins behind the big Primark near Tottenham Court Road.

jim-first

nice-biscuit-main1

“He looks appealing yet slightly bland and I’ll probably give him a dunk because, let’s face it, I’m a gay man, I’ve come all this way and (spoiler) it’s the weekend.”

paul-talk

jim-talk

A complete non-match of conversation topics today. We are being spoiled. Just so you know, I would immediately shut down any conversation involving Jeremy Clarkson. There is nothing to say about him. He’s on that list, the one full of people for whom there is just nothing further useful to add, no jokes left to wring from their hopelessness, zero colour to enliven their dreary, blank grey. I am almost sure you can guess who else is on it. The key is not to end up on it yourself.

paul-awks

jim-awks

Well, I don’t know about you – literally, I don’t, but hello – but I simply had to know where these two had been sent on this date, because it sounded like an absolute trash carnival. And here it is.

Restaurants in hotels are always dodgy – especially hotels like this one, in the place where it is – because they tend to be full of hotel guests. People staying in hotels are not themselves. They’re away from home, for a treat, perhaps, or to fuck someone they met in a board meeting four hours ago. They are loud and vulgar and coarse and intrusive. They lean over to gay men on a date and goad them into getting off with each other; they try to recruit the whole place into being just like them, having their very specific, cliquey kind of fun that they know their mother wouldn’t approve of. And this is fine, in a way, if you’re in the mood for it. If you’re feeling drunk, philanthropic and mischievous, and are also safe in the knowledge that the bed you’re sleeping in is merely an elevator away, then helping a drunk lesbian turn her straight friend might seem appealing. If you’re on a date, however, you’d probably rather just concentrate on what you need to do and say to get your own end away.

Anyway, this place sounds like a fucking hellmouth, and an expensive one at that. Let’s never go.

EDIT: Paul got in touch to say that the incident with the drunk lesbian happened in a nearby pub, and he’s no recollection of the other. My general point about hotel restaurants still stands. I’m sure this one is a delight, however. 

😬

paul-table

jim-table

joan-xrawford

paul-best

Do you ever stop to think about what your best feature might be? Like, if someone did a survey about you, anonymously, and asked 20 or so people who knew you what you best feature was, what do you think they’d say?

It’s the kind of question you can’t ask anyone yourself, isn’t it, because you’d look super vain. But I actually think we should be asking it, because sometimes we really need to know what it is that makes people like us, so we can focus on that, and celebrate the positive. Too often we walk around not knowing what anyone is thinking, merely guessing, and driving ourselves mad with worry in case we’re getting it all wrong. So we should ask. What do you like about me? What’s my best feature? And build upon it, do more. Really curate that personal brand we’re always hearing about, but do it live, in person, rather than gonzo shots of your brunch or tweeting memes you nicked off Reddit.

Making someone laugh. Yes, that’s a good one. Job done.

jim-best

And then maybe you shouldn’t. Keep it all to yourself, perhaps. I don’t know, but if I got that imaginary survey back and it said the best thing about me was that I talked a lot, I’d have a lot to unpack there. I don’t think I’d feel too super. Maybe he means it was great how he kept the conversation going. Or maybe he means he couldn’t get a word in. if I were Paul, I’d probably be sending a text round about now, asking Jim what the hell he means. You’d need to know.

But still: ask. Just make sure you have a stiff vodka to hand in case the truth is… inconvenient.

paul-friend

jim-friends

I have sat blankly in front of these two answers for 7 minutes and can’t think of anything to say that isn’t just a big shrug, so here’s a GIF to tide you over until the next set.

tumblr_nb4xeokpjz1r5yhhzo7_500

paul-three

INTRIGUING like a secret, spiral staircase.
FUN like a night with Moira from Accounts in a trashy hotel room three floors above this snoozefest.
CHARMING like Charmin toilet paper with a G.

jim-three

CHATTY like someone who talks too much out of sheer nerves because someone once told you that leaving long silences makes you sexy,  enigmatic and intriguing when in fact it makes you look… oh no, hang on, he said intriguing; it totally worked.
OPEN like a car door into the hard shoulder of the motorway.
FUN like what he said in his answer too.

paul-made

You seem quite decent to me, Paul. Decent is good, isn’t it? Decency – it’s dying out. I’d quite like to be described as decent. I mean, I’d like it, but I’d also want it to be fairly low down on a long, long list of plaudits – long enough to make the Bible look like a Janet & John – below things like fuckable, handsome, slender, not Milo, sophisticated, stylish, alive.

jim-made

If my grandma were here now, she would adjust her bifocals, dramatically flick her smouldering Benson and Hedges into the ashtray, and say, “Ooh, that Jim, eh? If he were chocolate, he’d eat himself, wouldn’t he?”

And she’d be right.

jim-go-on

beyonce-lick-lips

It’s a weekend, by the way. If we don’t get to see it go in and out, these two have to be closet straights.

paul-kiss

“As we left to go home…”

f722216c-1f5d-4bc5-a7f2-eb4dddd538fc

You mean together, right? You went home TOGETHER?

jim-kiss

Oh. Look. It’s one of Generation Cheeky, hiding in plain sight in the pages of the Weekend magazine.

“A cheeky smooch” – did you actually snog or did you just read out the labels off bottles of Innocent smoothies to each other? Language is rich and it evolves and I get all that, but the cheekification of every single thing we do, in an effort to make it more trivial, less permanent, really gets on my nerves.

Things that are allowed to be cheeky: buttocks; children; the Cheeky Girls; half an ecstasy tablet in 1997; Vimto; cheeks.

Things that are not supposed to be cheeky: kisses; overpriced chicken you have to queue up to pay for; gin and tonics; bottles of vodka; naps; snacks; shags; waiters.

paul-change

hearteyes

jim-change

ezgif-com-resize

What? What the fuck are you doing? That isn’t… that’s not what they’re asking you. Are you saying you’d undo the kiss? Do you mean you made romantic pretensions and now, in the cold light of day, as you tap your answers into your Gmail and prepare to fire them back to the Guardian, you want to make absolute clear that it was only ever going to be lightning-fast friendzoning once your Tube started to pull out of the station and his face blurred into the platform? Why is an event that hasn’t actually happened yet something you’d like to change? Are you a time traveller?

Whatever your methods or your reasons, you’ve just walked into a packed cinema auditorium in 1995 and told everyone that Kevin Spacey shows up three-quarters of the way in and, yes, it’s Gwyneth’s head in the box. Is there even any point carrying on?

paul-score

This is a 9.

Paul, don’t make any sudden moves; just make your way slowly to the door, because something very horrible is about to happen to you and it looks like the call is coming from inside the house.

jim-score

set_smg_cruel_intentions2

You can’t award a 7 to someone you’ve kissed – it’s… it’s… disrespectful. Sevens are for OK guys who were a bit dull, but enthusiastic and gave a limp handshake as you left, separately. Sevens are for the man who you’d love to go to the pub with, but don’t think you’d survive a trip to Ikea with. Sevens are 1s. They are kind 1s. They are 1s with tickets to Dignitas.

Oh, Jim. How could you?

Anyway, it’s now time to find out whether they’re up for meeting again. I WONDER what Jim has to say – very curious to see the answer of this famously mysterious and intriguing dude who plays his cards close to his chest. Let’s keep ourselves dangling a while longer, and go over to Paul first.

paul-meet

tumblr_inline_n4rgefto301qm0wjz

jim-meet

3746-keep-it-moving-fella

Photograph: Linda Nylind; Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. I am sure Jim is great and Paul couldn’t give two bronze fucks either way. If you want to give your side of the story,  get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have. 

Emma and Jack

What brings you together can tear you apart in the end, and what attracts you to people does usually turn out to be the first thing you want to change about them once the honeymoon period is over. All those charming innocent quirks they had when you first met, which used to make you giggle or go all heart-eyes-emoji, gradually morph into malignant bête-noires that metastasise into every part of your soul and choke you. That “cute” grunt at the end of every laugh, the way they dump their towels on the bathroom floor, the fact they can’t tie a tie, the way they wink at bartenders. Everything you laughed at and dismissed with a “What are you like?” when your love was still fresh salad will become the very things you scream at each other about and want to destroy, once everything’s gone limp and soggy.

Hoping things are going to stay sweet and crunchy for at least the duration of the date are 26-year-old Jack, a PR executive (is paid to send out emails which start “Hey, hope your well!!” and are signed off with “Best! x”) and Emma, 23, a school evaluation coordinator (no idea, but it looks good on LinkedIn I’m sure).  And here they are. So summery. So cazh.

full-size-jack-and-emma-copy

Read what happened on the date before I get all forensic and unnecessary.

