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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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ellen meet

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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.

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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:

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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

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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

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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

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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. 

 

 

 

Alastair and Charlotte

750 Charlotte and Alastair copy

We live in dark times, you may have noticed. The country is taking it in turns to feel angry and disenfranchised, racist attacks are on the up, America seems intent on blowing its own brains out, feather-headed law students are hysterical because their professor wore a #BlackLivesMatter T-shirt and, best of all, we have Evil Edna from Willo the Wisp and a malfunctioning  wet-nurse android battling it out to be the next Prime Minister of the UK, before it disintegrates.

What light relief will save us now? A basket of puppies and tasteful white candles brought to us in our dressing room, Mariah-style? The recommissioning of Goodnight Sweetheart? Or maybe a hint of romance between a proto-Zandra Rhodes and a man going as a Tory MP “for Halloween”? Well, hold on to your hats, Britain, I can deliver one of those for you right now.

Read what happened on the date between 27-year-old tax adviser Alastair and Charlotte, 22, a TV production student, before I jump in with my pencil case and crayon all over the skirting board in a desperate play for attention.

Alastair kicks us off and is in blue. Charlotte, like the hair, is in pink.

Al hope

Might I suggest walking down Oxford Street with a golfing umbrella on a windy day?

char hope

One of them says this every week now. I think we’re being trolled. No higher hopes other than the perfectly reasonable and attainable aspiration that you might have something nice to eat and meet a cool person when being set up on a date by a newspaper who is also paying for said meal? No? Nothing? Don’t want to dream a little bigger? At least Alastair was hoping to fall over.

al first

I wonder if, like a toddler who doesn’t get out much, Alastair is prone to pointing at things and exclaiming loudly exactly what he can see. Imagine the bus journey to the date. Car! Building! Traffic! Waiter! Chair! Blue hair!

Charlotte’s hair is pink in the photo, of course, but I’m afraid I must shatter the widely held illusion that the daters are photographed just before or just after the date. It can be months before they find the perfect match. It’s almost like something could be putting them off applying – I have no idea what.

char first

A great smile is a great smile and when you see one, you’ve got to appreciate it. It feels very early for “chatty” to be wheeled on in its iron lung, but I have a feeling this is meant more sincerely than usual, when it’s customarily used as a low-level diss by someone who couldn’t get a word in.

Guys, I think we have what used to be known pre-Brexit as good people here. Do you remember the good people? Were you one of them, once? They’re funny and kind, they wait patiently at pelican crossings, they worry a bit when they see an elderly person hobbling down the street on a dark night and they’d never hurt a dog. Were they a dream? Did they get deported overnight by the frothing, thrashing mobs of “I think you’ll find” and “well, actually” and “I want my country back”, in Union Jack shoes and ill-fitting suits, religiously keeping appointments at the hairdressers yet sending the country down a helter-skelter with no sides, baying at the moon for recognition, aiming air rifles into the sky and shooting out all the stars? I hope there are some of the good ones left; we’re going to need them.

al talk

char talk

I know I place a lot of importance on the things people talk about on dates and can get quite forensic about what they don’t say, but this does not sound dull. Well, apart from tax, maybe. What do two people in their 20s have to say about tax? I don’t think I knew what tax actually was until I was 34.

I’m usually very against politics being mentioned on a first date because, like politicians, it does tend to be a very overbearing subject that can take over the entire date and leave little room for life experience and emotion. But we now live in a state of bizarre pre-wakefulness hysteria where politics is suddenly everything. The Kardashians could burst into flames tomorrow and nobody would notice.  Politics is the new red carpet. Brexit has usurped Brangelina.  Heat will have a Miliband brother as their torso of the week before 2016 is out. (Fingers crossed it’s David, eh?)

al awks

char awks

jon stewart heart eyes

al table

char table

The only “wine-pouring skill” I have is the talent for putting more in my glass then I ever will in yours. Is that what she means?

al friends

char friends

See? Look. We’re not lost. There is hope. The Guardian Blind Date column, usually a gladiatorial arena packed to the rafters with sociopathic points-scoring and drivelling, misfiring attempts at snark that wouldn’t even make the second draft of a script for a Radio 4 comedy, is suddenly a bright beacon shining on the crumbling white cliffs of wherever it was. We can be as one again. Call off the construction workers – let Hadrian’s Wall be for today.

al three

I’d be happy to overhear someone saying this about me, wouldn’t you? Sure, the “grounded” does make it sound like you wear the same shirt two days in a row and would be perfectly OK with farting in a supermarket – and wafting it around – but these are good things to say about a person. Good. We can do good.

char three

As regular readers of this blog will know, engaging used as a compliment for anything other than a safety training video at an induction to work the grill at Burger King is not my favourite. It seems like such a waste of a word to describe a person, an actual living thing in front of you. It’s a service word, jargon. It belongs in school reports and letters from the bank and the mouths of lawyers negotiating your third divorce – it is not to be uttered in the first breathless whispers of romance. Ban it. Ban it now.

Nice work on the other two words, though, Char.

thumbs up

al made

char made of you

This is self-deprecation done right, isn’t it? It’s the bits about yourself that you know are kiiiiiind of irritating but you don’t really care because you are you, and if you have to live with you 24 hours a day, then they’ll have to get used to it too.

It’s adorable that both of them think they talk too much – or at least claim to think that, because, NEWSFLASH, people who admit being garrulous are usually absolutely SHAMELESS about it and are just pretending it’s a negative quality because all our very worst primary school teachers conditioned us to think that way. It makes me have feelings I haven’t felt about this column for some time. Unless one of them pulls out a secret penchant for fascist memorabilia or a pair of Union Jack shoes, with pointed toes, then I think I can safely say I like these two.

char go on

OJ did you do it

I mean, did you? You’re 22 and 27 (it says here), you have your whole lives ahead of you. Tell me you took the opportunity and ordered a third bottle of wine to take home in the cab, whereupon you crept into the flat so as not to wake your no doubt really annoying and earnest flatmates, navigated discarded pizza boxes and dried-up dishcloths on filthy worktops and tumbled into the bedroom, blurting out “excuse the mess” and clearing the Xbox and half-eaten cronut off the bed before slamming onto it and getting nasty? Did you? No? Really? Oh.

al kiss

Oh well at least you necked. I was about to consign you both to the very bottom of my kitchen bin.

al change

how dare you

Don’t ever let me hear you say that again, Alastair. Don’t ever regret what wine can do for you. You think it was just your looks and charm that snared Charlotte’s kiss? Yeah guess what, babycakes, none of us are going to be on the cover of Vogue any time soon and nobody is that fascinating. Wine does for us what no PR could ever do. Wine was there for you, it delivered for you, it brought the night home. Recognise your idol and kneel before it. And go wash your mouth out – perhaps with some more wine.

char change

Feels-reaction-gif

I don’t want this to end either. Can you two come back next week? Oh, actually, there’s no blog from me next week. Week after?

We’re at the scores now. I’m sensing two perfect tens gleaming like they’ve just been Silvoed to within an inch of their lives, a celebratory glass of ‘bubbles’ and an Uber home. Guys?

al marks

edina bright light

Where is my 10? And what the hell is an 8.7? You kissed! Unless she had a lizard tongue or still had an onion between her teeth from dinner, any date where you kiss and it’s not terrible cannot be lower than a 9. I don’t make the rules. Except I do.

char marks

madonna vogue mtv vma

Eight. I see. I thought this was the generation where everyone has to get top marks, where there’s a prize for everyone? Not so, it seems – these two have the brutal marking strategies of Craig Revel-Horwood on Strictly when his hip’s playing up. What do you have to do to get a 10, I wonder? Have genitals made of nothing but money and gold? Cher’s phone number in your mobile phone? Tickets for Hamilton? We’ll never know.

But despite the scoring showing the zoned-out level of excitement you’d expect from a teenager deciding which baked bean to eat next, all can be redeemed with the final question. It’s the clincher: will floppy hair meet pastel-coloured bonce for another round of political ping-pong? Come on guys, of all weeks, we really need this.

char meet

Businesslike, but positive. There’s an unexpected item in the bagging area but it’s OK – you can see the assistant coming.

al meet

Heart. Eyes. Emoji.

harry air punch 2

BOOM. See you in two weeks.

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. In fact, I’m bang into them this week. 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.

Another note: Remember, there will be no Blind Date blog next Saturday 16th July. Please don’t tweet abuse at me for missing a week; it’s a bit unsettling.

Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian

Jon and Karen

Karen Jon 750

Appearances can be deceptive. It sounds obvious to say it but most of us, when we look at someone charming and beautiful, don’t want to believe there’s anything sinister going on beneath the surface. But the sad truth is, we should all come with government health warnings. Even the most saintly or virtuous people have a secret chamber of horrors lurking within – it may take you for ever to find it, but it’s there.