Emma kicks us off and is in pink. Jack’s in yellow/green/whatever that is. Don’t bother writing in to tell me; it doesn’t matter.

emma-hope

Regular readers, even those who’ve only popped their head round the door every so often, will know I do not hold with eating on a first date at all. It’s a mistake people make so often. Whenever a man would say to me “I’ll take you out for dinner”, I’d sigh so deeply, trees would bend back in the breeze as I exhaled.

What going out for dinner means, usually, is you have to pretend wherever they’ve chosen is fine, or risk looking a picky bitch if you suggest somewhere else, or you have to choose a place to eat yourself and worry about what this choice says about you. Are you coming over too flash, too common, too rough, too uppity, too cultured, too fat too thin etc etc. You then have to watch your date EAT. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never watched anyone eat and thought “Phwoar”. I mean, I’m sure we’d all pay good money to watch Joe Jonas and Zac Efron feed each other bananas and raspberry Magnums topless, while Jake Gyllenhaal filmed it on his Samsung, but the sad fact is that most of us have the grace and charm of a Staffordshire bull terrier trying to chew a club sandwich when we eat. There are noises, spluttering as you try to answer a question before you’ve quite finished chewing, spillages, slobbering, grunts.

Plus, if you’re out for a meal and  decide you absolutely hate them by the end of the first course, you can’t actually “do a runner” as Emma suggests, you have to sit there, with no escape from the eating habits of Uncle Disgusting, for another round of food at least. And don’t get me started on chopsticks, shelling prawns, slurping pasta, soup splashes,  trying to eat your leftovers, asking if you “want to try some” of theirs, sharing platters, “excuse fingers”, faux-embarrassed giggling at suppressed belches, exclaiming “aaaah” and sitting back in their chair after devouring a belly-busting steak, picking their teeth, complaining about perfectly clean cutlery, being overly familiar or imperious with the waiting staff, filling your wine glass for you and giving you less than he gives himself, ordering on your behalf, proposing to share a dessert, whispering that puddings are “naughty” and that you “mustn’t” before ordering their biggest dessert on the list and, worst of all, leaning in for a kiss –and, yes, that is spinach between their teeth – and leaving you with a mouth that tastes of onions.

No.

jack-hope

Oh, whatever.

emma-first

“He was there” is not a first impression. It’s, like, a statement of fact.

I like being on time too. I have a rule, and it is a rule I tend not to say out loud to people too often because it makes them look at me in a slightly curious and horrified way, like they’ve just discovered something very inappropriate under my floorboards. If you arrive bang on time, at the time you have arranged to be somewhere, you are in fact late.

I do have another rule, however, which is beautifully contradictory but hey it’s my party and attendance is not compulsory, that you should arrive around three to five minutes late for a date for OPTIMUM effect. This means they’ll be there to see you make an entrance and you’d better make it good because first impressions are bought and sold on the way you own that swing of the pub door, baby.

jack-first

Easy-going seems to be one of those phrases that’s losing all meaning. Are easy-going and relaxed the same thing? Does it mean you don’t care? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Spoiler: nobody has ever accused me of being easy-going in my life, but I insisted on opening my own savings account at 4, read dictionaries for fun and didn’t laugh at a joke until my mid-teens so maybe it’s just me.

emma-tlk

dying-dying

You are 23. You’re not supposed to know anything about wine except that it comes in three “colours” and is priced according to how guilty you should feel after drinking an entire bottle of it in half an hour. Out of the actual bottle.
Under £4.99 = guilt-free.
£5.00 – £9.99 = steady on, Ivana Trump.
Over £9.99 = shit, sorry Dad, I swear I’ll replace it, I swear, no I did sip it and enjoy it, I really did, you were right, it had an amazing vintage.

jack-talk

shut-up-im-rich

There simply isn’t enough time for us all left on Earth for me to even start on steak-splaining and how majestically unfuckable it makes you, so let’s move on to the cocktails out of coconuts instead.

The only people I can think of who’d like cocktails in coconuts are those really awful posh people that even Tatler won’t write about, who wear smoking jackets from the age of 14, went to “the school” – to say where is terribly common – actually know someone in real life called Algernon, and have rosy cheeks and straw-like blond hair. They frequent tiki bars with their braying pals, wear racially inappropriate outfits at “colonial” fancy-dress parties, fall in love with people who look exactly like their parents and, sadly, probably own the very ground on which you’re standing. Or are Prince Harry.

And well lookee here, just like magic, here comes an awkward moment.

emma-awks

Nobody gives a toss about your virtue signalling for the much maligned brave souls who toil at the frontline of recruitment, Emma; those mercenaries can look after themselves.

There is something quite disturbing, really odd, about someone mentioning which school they went to, or that they went to school at all, on a date, when they’re 26. Is it supposed be impressive? How should you react? So your parents transferred some money into a school’s bank account and all of a sudden your uniforms got a lot more ridiculous and a lot less itchy? Is it an attempt to identify any links with your alma mater? Was he hoping for a secret handshake? That said, why does this make her feel uncomfortable?

Bragging about education on a date is more common than you’d think. For people who have nothing else – and think how gloomy the last 8 years must have been for Jack if he’s still banging on about his school at 26 – their education, the last time they didn’t really have to think much for themselves, takes on an almost mythical quality. I once sat on a date with a guy, who wasn’t as pretty as he thought he was and really should’ve tried harder, while he explained, in minute detail, his entrance exam and interview for drama school. A decade previously.

jack-awks

“Usually after everything I said.” Oh, Jack.

call-coming-inside-house

Table manners!

emma-tabe

I have to back this. Good manners cost nothing. If someone is doing something for you, you need to say thank you.

You can sound a bit like a stuck record after a while, however, especially if they say “you’re welcome” back every time you thank them. Perhaps there should be an agreed limit on the number of thank you, to save awkwardness all round, or a contract you sign on being seated at the table which says: “I promise to feel gratitude for everything you do for me this evening and, to save time and breaking up the conversation, will say thank you only AFTER you pour the wine and not when you offer, and when you place anything else on the table or take it away. You do not need to say I am welcome”. That’s still quite a lot of thank you, though.

I once went out for a dinner with a man who said, halfway through the meal, “Do you know how many times you’ve said thank you during this meal? It’s loads. It’s a bit much.” Reader, I said it only one more time that evening, and it followed the word “no” and meant a cold shower for him and a hearty chuckle on the bus home, alone, for me.

jack-table

Jack was taught how to use cutlery properly at his Academy de Snoot for le Terminally Posh school, I imagine. I wonder what she did with the butter-knife. Dropped it? Used it to eat soup with? Forgot to mention her pony and childhood skiing holidays as she lavished her sourdough with Vitalite? We’ll never know.

emma-best

using-me

jack-best

respectable

I’ve only room for one respectable in my life, and it’s Mel and Kim’s.

I’m starting to think Jack is actually 47. Or maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t know what else to say. I go in quite hard on straight guys who take part in this column sometimes – and it does seem here that Jack is only interested in things she’s achieved, rather than what she was like as a person, which I usually detest – but I wonder here whether Jack simply can’t find the words to be anything other than polite.

emma-friends

Wouldn’t you, Emma? Not even for a chance to see their eyes widen in horror and watch them lightly rip the piss out of him as they threw another Sauv Blanc or pint of craft beer down their necks? Sometimes the best way to put someone off you is to introduce them to your friends; it can be a more effective repellant than your own BO or UKIP-voting tendencies.

If you’re dating someone and aren’t sure about them, the temptation  is to hide them from friends until you’ve made up your mind about them. This isn’t always a good idea. Why not throw them to the lions and see how they manage? Sometimes there’s no greater thrill than feeling the pinch on your arm by a friend who “wants a word” and trying not to laugh as they very earnestly ask you what the hell you think you’re doing with this guy.

jack-friends

Well, good for Jack. This is great. A nice thing to say. I wonder what Jinty, Tressolea and Pongo will make of her?

emma-three

marilyn-coffee-smaller

Oh dear.

jack-made-of

No. None of this, sadly. What’s worse? Being oblivious or being fully aware you’re in a car crash?

emma-made-of

Oh, not this again. “He probably thought I was scatty.” “He probably thought I was crazy and talked too much.”

Even when asked to imagine the opinion of a man who she’ll never see again, has no interest in and has roundly savaged on the pages of a national newspaper, Emma still goes for self-deprecation. It makes me wonder whether the vibe she got from Jack was that he didn’t like her at all and was going to skewer her here. If this is the case, does it mean her answers are authentic, and it really was like going on a date with a leather cigarette case? Or did Jack merely sit there in mild amusement, doing that impenetrable face that men who are mildly amused do, and it spooked her a bit? I’ll never know, unless they email in.

Anyway, you’re not a lunatic for just talking. I’m a bit disappointed, if the date was as bad as is suggested, that Emma didn’t say “I don’t care what he made of me”, but she’s the one answering the questions, not me.

emma-go-on

Yeaaaaaah, I’m going to go with my original assumption that the date really was that bad. Not even a nightcap, no awkward farewell drink in a noisy, about to close, All Bar One round the corner? Yep, it’s a certified stinker.

jack-go-on

Or any occasion, Jack. This wasn’t a dress rehearsal. Oh, Jack. I long to understand, to read between the lines, but I can’t seem to work it out. Were you taught, at this very posh school of yours, to soldier on, to never complain? Because, this date sounds like agony – I’ve had to get up from the sofa three times to go and wring out a tea towel just to get some release – and yet you have, either valiantly or dimwittedly, revealed nothing of this.

jack-change

Mate. Maaaate. My man. I reckon you’d have been better off arriving four hours late and asking one of the waiting staff what time they finished, Jack.

emma-change

weave-snatch

Time of death for this date: 30 seconds after Emma pressed SEND on the email back to the Guardian journalist.

jack-score

You see? That’s a gentleman’s zero at least. There’s more to this than meets the eye.

predator-i-see-you

emma-score

FIVE. I can’t remember the last time this happened. 5 is a minus. It’s outside. It didn’t get a ticket, it doesn’t have a seat. 5 missed out, 5 has to read all about it on Facebook the next day. 5 cries at Timehop, 5 doesn’t get tagged in nice photos, 5 is a loser. 5. Never be 5. Give me my zero, my 6, or give me death. FIVE.

So we crawl on our bellies, gasping for air, starved of joy and love and romance, to the very end of the date. With our dying breaths, the faces of family members, fucks we shouldn’t have given and drinks we should have tried flashing before our eyes, we ask the final question, the words landing with a croak in our stony, constricted throats:

Will. You. Do. This. Horror. Again? jack-meet

oh-honey

emma-meet

harry-mic-drop

I need a lie down.

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Linda Nylind, both for the Guardian

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. Once you recover from the burning, I swear it’ll all be OK. If you want to give your side of the story,  get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have. 

 

Andre and Dan

We all think we’d love to know what people say about us once we leave the room, but we really don’t. It’s unusual for compliments to be kept hidden from you for too long – especially from someone who wants something for you, or to be on you – so conversations that happen behind your back are usually, sadly, pretty negative. You think you can handle it, that it might be useful to hear the criticisms, that you might learn from them, but you won’t. Instead you will go running to the nearest reflective surface and stare into it, winded and bleary-eyed with confusion and sadness. Is that what they really think of me, you ask yourself? Am I so terrible? Have I not tried to be a good person? Wasn’t I lovely? And you go back and remember your  conversations and actions and flinch at the memory of the moment you know you’d lost them, that you’d helped them make up their mind. Mistakes you know you will make again. You forget, in your anguish, that people say horrible things about you for more than one reason. It may be to make themselves look good, bolster them in their own narrative, maybe they’re envious of you, or want your attention but never get it, or perhaps they’re insecure. But it’s worth remembering that sometimes the horrible things are true.

This is why the Guardian Blind Date is not for the faint-hearted. You have left the room, the conversation about you has begun, and while you get to listen in, you cannot interject or correct or explain – you must merely watch, stunned and helpless, as it’s printed in a national newspaper for all to see. And then someone texts you and tells you about this blog. Lionhearts, each and every one of them. I salute you.

Nervously lifting the headphones to their ear and gulping at the cold. hard truth this week are 25-year-old journalist Andre, on the left in the pink shirt, and Dan, 26, a designer, who is in the plain T. Doesn’t he know all designers have to wear nothing but T-shirts from Threadless? Perhaps he hasn’t been one very long.

andre-dan-full

They’re gay and have perfect names to be a portmanteau couple – Dandre, anyone? – but will they rub each other the right way? Read what happened on the date before I go in on them with all the precision of a man old enough to be their much older brother, who’s not been awake long and isn’t feeling very well.

Andre kicks us off, and is in yellow. Dan’s in the blue.

andre-hope

dan-hope

Imagine being gay and in your mid 20s and your loftiest expectations of a date with a stranger related to WINE. You’re not supposed to care about wine until you’re at least 37 and some of us don’t even manage that. Wine is fetishised to such a degree in the answers to this question that I’m now going to assume, from this week onward, that it’s a metaphor for dick. “I was hoping for good company and endless dick.” There you go, fixed it for you.

andre-first

This is a very first impression, which, as the question comes so early in the set, is what we’re looking for. 10 points.

dan-first

This is an overall first impression, isn’t it? So not what we’re after. 6 points.

Actual first impressions:
“He looked like a horse on the phone to his dentist.”
“Bow-legged.”
“Smiley, with a face only a mother could love.”
“Funereal.”
“Smart-casual boner killer in supermarket-brand chinos and frayed boat shoes.”
“Imagine Olive from On The Buses if she won on the scratchcards. That.”

Can we start getting this right?

dan-talk

abdre-talk

Don’t cycle when drunk. It’s really stupid. I cycled drunk for the very last time in 1996, when I borrowed a friend’s racing bike and zig-zagged my way across Southampton (where I went to uni) back home after a bottle of Smirnoff, mixed with orange juice because 1996, followed by four pints of something. Southampton locals may know the wide, treacherous road known as The Avenue, which I attempted to cycle across, on a bike I didn’t know, with no lights, and was clipped by a speeding car. I actually flew in the air for a while, before landing, on my arse, in somebody’s garden, my back cut to ribbons. The driver did not stop. I did not die. I learned my lesson.  Do not cycle drunk; you will ruin somebody’s life.

I don’t know why you’d be talking about Saabs on a date. I see football is mentioned there too. Were they having a masculinity contest? The only thing I know about Saabs is that a fantastic woman I worked with decades ago had a huge white one, and it was called the Wimbledon edition or something, and I used to love driving in it with her because she was fantastically, almost impossibly glamorous, like Honor Blackman, and she smoked Vogue cigarettes way before anyone did it ironically, and had a gravelly voice and the worldly wisdom of someone who has seen it all, done it all and never had to ask anyone for a lighter. And she was called Margot. Perfection.

andre-awks

Oh, I don’t know what to say. Is it too early for a GIF? Let’s have a GIF:

gary-oldman-dracula

dan-awks

Where do you stand on food switching plates during a meal? Any meal, let alone a romantic one? I did, briefly, date a guy who once got quite upset when I picked an uneaten sausage off his plate once he’d finished eating everything else. “It’s disgusting,” he would say, “not hygienic”. I mean, fine, but there isn’t one part of me you haven’t had in your mouth at some point, and yet somehow this SAUSAGE is disgusting. Needless to say, there were no further helping of sausage on offer for this precious baby – on or off his plate.

I don’t think I’d like my own plate to be invaded by someone else’s food, however. If you’ve ordered too much, you’re just going to have to tough it out, I’m afraid. And steak is such a weird thing to order on a date. It gets stuck in your teeth, needs a lot of chewing and it kind of smells, lingering in your mouth long after you’ve eaten it. Perhaps this steak is acting as a friendzoning tool. You’d really have to fancy someone pretty hard to watch them gnaw their way through a huge steak and still want to kiss them.

andrew-table

“It’s the size of my face!”
“And it’s the size of my face too!”
“We should probably each go for a different exaggerated unit of measurement if we want to keep things interesting in the column.”
“Totally. I really want to say it was as big as someone’s face, though.”
“…”

dan-table

First they’re stanning hard for wine like Lady Gaga’s battalion of fake soccer moms, now it’s whiskey’s turn. You can bet your ass I went to the venue’s website to look at their menu to check they served whisky and whiskey – this is not my first time at the rodeo and I do love to be right. Anyway, this is all sounding great, but it isn’t really what I was expecting from two gay men in their mid 20s. If this column has taught me anything, it’s that gay guys love acting like they’re 45 – until they actually are. What’s great about increased equality and social mobility is that the stunning mediocrity of being middle-aged, middle-class and insufferably dull is now available to most of us.

andre-best-thing

my-so-called-life

A good vibe. Like a function room hired out for a launch – for a new range of tea towels, perhaps – where you don’t know anybody, but, hey, at least there’s free champagne! (It’s cava.)