In a world where everyone is falling over themselves to tell you how straight-talking they are, we tend to forget this. Like going into H&M and asking if they have something in another size and being told “all stock is out on the shop floor”, we assume because everyone is being frank and honest – and all those other words we use instead of “boring, rude and opinionated” – that there’s nothing more to come, that all the grossness is there for us to see. But this is the problem, there’s more. So much more, left unsaid. Don’t believe me? Cast your eye back over Britain across the last couple of weeks or so. Whether you’re a baker in Barnsley, or Boris Johnson, bile will out. And the real killer is, when it does come out, it’s not what you were expecting, it’s worse, and, usually, much to your horror, the demon in the room is you.

Hoping to keep a lid on their garbage opinions this week are 24-year-old Jon, a technology journalist, and Karen, 26, a visual merchandiser. Read what happened on their date, which sounds like a real treat, before I wade in to make everything even worse.

Jon starts us off and is in blue. Karen’s in pink. Fairly obvious colour coding, I know, but do you really want to have to think about this too much? It’s Saturday.

jon hope

You would think, wouldn’t you, that these are fairly achievable goals? Almost too easy, like waking up in the morning and saying you hope “there’ll be some weather at some point today”. And yet, I have read ahead, and I reckon Jon might have gone home a couple of checkmarks short from this bucket list.

karen hope

You’re in luck! Well, about the Instagramming anyway. I had a quick breeze over to the restaurant’s website and, sure enough, there’s a gallery of all the things you can order and it looks like just like your favourite earnest food blogger’s Insta. See?

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 08.15.03

I’ll gloss over the fact the pictures of the restaurant itself – the Criterion, one of the most gorgeous rooms I’ve ever been in – look like they were taken on an iPhone 3 by someone also taking part in a sponsored swim at the same time.

Anyway, I hope Karen got her phone out and did some serious uploading – Instagram likes are the only hearts she’ll be leaving with tonight.

Also, “to meet my future husband” – is this what being 26 is like now? Keep it.

jon first

Jon works in tech journalism so I’m going to have to take his sartorial judgement with a pinch of salt, I’m afraid. Sadly, the full length version of the date picture is unavailable to me today because of tech issues – perhaps Jon would know what to do – so I can’t tell you whether Jon has a clue in the fashion stakes or not.

karen first

post-37726-0-05697300-1436300988

Karen is like one of those contestants on Catchphrase who takes “say what you see” literally and just screams any words to describe what her eyes recognise. Yes, he has specs on and, yes, he has what someone who was feeling very generous might call a beard. But how did you feel? Either Karen is an android or she doesn’t know that a first impression is an opinion, not a fact. I mean, go wild with it!

jon talk

Telling someone your favourite member of Busted is Charlie was the most popular way of coming out as gay in 2003.

The “pleasant, but superficial” here is a very Dowager Countess kind of burn, but a burn it definitely is. Jon is trying to say, with all the subtlety of a someone driving a JCB around a crazy golf course, that he is a CLEVER PERSON who talks about the BIG ISSUES. Of course, it takes two to ride a tandem, and it doesn’t sound like Jon was particularly interested in steering the conversation anywhere more cerebral:

karen takk

margo tenenbaums

I am hesitant to roll my eyes and chuck out the word “millennial” to dismiss this, because it’s just so lazy and obvious and everybody else does it. But, honestly, show me a more Generation Y triumvirate of chat than that and I will give you a biscuit.

I wish people concentrated more on actually being fucking interesting on Twitter, rather than getting verified so they can pretend they are.

Oh, and it’s not a ‘blue tick’, which I am willing to bet the entire GDP of the nation, or whatever’s left, that’s what these two called it. The badge is blue, the tick is white. I will definitely go down with this ship – you see if I don’t.

That said, what’s wrong with talking about “pleasant but superficial”  stuff on a date? How deep and meaningful do you want to get when you meet each other for the first time? You’re in your 20s, it should be curt hellos, seven double vodkas with sambuca chasers and a taxi to whoever’s bedsit is the nearest. Get with it, millennials.

Jon awks

Ah. Straight-talking, you see; it’s overrated. I won’t comment on the journalist mentioned here, because I haven’t really read anything she’s been involved with for quite some time, but what I do know is “telling it like it is” is the biggest lie of the 21st century.

People who “tell it like it is” are doing nothing of the sort. They think they’re being very clever, blurting out opinion dressed up as fact and “saying what everyone is thinking”. But, the thing is, that toddlers also say what everyone’s thinking when, in the post office queue, they point at a bald man and ask why he has no hair. It’s accepted they do that because their brains haven’t finished growing yet, so they can’t make a call on what is appropriate to think and to say; they have no cultural awareness that allows them to make fully formed judgements. They are just telling it like it is.

People tell it like it is when they don’t know how to think. It is beyond them. Intelligent people who tell it like it is, however, are the most malevolent of them all – they’re the ones pointing out the bald man to the toddler and offering him a sweetie to say what everyone is thinking.