Vibes. They’re almost never good are they? You get serial-killer vibes off someone. Bad vibes. But never good.

dan-best

hyacinth-smaller

This is going well. A date so astonishingly sexless, it’s like watching two HR managers flirt using only quotes from the first series of My Family and EU directives as chat-up lines, in the bar of a Travelodge that doesn’t open for another 15 minutes.

andre-three

INTELLIGENT like Rachel off Countdown.
CHILLED like the bottle of Highland Spring in my backpack.
CONFIDENT like someone who you realise would do your head in if you went to Ikea with them.

dan-threee

ELOQUENT like that precocious schoolboy who sits behind you on the bus and reads out his spellings.
WITTY like a panel show on BBC4 that you watch to stave off the unnerving dread that you’re single and all alone.
DRIVEN like a Ford Focus, into the sea, with you at the wheel.

dan-go-on

michael-j-willett

Ooh. Could there have been a frisson of something, after all? It’s like when you make some underwhelming chicken for dinner – a last minute dash of Nando’s sauce can rescue the whole thing and really give your mouth something to think about. Andre?

andre-go-on

ezgif-com-resize

Ouch. No sauce in Andre’s pitta tonight.

andre-kiss

dan-kiss

The state of homosexuality in 2016.

andre-change

But ya did, Andre.

ezgif-com-optimize

dan-change

Ugh. Yuk. Put your phone away. Aside from the fact that Andre shouldn’t have been looking at his phone at all during the date, as there is zero excuse for doing so, what’s the deal with his friends? Haven’t they got anything better to do, any storylines of their own to star in, that they have to spend their evening quizzing Andre about how the date was going?

The trouble with telling your story “as it happens” is that it plays differently because you’re having to pause to tell it. The eagerness to keep your audience with you at all times, rather than waiting for you once it’s over, means the narrative shifts from being about you in that very moment of how fulfilled you are from the experience, to focusing on the reaction you’ll get from others. This is the difference between the people who stand at gigs, trail round museums or attend events with their phones outstretched, filming it all for posterity, and people who just take it in with their actual eyes, to process it themselves. You’re not looking at it properly,  or thinking about it – you’re just filming it. The memory of it, the ability to look back and say “I was there and this was happening to me” becomes more important than experiencing it first-hand. Your present is being shaped by how you want to remember it, not how you feel about it now. The best stories are told when they’re over, when you have an ending to work toward.

With dating, especially, we all like to dissect what happened with people who can’t possibly know whether you’re being entirely faithful to actual events or not. As useful and fun as livetweeting and liveblogging can be, to give that sense of community, that we’re all there with you, there’s a danger it can interfere. As any liveblogger will tell you, you can’t truly watch a TV show if you’re reporting on it live; there are things you might miss, stuff that has to be pointed out to you. How can you ever hope to get to know a person properly, to work out what you feel about them, if you’re pausing every five minutes to report back to your eager audience? You can’t. You’re not giving your brain room to work things out, and so you can never go any deeper – it’s the difference between the cheap shock and instant gratification of a rolling news ticker with typos, and a lovingly crafted report, leather-bound and brilliant and devastating.

Dates with chaperones don’t work, whether they’re sitting beside you in the restaurant picking at their napkin or hanging on your every word on a WhatsApp group.

Anyway, I’m sick of you. Scores.

andre-score

dan-score

Two polite no thank yous. Great.

So will they do this again? Will Andre’s sad-act coterie of WhatsApp dullards get a second season of Dandre to plug the gaping hole that Making A Murderer has left in their lives? Will Dan’s whiskey mouth ever connect with Andre’s steak-sized face?

andre-meet

woman-throat-action

dan-meet

There used to be a man who would go to Horse Meat Disco and wear absolutely nothing – he would just wander around with no clothes on, his MDMA-shrivelled winky waggling for all to see. Is he still there? Halcyon days. Oh well, there may be as much passion between these two as a queue for a cash machine outside a Tesco Express, but at least the music will be good.

gay-love

But not today. Pity poor Dandre – it was never meant to be.

Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. And if you’re two gay men going on a date, at least have the decency to get off with each other – it’s what your ancestors fought for. If you want to give your side of the story,  get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have. 

Susan and Phil

Susan and Phil 750

The thing with getting older is you’re less predisposed to flannel. You want people to cut to the chase, because you’ve heard it all before; your ability to be delighted or surprised diminishes with every crashing bore you date. You listen, as faux-intently as your poker face will allow, to all their tall tales about travelling, and one-sided jabs at exes, and dizzyingly dull trivia about their work and wonder when you’ll get to the nub, when you’ll see what this person is actually all about, rather than what they want you to think they’re all about.

When you’re younger, you think you have to sit and listen to all this, because if you do, you’ll then get to talk lengthily about yourself, and when you’re young that is all you want to do because you’re so unused to being asked. But when you’re old, it’s just getting in the way of everything else. There isn’t time.  Just as you perfected clearing the first part of the Green Hill Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog in 0:58 when you should’ve been revising, so too can you see every chat-up lines, clumsy flirt, straight-out lie that’s meant to impress you, cliché, ill-timed joke and bad opinion coming your way. You idly wonder how much longer you can stand it, but down inside, you know you’ll sit and listen – as you did 10 years ago, as you will 10 years hence – because we never tell people to shut up and get on with it. We’re too polite.

Patiently hoping the other will stop talking about their issues with HR this week are Susan, a 54-year-old development consultant (What does that mean? What industry is it, even?) and Phil, 50, a digital artworker. Read what happened on the date which, excitingly, happened in Manchester, before I throw myself between them with a big red pen.

Susan kicks us off.

susan hoping

You can say it, you know. Nobody will judge. “Somebody who didn’t bore me to death, in a restaurant that has at least a four-star rating for hygiene.”

Phil hoping

I feel sorry for this first question because it does attract the most beige of answers. I mean, what are you supposed to say? The truth?
“I was hoping for a big pair of tits attached to a lolly stick that didn’t say too much and would pay for my cocktails after.”
“I was hoping for a man who had the body of Arnold with a Denzel face, a bulging bank account and a dicky ticker.”

Susan first

Phil first

I like these. These are good first impressions, literally the first thing you think when you see each other.

Let the “nicely ironed shirt” be a lesson to all you straight men who grab clothes out of the laundry basket, sniff them, nod appreciatively and put them back on – it really, really matters. A man who’ll iron a shirt when he’s coming to meet you means he’ll be considerate in other ways too, that he cares about the impression he’s going to make. That “just got out of bed” look really only works if the person has already been to bed with you. Get the iron out if you want to get them in there in the first place.

Susan talk

Phil talk

You’ll notice how these conversation topics match up almost exactly – a rare feat in the Blind Date column. The only deviations are the referendum and Phil’s son’s hair dryer – can you IMAGINE how much stomping up and down and “Oh Dad, for GOD’S sake why were you talking about that?!” Phil’s son is doing right now? Perhaps Susan has blanked out the referendum, as there really doesn’t seem to be anything left to say about it that hasn’t already been said, sliced in half, deep fried, and served up lukewarm to a weary audience.

Football. God. I will never forget the brief period one year when I had to pretend to like football, because it was a prerequisite for having sex with a man I met on Guardian Soulmates. When he said he was “straight-acting”, I merely rolled my eyes and thought, “We’ll see”, assuming he meant he only had one pink T-shirt slashed to the waist and would take a bit more persuading to dance to a Kylie song at a wedding. But, no, what he meant was sitting in some of London’s most unlovely pubs watching football, among loud men who’d never made anybody orgasm and couldn’t cry at funerals, but would have emotional breakdowns if a man they’d never met missed a penalty. I tried to play along for a while, briefly enjoying my sojourn into the straight world, but I soon came to my senses and was honest with myself, and reclaimed my Saturdays and Sundays (and Wednesday nights FFS) by ditching him. Football is not for me; I have always loathed it. Footballs were something that were kicked at me, not to me, by boys who knew I wouldn’t and couldn’t stop them.

So, in short: fuck football.

Susan awks

Phil awks

Isn’t it interesting they both thought this was an awkward situation? I think it’s something to do with their age. Someone 20 or 30 years younger, perhaps, would shrug this off and say “small world”, but people in their 50s know how this stuff works.

Two worlds have collided, and whichever version of themselves they had decided to be tonight would have to be adapted, or cancelled altogether, because now they knew, with absolute certainty, that the events of the date would be talked about in common company. What they don’t realise is that it’s a good thing this came out early on – imagine blundering on, blissfully unaware, and saying something incriminating. Mind you, they are in a bloody magazine, so it does seem slightly odd to worry that they know the same people – everyone will know you today, won’t they?

Susan table

ezgif.com-optimize

Do you think he actually fed it to her?

Phil table

tumblr_n68b8h6TOp1snfsquo1_400

Susan best

There are worse compliments, I guess, but I’m not exactly throwing my head back in euphoric laughter and thinking about my bottom drawer.