Enjoy your sweetie, darling.

karen awks

If the moment described by Jon above truly was awkward, why doesn’t Karen mention it at all? I mean, I’m assuming intellectual heavyweight Jon, so bored by the pleasant but superficial chatter, seized this opportunity to explain to Karen why admiring this columnist was distasteful. How could he resist telling Karen that the columnist has a grim attitude toward migrants, women, Muslims and pretty much anyone who isn’t white and middle-class and/or doesn’t agree with her? He saw his chance, I am sure, to explain that while she might be cool with some women and some poor people and, for example, gay people desperate to label her an icon, she dismisses other minorities which are very likely to include those people she professes to adore.

A man literally handed a ticket to dole out some weapons-grade mansplaining and he didn’t take it? Nope? No mention? This is unprecedented. We can only assume, then, that Jon let Karen fall down that particular hole, sat back in his chair and thought “that will make a great response for the Blind Date column”.

Don’t complain about conversation being shallow if you’re not prepared to get your swimming trunks wet.

madonna

We’ll skip table manners as there is a LOT to get through today and it’s gone 9.

Jon best thing

Imagine saying the best thing about someone was they laughed at jokes you knew were shit but still told anyway.

Karen best thing

“Pleasant, but superficial” indeed. I don’t think there’ll be a seat at the Algonquin Round Table for Jon just yet, do you?

jon friends

giphy

We GET it. You and your friends are a herd of Einsteins roaming majestically across a land built of science labs, broadsheet newspapers and think tanks, while Karen is a big pink Michael Kors handbag left on a stool in the champagne bar in the Westfield at White City.

What could they possibly have to talk about? Hmm, well I bet they’d certainly find something to say about YOU when you sloped off to the toilet to practise your zingers.

karen friends

Try turning it off and on again and then just throw it in the bin, Karen. You might as well.

jon made of you

Yeah, probably. Great first-date material that, laying into an actor. who, I imagine, your date quite likes.  Guaranteed to endear you.

It sounds to me like Jon wanted Karen to think he was awkward and intense., like they were positive attributes. I mean, I guess it works on Marlon Brando and James Dean or even James Franco (they’re celebrities, Jon, do look them up) but to carry off intense and awkward you also have to be… interesting enough that people persevere and, indeed, care?

Karen made of you

This makes me sad. Here, it seems Karen is saying, “I know I’m awful, but hey” and while this can be a good attitude to have sometimes – because everyone is awful, whether they like to admit or not – it feels to me Karen is apologising for who she is.

I see a lot of women in this column say that they reckon the guy thought they were “scatty” and it annoys me on all sorts of levels. If a man thinks you’re scatty, it’s because his own fly’s testicle of a brain can only deal with one thought at once  – and that thought is “be a man and own everything”.

All this dumbing down to make people like us, or to make up for the fact that they don’t. “Oh I was too scatty. I was so awkward and intense.” Self-deprecation is hugely overrated. It’s damaging, because eventually you start to believe it, and then you really are fucked.

jon three

Jon describing Karen like he’s selling a puppy to a lovely family who came all the way from Warminster to buy the pick of the litter – except that one’s been taken.

karen three

Karen describing Jon exactly as he’d hoped, the smug bastard.

jon kiss

This has been a difficult read, hasn’t it? Jon being really condescending, Karen being as wilfully basic as her life force will allow, but out of all their try-hard, race to the bottom answers, I think it’s this one that will tip me over the edge.

It’s so carefully constructed, so purposeful – playing so damn hard to the peanut gallery that it’s in danger of keeling over and having a stroke right there in the middle of the stage, under those sweltering lights. It was typed and retyped, triple-checked for syntax and then, when Jon was done, he sat back in his chair with his hands behind his head and thought “this is the one all my mates will love”. This answer is everyone who ever got one over on you that you can’t get out of your mind. Your nemesis in 18 words.

24 years old. So long left to live. I wonder how much he’ll learn in all that time. Let’s hope this isn’t it.

karen kiss

Oh God, Karen, with your MTV Real Life Chicago hey dude whatever vibes.  If I promised you 1000 Insta likes by teatime, would you promise to talk about how you felt? I mean, you like a columnist who tell it like it is (good one, btw) yet you have  said literally zero of any consequence throughout. Be like your hero Katie, just this once! Tell it! Tell me something! Even if it’s to say he’s an arsehole!

jon change

karen change

43b577a4f39aa8607772f52466963388

The absolute state of people in their 20s in 2016. I hope everyone under 30 reading this now winces, and feels like those six people who voted Leave in the EU referendum, but aren’t racist.