Phil best

follow your dreams 2

The thing with following your dreams is they don’t have a map, so have no idea where they’re going, and they can lead to you some dark, miserable places. Follow your dreams if you must, but make sure you’ve got the reassuring satnav of a regular reality check to keep you on track.

Susan friends

Why I Live in London: A Novella.

(This means no, doesn’t it?)

Phil friends

As was pointed out to me last week, “Sure” is a very common answer to the friends question. On first glance, it seems like a nonchalant, easygoing, “hey daddio, I’m totes cool with the way we’re vining”, almost horizontal answer. But “sure” is not an “of course” or a “yes” – it does mean yes, but it’s yes in the same way that you’d say yes to sleeping with someone for a million pounds. Yes, you would do it, but the likelihood of this possibility ever presenting itself to you is so small, it’s doubtful it’s a question you would ever need to answer. So it is, in fact, a no.

Phil made

esteem

I’d like to aim a little higher than “OK”. OK is not awful, OK is pleasant, OK is nice. If I thought that was the best impression I could ever hope to make on somebody, I wouldn’t show up. What’s the point of anything if you can’t make somebody never want to forget you?

Mind you, Phil is remarkably perceptive, because:

ssusan three

IMG_5214

Shit.

Susan made

Again, as is now becoming normal with this question, this is about what Susan thinks of herself. She’s worried she went on too much about saying nice things about each other in the column. She thinks she’s old. You are not old, Susan. The problem is we are our own worst enemy, and there is no escape from ourselves. How nice it would be to switch off the part of us that worries what people would think, that plays on our insecurities, for just one evening. That we could be ourselves – something I don’t think any of us truly are until we’ve had seven flaming Sambucas and confessed our deepest, darkest sins and madnesses – and walk away from the evening genuinely having no idea what someone made of us, but hoping it was positive, and seeing no reason why it shouldn’t be. Whatever pill it was that would take this away, even temporarily, I would queue for happily. We spend too much time staring into mirrors, zooming in on selfies, searching for clues, and worrying we’re getting it all wrong. We all are, and that’s why it’s OK.

Anyway, Susan, he didn’t say any of that, he said this:

phil three

So that’s nice.

susan go on

I-fancy-you-klaus-and-caroline-33544446-500-281

FINALLY, a date happens on a Saturday night! Anything is possible now.

Susan change

Or perhaps not, eh?

Typical, isn’t it, that whenever it’s two hopeless millennials staggering their way through the date, the final lament is always that it was a “school night” and they had to go home early so they could be up in the morning to go that job they won’t even remember having in five years’ time. You wonder what they could’ve got up to had the lights not been turned down prematurely. And then, here we are, with two people in their 50s and literally zero to lose, one of whom wishes they could’ve gone to a Morrissey concert instead.

I mean, Morrissey, somewhere in Manchester, on a Saturday – surely that’s a weekly occurrence? If you want to pay money to watch a bitter old vegan wang on about race, feminism and homophobia with all the grace of a hippo skateboarding through the glassware department at Selfridges, come to London and wait around Bethnal Green – one will be along soon enough.

phil change

tumblr_my0h4zviMT1sp4nfqo1_500

REALLY? That’s it? OK.

Susan marks

Phil marks

The problem, you see, with resolving to say only nice things about each other in this rundown is that you end up saying nothing at all. You’ve tossed out a few pleasantries, but it’s all strangely without emotion or enthusiasm – like you’re writing out Christmas cards, or cleaning out a cupboard, or replacing a shower curtain. It has become a mildly diverting task, something you’ve agreed to do but need to get out of the way. That kind of works when you’re on a Grindr hookup, but not when you’re having dinner together with a view to taking it further. You’ve scored each other an 8 and a 9, but I simply can’t tell how you’ve got there or why. I woke up, got up, and was sitting here bang on time waiting for all you could throw at me. But nothing.

Just like I said at the top of the page, with age comes the desire to cut through the bullshit, to get to the meat – but the will still eludes us. Shame.

So, are they going to do this again? Does another three-hour session of politely nodding across a table await, on a weeknight, perhaps, just in case Morrissey’s back in town soon?

Phil meet

harry styles cry

susan meet

katharine hepburn 2

Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. If you want to give your side of the story,  get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have. Please, pray for some actual spice next week – I have never been fond of chicken korma.

Jared and Ellen

Jared Ellen 750

It’s the waiting, isn’t it? That’s what gets you.

Waiting for a date is harrowing; it’s bad for your health. Your mind works overtime. Will they even turn up? Will it be awful? Have you wasted your evening? Will they be drunk or dull or salacious or flirtatious or racist or clumsy or annoying? Will they have a laugh that sounds like a thousand shards of glass falling onto a xylophone? It’s all to play for. The unknown is all you have.

The last five minutes in particular are the worst. And there’s only one other person who understands who you feel right now, but you can’t find any solidarity, or get comfort from them, because they’re out of reach – it’s your date, and they’re on their way, and they’re the ones making you feel like this. They are your kill and your cure.

Anxiously checking their breath and running their tongue over their teeth this week are Jared, 31, a software engineer – the times over the years I have heard that job title and never confessed, as I’m about to now, that I have no clue what it even means – and 26-year-old Ellen, who is a journalist. I know what that one means. Read what  happened on the date before I… well, before I see if I can actually remember how to do this.

Jared starts us off.

jared hope

Wild. have I ever been wild? I don’t think so. I’m not sure a mild addiction to ecstasy in my early twenties counts. My favourite kind of wild hedonism is the kind that has no chance of happening. It’s something to be dreamed about, and aspired to, and then filed away in a box marked “Things I don’t really do”.

I hardly ever use the word “pleasant” because I find it a very “Rich Tea dunked in a cup of Tetley for one second too long” word. I never hope things will be pleasant. I merely hope they won’t be unpleasant, which is, weirdly, a brilliant word, and best said when imagining Margo from The Good Life opening a tin of salmon that’s gone off.

ellen hope

Pleasant again. Sheesh. Did the Olympics not teach us to aim high? But, no, you don’t want to go on a date with someone who reminds you of your dad.

jared first

Here we go again with my regular rant that nobody seems to understand what a first impression is. Just imagine it in the space below; we’re all busy:

 

 

ellen first

“Good morning, passengers. The captain and the crew would like to welcome you aboard this shuttle service to THE FRIEND ZONE.”

A solid handshake. Shit.

jared talk

ellen talk

3135554ac6684eba927f43893d7af88dce8e5550_hq

jared awks

Gosh. How awful. How would you even recover? Of all the faux pas you could possibly commit on a date, this has to be the one that would finish you. I wouldn’t know where to look. Mortifying. Wow.

This is the kind of thing Geri Halliwell would worry about doing on a date. Beyond try-hard. Why are you wanging on about stuff you’re not really sure about? Stay in lane; there are no prizes at the end. Oh, and here, this is who Adam Curtis is. I mean, I know you knew, but, like, others, might not. *cough*

ellen awks

“I saw him and realised I needed three shots of Sambuca to cope with what I knew instinctively would be a very solid handshake, so I headed straight to the bar, only to be turfed out by a waiter who was very anxious to appear in this column and, subsequently, the Guyliner blog, which isn’t even supposed to be on this week, but there you are. As Madonna said, life is a mystery.”

jared table

ellen table

ezgif.com-resize

Very. Efficient. Why, this courtship is almost as romantic as Charles and Diana’s, isn’t it? I’d love how I eat to be described the same way you’d rate a hotel’s cleaning staff on TripAdvisor.

jared best

We underestimate this power. So few people have it. The ability to make others laugh. And it is a power, because it can charm, and disarm, and help plot your future. It is a spell.

I pity those who aren’t funny, because all they have to attract people are superficial things, like their looks. And having good looks is wonderful, I’m sure, but it’s temporary. Your sense of humour, your ability to make others double up in mirth, is for ever. In theory, anyway. You can be kind, and you can be smart, and you can be gentle, and you can be passionate – but it doesn’t mean dick if you’re not funny. That’s what they all want, to be laughed into bed. Warning: you probably need to be good at a few other things too, if you want to keep them there.

ellen best

patsy1

OK. I’m calling it. Time of death for this date: Right. About. Now.

jared three

FUN like a helter-skelter.
WARM like a gas fire in 1987.
RACONTEUR like a word you say when you’re trying to find a nice way of saying someone talked about themselves nonstop.

ellen three

POLITE like a commuter stepping on your toe on the platform at Raynes Park and being most apologetic.
PASSIONATE like a character who dies 27 minutes into a Hollywood movie.
TALL like a word you say when you’ve run out of nice things to say about somebody so you blurt out the most basic of physical attributes like you have some kind of compliment Tourette’s, just as long as you don’t mention that you don’t fancy him at all because you don’t want to look mean in a magazine, even though what you don’t say is more damning than what you do.

jared made

tumblr_inline_nly1itZuDP1sbs47l

He knows it. Jared knows his tea is out and getting cold and he has to give up and go home.