This is who speaks for you – two carrier bags filled with water and plonked in a fancy restaurant, playing hot potato with the one brain-cell nature has allowed them to share for the evening.

karen score

jon score

Scores that low but wouldn’t change anything about the evening except your main course? You are not my people.

So. The end. Will they meet again? Will Jon finally manage to get that intellectual pow-wow he so desperately craves? Will Karen step away from Instagram long enough to realise that the bloke opposite her during dinner might actually be Draco Malfoy – oh, of course she won’t, she’s only read one of the books. (I, too, only read one FYI.)

It’s the final question and I can’t wait never to see either of these two again.

jon meet

Oh, bore off, second least interesting member of the audience on Question Time.

karen meet

HA! Karen waited right until the end to deliver her final body blow. “A bit young for me.” That two-year age difference was the killer all along. Who knew?

And as for the spark?

spark koala explosion

Update: Karen offers her version of events

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 it’s early. Too early for this. 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.

Another note: There will be no Blind Date blog on 16th July. 

Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian

Simon and Caz

Simon and Caz 1

There used to be a really interesting looking shop on Shepherd’s Bush Road in Hammersmith, the quirky middle-class kind of place with a mix of antique furniture, up-cycled old rubbish and stuff your working-class mum would’ve thrown away as old-fashioned in the ’90s. It looked like it could either be full of beautiful old treasures or a load of flea market tat, and I was always fascinated by it, but never went in. Next time, I said. Next time.

I walked by it again the other day. It was closed. For ever. The shop was totally empty; lettering removed from windows and the peeling sign above; light fittings dangling scrawny and bare. When I looked again, my eyes adjusting to the gloom within, I noticed there was one piece of furniture left: a great, imposing dark sideboard, like my grandmother used to own to store tumblers, shot glasses, letters she wanted to ignore and bits of knitting. It looked sad and undignified there all by itself. Everything else had been snapped up, claimed, but this solitary sideboard remained. I could’ve gone in at any time to look at everything else, but now all there was left for me to gaze at was the sideboard. Too late, I’d snoozed too long. That shop is online dating in a nutshell. The sideboard is you.

Today would have been that grandmother’s 90th birthday and what with that and Brexit and Pride this weekend I am feeling reflective and mortal and restless. It is a relief, then,  to turn my attention briefly to Simon, a 29-year-old rail operations consultant (?) and Caz, 32, an art administrator. Read what happened on their date (spoiler: bring caffeine) before I dip in and pull apart everything they say for no reason.

Simon is in blue and starts us off. Caz is kind of mauve.

sim hope

That’s it, Simon, reach for the sky.

caz hope

Again, goals about as aspirational as setting out to make a dog wag its tail.

sim first

Pretty. I love people telling me I’m good-looking, don’t you? I don’t care whether it’s true. Obviously because I am no longer a baby, I hear it less often, but my boyfriend does tell me I’m handsome at least three times a week and it’s quite the comfort. If I were a budgerigar, I’d never be out of the mirror, believe me.

caz first

welcome-to-the-friendzone-2-2100697206

I am honestly running out of GIFs for friendzoning. If you have any good ones, please donate – demand outstrips supply.

simon talk

These are all quite good until the last one which, as regular readers will know, is something of a bête-noire for me. I’d rather trim Satan’s toenails than have someone recount all their dating horrors back at me, but who am I to judge what two grown-ups want to bore each other senseless with, over a free meal?

caz talk

You do wonder whether Simon and Caz were sitting at the same table, as none of these subjects match up at all. It happens every week, two people talking out into the void.

Ultimate Frisbee: I once worked with an Ultimate Frisbee CHAMPION. Beat that.

Rush hour crushes: yes, I always find it a good idea when on a date with someone, who you’re friend-zoning at a rate of knots, to talk about lusting after strangers on public transport. “I don’t fancy you at ALL, but I did get really excited at the thought of banging some guy wearing tight grey joggers on the Piccadilly line  on the way here”. Gee, thanks.

sim awks

giphy-2

This date sounds like quite the rollercoaster ride, doesn’t it? What next? Coughing into a napkin? Spilling a bit of water down the front of their immaculately ironed jerseys? Can’t wait.

caz awks

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sim table

Do you reckon Simon leaned over, just as Caz forked yet another floret into her mouth, and told her broccoli was “the colon’s broom”? I hope so.

caz table

I know you’re “only joking”, but I probably wouldn’t open with this one at your one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe, Caz.

simon best

We hear about eyes a lot in the Guardian Blind Date, especially from men. I am sure Simon is being genuine here, and on closer inspection, Caz’s eyes seem perfectly pleasant and serviceable – there are two, I assume they open and