To hope someone thought you were “sweet”, which is what Paris Hilton would say after visiting the patients on a leukaemia ward, is a last-minute grab at a positive from a date that sounds, despite what these two are saying, like it was as much fun as getting your tie caught in a revolving door.

ellen made

“I look really young but I have a shit voice.” This question always brings out the very worst in self-deprecation, especially among the women on the date. The lengths they will go to to avoid looking big-headed or to seem as if they like themselves even a tiny bit is really sad. I wonder whether this is a hangover from everyone using dating apps. Take a compliment, and agree with it, and you’ll be told you love yourself or aren’t that special. Dignity, it seems, can only be bestowed upon you – you can’t own it all by yourself.

I hate that people do this, that we do this to ourselves. That we believe we’re not good enough and invent absolutely bullshit reasons about why that might be. You don’t think Jared thought you had an annoying voice, it’s what you think about yourself, because we never seem to be able to stop telling women that they’re irritating, or in the way, or need to pipe down, or shouldn’t rate themselves too much. And we need to cut it out, because while it’s all very well being a shrinking violet who doesn’t want to cause any trouble, I do not want to live in a world where the soundtrack is nothing but the booming, boorish voices of blokes who think they’re amazing and can’t fucking wait to tell you all about it.

jared go on

giphy

Honestly.

ellen kiss

jared kiss

james franco WHUT

Now, like Donna Summer, I’ve been around the block enough to know that “a gentleman never tells” – which the ‘gentlemen’ in this column say with a regularity that is in turns depressing and heartwarming – means the couple did in fact enjoy a drunken, regrettable snog. Ellen, however, is quite clear that this experience was about as “pleasant” as spilling black paint down your wedding dress, and that no kissing occurred, so for Jared to hint that there was, rather than just say “no”, is quite odd. Unless he’s just trying to be mysterious or interesting. Lord knows we need it.

Anyway, I still have tears in my eyes from laughing at the “2 Many DJs at XOYO” line, which is currently holidaying with us here in 2016 but hopes to return to 2004 shortly, to read too much into this.  I do still love a mashup, though, all these millennia later.

jared change

It’s all falling into place. “Liberal lefty.” “2 Many DJS at XOYO.” Adam Curtis. The breakneck effort to look cool. Crystal clear to me now. Jared felt old, perhaps for the very first time in his life. Ah, Jared.

It’s awful realising you’re old when you don’t particularly feel it. They don’t tell you; you can’t prepare. It needs to hurt you. It’s the cruellest trick, and it stings most of all when you are actually not old, but come into contact with someone who’s both younger, but also acts considerably younger. They haven’t worked it out yet, you see – they haven’t realised the world doesn’t belong to them. But you’re just starting to catch on.

The fact you have so much history behind you seems like a disadvantage; all you crave is the now. You cling, then, to the things you thought made you young. You search your mind palace for relevance, currency, whatever makes you contemporary.  You usually start with music, but that’s a mistake, so hard to get wrong. Then you rely on your politics, your youthful optimism and activism and bolshiness. But it falls flat. You turn to celebrity culture, perhaps, but it’s a dangerous area and you soon find yourself desperate and dehydrated, wandering the unforgiving savannah of your own inescapable, inarguable AGE.

Happily, Jared, I can exclusively reveal from my balcony, which has exquisite views of the garbage fire that is being alive in 2016, that you eventually push past all this. You realise the young don’t want you and the old don’t care about you, so you just do your level-best to be yourself and concentrate on making that the best version of you possible. Although maybe you could go listen to a Dua Lipa record or something, J – let’s not fade away into obscurity just yet.

And you should have gone to XOYO anyway. Why not? The best thing about being old is you get to relive your youth at your own choosing. You get to be a tourist, just dipping your toe in, without all the horror, angst, and arguing over utility bills with useless flatmates that youth brings you.

ellen change

giphy

I’m not here at all for “let’s say something about the food because I don’t want to say something awful about the date” answers but I know why people, women especially, do this. It’s the same reason why, when asked out by some drunk random in a pub, a woman can’t say “fuck off”, and instead has to refuse very politely or make up some fantasy boyfriend. It’s not just about sparing someone’s feelings – it’s about protecting yourself, because you can’t count on the reaction not being violent and unpleasant. You have to play the game, because you have no power at all, and any attempt to assert it will be seen as an attack, even though you’re trying to mind your own business. This is how we have to do it in 2016, pandering to weak and entitled cry babies. A world where we can’t tell people to fuck the hell off is a depressing one indeed, wouldn’t you agree?

jared score

ellen score

9.

1.

jared meet

ezgif.com-resize-2

ellen meet

falling-to-knees-o

Photograph: Sarah Lee, Graham Robertson; both for the Guardian

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. If you want to give your side of the story,  get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.

Lucy and Vik

Lucy Vik

Closing the door – that’s the hardest part when you’re single, and live alone. Whether it’s a slam, a satisfying click or the comforting slide into the latch after a hard day, the shutting of the door is very final. It won’t open again, not tonight. Not unless you get a sudden nine o’clock angst that you should be doing more with your life, having more fun, and run back out to the off licence or to meet a drug dealer or a Tinder hookup. It stays locked. You stay home. Nothing changes.

Nobody will come through it, carrying bags of groceries, good-naturedly whingeing about the traffic or their boss or the Tube or the weather, chucking the kettle on, turning the TV down one notch because you had it too loud, and chucking you under the chin before asking how your day was. Just a closed door. The world beyond it. You within.

And this is why people go on dates. This is why, night after night, week after week, year upon year, into infinite millennia, hopeful, yet defeated, singletons sit in All Bar Ones swirling a chunk of lime round a gin and tonic with a cocktail stirrer, listening to Toby or Jessica or Jamie or Zoe talk about that time they befriended a yoghurt maker on their gap year in Patagonia. This is why they accept that clumsy attempt at a kiss, an ill-focused, half-hearted slobber that’s supposed to invoke passion but feels more like an invocation of Article 50. This is why, after date three, they invite them in for lacklustre sex, and weak coffee the next morning, and a cold sore three days later. This is why they get married. The door. Always closed. That stupid sodding door.

Hoping to find someone to fiddle with their latch this week are Lucy, 27, a jewellery studio assistant, and 26-year-old business analyst Vik. I mean, if you squint hard enough, you can practically see the hashtag they’ll pick for their wedding watermarked over their faces can’t you? Read what happened on the date, roll your eyes a bit, stub out your Senior Service and come join me back here for some scalding hot tea.

Lucy starts. She’s in pink. Vik is in blue. Don’t @ about me this.

lucy hope

I am all for aiming high, but Paul Newman was like some other-worldly being when it came to good looks. I’ve been on this planet a long time, and dated many, many Guardian readers and the number who came even within 10,000 sexometres of Paul Newman was precisely zero.

tumblr_mb35p360C01qkg5u5o1_500

Also, I’m not really into fancying people who are, like, dead now. It’s a tiny bit weird.

vik hope

Here you go. Treat yourself:

5114995_orig

lucy first

A winning smile. I, sadly, have a smile that came in fourth but tried very, very hard and would like a rosette, please.

vik first

🤔

Why doesn’t this sound like a compliment? Look, we’re pretty early on here so I’m going to play nice and hold my tongue but if this is going where I think it’s going then please have some Aloe Vera handy.

lucy talk

vik talk

Like they’re not even in the same room.

lucy awks

How much are you betting that while she tried to locate this Oyster card – it’s at the bottom of your massive bag, Lucy, where you left it – she stood right in front of the barriers, while the rest of London convulsed and drove itself into a mindless frenzy because we simply cannot be delayed longer than 1.5 milliseconds because we are, generally, awful? £100? £1,000,000?

vik awks

Our first mention of Pokémon Go in the Blind Date column – truly the carbon dating of the non-scientific, beige arena! I don’t play it and I don’t particularly care if other people do – it’s not like I don’t walk around staring at my phone all day anyway. It’s just that instead of trying to catch virtual… are they animals? I have no idea. Anyway, instead of doing that I read hot takes on Twitter and status updates on Facebook from Sean and Tracy who I went to school with and now live in the flats at the end of my mum’s road. No, not those flats. The other ones.

However. People into gaming trying to convince those who aren’t why gaming is amazing – just don’t bother. We are honestly not interested, as when you reel off all the names of the Pokémon and say things like Pokestop and Pokegym, all we can think of is how we can not only never fuck you, but also potentially  go back in time and unfuck every fuck you’ve ever had, on behalf of your previous victims.

Oh look it’s table manners and oh my God.

lucy table

blam slow

They went to a Japanese restaurant on the date, so sharing is kind of understandable if they got sushi, or whatever. But you have to eat loads of that stuff to even feel half-full, like TONNES, so if you are eating it with someone who is what you might call an inconsiderate sharer, you are very likely to have a grumbling belly the rest of the evening. This may explain why Vik is distractedly giving his answers like he’s trying to bat a fly away from him while he sunbathes – he’s ravenous.

Can’t find her ticket at the barrier, ‘shares’  and nicks all the food. Is Lucy short for LUCIFER?

vik table

You have to be supremely confident with chopsticks to even pick them up on a first date, let alone eat with them, so I’m assuming Lucy knew she had this wizard skill and wanted to assert her power very early on, and good on her for that.

lucy best

patsy vodka

“Interesting travel tales.” Contradiction in terms, sweetie.

vik best thing

elizabeth taylor necklace

That’s it? Her bird tattoo? I mean, mate, I know she hogged the sashimi and showed you up with her chopstick twirling, but the best thing you can say about a woman is she had a nice tattoo? You’re totally voiding her personality or any other interesting character traits in favour of something she paid to have drawn upon her? I don’t know – it’s a bit like someone coming to your wedding and saying the best thing about it was the starter or the front teeth of your second groomsman.

Hang on: “chirpy” earlier on, “bird tattoo” now. Either Vik has an avian fetish or he is trying to stealthily communicate, with the debilitating terror of a hostage, that Lucy is actually thirteen budgerigars standing on top of one another in a raincoat.

lucy lucy friends

Well, of course you would. Unless your date is a huge sociopath or wears a Donald Trump wig because it’s better than their own hair, you should, on the whole, be able to introduce them to anyone. Similarities are important; they can create quick bonds and make for good times. But you tend to find stronger, more resilient, eternal connections are made from the very things that stand you apart from one another.

vik friends

Fun game, almost as fun as Pokémon Go: reread this answer and then, straight after sing “man-baby” to the tune of Goldfinger. “Man-baby! Wah-waaaaaah-wah. He’s the man, the man who’s a man baaaaay-beeeeee.” It never gets old.

Shirley Bassey smaller

I am literally done with this weapons-grade clean-shirtism. How long have we got left?

lucy three

blanche spray

Dashing. Wow. Lucy, I’ll forgive it all. The Oyster card, the food sharing, all of it a mere memory, if you will promise we can get married and you will call me dashing every day for the rest of our lives because that is a compliment I would KILL to own.

Dashing. Amazing. I’ll even overlook the ‘chatty’ – what did poor ‘talkative’ do to be so roundly ignored by millennials?

vik three

Is Vik describing Lucy or is he talking about a zebra finch? There is something not quite right here. Vik’s answers are very detached, like he’s reciting them off cue cards or translating someone else’s answers out of Swedish. Lucy’s enthusiasm seems completely at odds with Vik’s slow trudge toward the gallows – what’s going on?

lucy made of you

It seems Lucy is just as confused, because this isn’t an actual answer – it’s deflection,  another way of saying “I have literally no idea”.

vik made

1275

I’m sorry, but “happy chappy” is one of those terms I really want to see languish at the bottom of a bin for all eternity, along with: cheeky chappy, top geezer, classy bird, not a happy bunny, know what I mean, hun, hunni, chic when people mean chick and not actually chic, lads, alright lads, rofl, the boy, date night, oftentimes, happy holidays, ‘Beefa, sundowners, cheeky negronis, happenstance, voddy and coke, tidbits, titbits, what a coinkydink, the answer may surprise you, the perfect response, love trumps hate, all lives matter, hardworking families, your children’s future and PIMM’S O’CLOCK.

Lucy kiss

Oh wow, I love this. My Yorkshire grandma would’ve said this.

Gosh, getting old is awful. How I miss being the apple of someone’s eye and sitting at my grandma’s kitchen table, eating Weetabix with hot milk with my favourite spoon – every child should have a favourite spoon, my cousin and I used to FIGHT over who got to eat cereal with this spoon. Now I can’t eat Weetabix because of the gluten or whatever and I don’t know who got that spoon in the end and there are bills and Brexit.

vik change 1

lucy change

Genie-Teaches-You-To-Tell-The-Truth-In-Aladdin

It’s more what they don’t say than what they do, isn’t it? It’s like when you look back at people’s diary entries for the day man landed on the moon in 1969, and it’s all the usual trivia of the era, like work and mates and dinner, and then a small addendum about the big event, the one we go on and on and on about here in their future. There’s a moon landing in this date somewhere and our intrepid reporters have either missed the scoop or are wilfully covering it up.

lucy score

vik score

Emma-Stone-gifs-3

Oh shit. 6. Six. The gentleman’s zero. Six is nought, it really is. It’s a vacuum disguising itself as a happening. Is it face-saving? It sometimes is. Did Vik think Lucy wasn’t interested at all? Or is this about bloody Pokémon? *opening strings to Goldfinger begin*

And Lucy marked him nine. A 9 is a brave mark; she liked him and wanted him to know she thought he was a good guy. We’re going to be in a magazine, she probably thought, I don’t want to damage any potentially fragile sensibilities by totally throwing him under the wheels of a burning hot Routemaster. So, a 9, for a nice evening. You can feel the tyres bumping over her, can’t you? For it is Lucy who has ended up under the 148 to Camberwell Green.

Sometimes when you don’t know what to say about something, you should just stop speaking, so I’ll let the daters finish things off with the killer question: repeat performance?

luxy meet

katherine hepburn

vik marks

Smoking-clark-gable-35402896-500-368

Photograph: Alicia Canter and Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. If you want to give your side of the story, and tell me what the holy hell really happened here,  get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.

Note 2: I recently lost out on some regular work and am actively looking for work/commissions/anything. If you enjoy this blog or other stuff I’ve written, please do get in touch with me. Asking here is the most mortifying thing I’ve ever done, but I have bills to pay and writers don’t earn that much. If you have something, please contact me.

Note 3: The Blind Date blog will be taking a break during August. 

Lou and George

Lou and George

It’s always hard to return from a vacation. You step out, blinking furiously, into the airport terminal to be greeted by papers featuring headlines with the worst news possible: it’s been hotter in the UK than where you were holidaying. After a bumpy, sweltering ride in a taxi driven by a sociopathic huckster who listens to Talk Sport at road-drill decibels, you both arrive back at your flat, which isn’t as nice or clean as you remember it, unlock the door, clamber over the mountains of post – all bills and leaflets advertising the same takeaway – and collapse on your sofa. As you stare up at the ceiling, the crushing familiarity of it all leaves a sour taste in your mouth, your suitcases – still unpacked and dumped in the hallway, as they will be for the next four days – reminding of you what was, who you were for a couple of too-short weeks. You bronzed, you danced, you drank, you sang, you mildly bickered over breakfast, you drank again. But now you’re back. And there’s no milk.

But if there’s one familiar feeling bound to cheer you up, it’s the Guardian’s Blind Date column. Week in, week out, there it is, putting two halves of impossible together for the briefest of evenings and printing the results for all of us to see.

This week, Lou, a 31-year-old makeup artist, and George, 25, a digital marketing manager are limbering up for what could be the best night of their lives. Read what happened on the date before, together, we gather round the cauldron and see what wickedness we can conjure up.

Lou, like her speech bubble in the main pic, is in pink, just as George is in yellow.

lou hope

I like the melding of science and romance here. As for the “somewhere lovely”, well, I had a quick click through and the place looks very nice, but I did notice in the Innocent smoothie packaging-type blurb for their Sunday lunches, they referred to Yorkshire puddings as “yorkies” so I’m afraid they are going on. the. list.

A Yorkie is a chocolate bar and, at a push, a yapping little terrier with scant regard for your ankles or your carpets. It is NEVER a Yorkshire pudding.

geo hope

If the comments under every single article published on the site are anything to go by – and assuming they’re representative of all readers, which I’m sure they aren’t – you may be left wanting here, George, but I’ll keep everything crossed for you.

Lou first

Well, if Lou fancies the young Frank Sinatra, I think it’s fair to say that she and I shall never fight in the street over a man, but to be called handsome and smart in the same breath – and within seconds of someone laying eyes on you – it’s one hell of a rush. We live in this odd world where women are told they’re pretty from the very moment they can stand up, while boys are congratulated on being strong or clever. It is, of course, patriarchal, sexist, nonsense, but along with reclaiming the strong and powerful characteristics for women, I want to get backfor men the supposedly shallow ones.

Men love to be told they’re beautiful, because they hardly ever hear it. Perhaps they hear it in raw forms, like they’re “fit” or “shaggable” or that “you would” – don’t ever, ever say this to anyone, it’s disgusting – but around toddler age, boys stop being beautiful, and it’s a real shame. It’s not just about looks, either; you can have a face like Plug from the Bash Street Kids and still be a beautiful person or have a handsome or graceful quality to you. We look upon appreciations of beauty or attractiveness as vapid, or a way to get something you want through flattery – but someone taking stock of you and telling you how well you put everything together, how great you look, it’s recognition. Call it empty validation if you want, but we don’t spend hours in the mirror, agonising over outfits for nothing, do we? For someone to notice is all we’re after. So, notice. Look up more.

Anyway, George is quite handsome so this is all going well and we will politely ignore that “sweet” which is usually seat 1A on the short-haul, one-a-day flight to the mystical desert island of friendzoning and obscurity.

Geo first

You see, this is good too because despite what I say up there, I do feel sometimes – in this column anyway – that the men are afraid to say they find the women attractive. Obviously leering over them would be horrible, but the idea of going on a date is to be attracted to somebody, and looks play a big part in it. I’m not sure about the “down to earth” because it seems to me to be a QR code for “common”, but maybe that’s because I live my entire life with my head in a Victoria Wood sketch.

lou talk

“The joys of being northern.” I lost count how many times I would turn up on a date, and speak, only for my date to look slightly crestfallen and say, “Oh, you don’t have a Yorkshire accent”, like I had somehow defrauded them in the blurb on my dating profile. There’d be two reasons. Either they too would come from the north and had been hoping to spend an entire evening banging on about how great the north is – like Cilla Black in her cheery opening monologues on Blind Date – or they were an accent fetishist. Oh, you know the type. “I just love an Irish accent,” they say. Really? Will any do? Does it matter who it’s attached to? Imagine them sitting at home watching the news in paroxysms of ecstasy as Ian Paisley spouted forth, or gripping their radio in a passionate climax as Graham Norton read out a listener’s letter.

I have no problem with the north. It made me. But it always feels dishonest of me to eulogise it, to go on a date and wax lyrical about how great it is, how much friendlier, and cheaper and safer. It may be all of those things, but I left it. I went elsewhere. It’s like dumping an ex – save your post-match analysis and acclaim of how great they were, really, despite it all. It’s too late.

geo talk

Despite the tantalising fact George doesn’t refer to the death of any fish or the dodginess of a doddery film director, these conversation topics match up quite well. Do I need to have my wedding suit dry-cleaned?

Lou awks

When you’re 25, you can eat what the hell you want – this is the problem. I have a theory that, with a few exceptions of course, foodiness only starts to rear its ugly, kale-loving head once your thus-far speedy metabolism taps you on the shoulder and tells you it’s breaking up with you. I will never forget sailing past the magic age of 29 and feeling my buttons strain and realising I was going to have to get much better acquainted with salad and perhaps cancel my regular, filthy hookups with Ronald McDonald.

One day, George will spend his days staring wistfully at young guns chowing down on an irono-pizza with cheesy fries and extra thick milkshake, while he eats steamed rice and chicken for lunch for the 18th day in a row. Until then, let the boy have his burgers with the lads.

geo awks

anne hathwaway look

lou table

geo table

miss your mom

lou best

I’m never sure how you get the idea someone is caring when you meet them for the first time, but maybe George had a horse with him, and perhaps he kept pausing the conversation to go outside and feed it hay or brush it.

Geo best thing

Well, Jessica Fletcher wouldn’t even have to get out of bed, go to a party and get someone murdered to work out which politicians these two wouldn’t like, but what about the music?

What’s “the right music”? This is more important than you’d think. Sure, you’ve got your headphones to escape to if things get too bad, but music sounds so much better when it’s appreciated together. That said, an important part of relationship “bantz” is to each have a favourite artist or song or genre that the other thinks is ridiculous, or noise, or mere trolling. Differences between you can, at times, be a stickier glue than shared interests.

lou friends

Geo friends

😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

It’s this question, isn’t it? This is the one. This is the barometer to divine whether you’re a garbage person or not. Someone who thinks their group of pals is too avant-garde, or too precious to be introduced to anyone? Bin. Anyone who thinks their date is too embarrassing, too run-of-the-mill, too beige to meet this delightful coterie of hangers-on and people who haggle over bar bills? Bin.

He is a sweetheart and she is a queen. I feel something. And it’s not indigestion.

beyonce lick crazy

lou three

geo three

Handsome again – yes. George doesn’t comment on Lou’s looks but I’d wager this is because he’s trying to be respectful, rather than not fancying her. At least this is what I’m telling myself because it is summer and everything is so green and bright and wouldn’t it be nice?

geo made of you

chrissy teigen hold head 2

Hey George, just a quick pep talk because you’re doing well, and I think you managed to pull off the whole “burgers with the lads” thing okay, but, just to let you know: this is a really bad joke and I know it maybe kind of worked in your head when you were sending your answers in over email because, y’know, manure, mature, manure, mature etc, but it doesn’t come together too great in the finished product and I really thought I should make you aware, especially because you’ve read that back yourself this morning in the magazine, haven’t you, and put your head in your hands and said, perhaps out loud to whichever hungover mate is clumsily preparing a fry-up for you, “Why the hell did I say that? That’s rubbish!” Haven’t you? Anyway, you’re right, it is.

lou go on

I say the word “lovely” far too much too. But this is promising, isn’t it? Lovely. They went on somewhere. Lovely. She thinks he’s handsome, he thinks she’s passionate – they say that a lot, too, in this column, don’t they? I’ll have to investigate that one more next week. Anyway, back in the now: what could possibly go wrong?

geo change

OK. Good. *nervous cough*

lou spark

ezgif.com-gif-maker-2

Spark. How many times have you sat bored to death listening to a friend whinging a date they went on was a disaster because there was no ‘spark’. What is this spark? It’s time to call this out for the rubbish it truly is. It’s what you say when the date went perfectly well, but you don’t want to kiss them, and can’t think why.

It’s a non-explanation. Know how I know? Because I used to say it. All the time. “Oh, I just didn’t feel a spark,” I’d idly text, after a night of dull chat or bad sex or horrible nasal hair or weird opinions on the NHS. You know why the spark argument is so popular? Because its incontestable. It can’t be quibbled. Nobody ever comes back for more explanation after a “no spark” text – they know there’s no way back, and what they would hear would only destroy them. But this is not a text message to a guy who kissed like he was licking custard off a hairbrush – it’s a magazine column and I want dirt, not a mythical spark that never made flame.

Spark. Chemistry. We need a bunsen burner and a lab coat, STAT.

Oh well. Let’s limp, dejectedly, to the scores.

lou marks

george score

Seven. Shit. That’s a lot of points knocked off for a lack of ignition. A seven is the polite 1. The face-saving 1. A 1 wearing a wedding dress with sleeves, as a mark of respect. But it is a 1 all the same.

George’s 8.9 is actually a 10 that is pretending to be a 9, but he couldn’t put a 9 because he’d look too keen and because “lad”.

Oh, Lou. Oh, George. You have reminded me there is no milk.

It’s like we’re at a cash machine and it’s just refused to give us money. We are desperate, and we are stupid, so we put our card in again, just to make sure it’s not a mistake. Even as we punch in our PIN and listen to the low murmur of the machine gearing up to mockingly offer us our ‘options’ again, we know it’s pointless. But we blunder on. So, instead of a “cash no receipt” button to optimistically press, we ask here: “will you meet again?”

george meet

louis tomlinson

lou meet

please don't leave me

Photograph: David Levene; Graeme Robertson, both for the Guardian

Note: I am in the ACTUAL Guardian Weekend magazine today, with a fun guide to rejection and how it can actually be a good thing. It’s in print if you want to feel my words in your fingers, with a very nice illustration, or you can read it online. Please do read it so they ask me to do more. ‘It’s not me, it’s you’: a loser’s guide to dealing with rejection

Note 2: I lost a client this week thanks to Brexit, so I am actively looking for work/commissions/anything. If you have even half-liked anything I’ve ever written, please do get in touch with me. I don’t just do this kind of stuff; I also manage and create corporate and brand content, do social media, music and things like TOV and style guides. Asking here is tacky, and I know it, but I’d really appreciate it. Contact me.

Note 3: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great. I’m just… y’know, disappointed. I get the spark thing; I just wanted you to be happy. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.

Note 4: The Blind Date blog is taking a break from 13th August. 

 

 

 

A weekly roast of the splendid, stupid or sexless things said by participants in the Guardian Blind Date column.

%d bloggers like this: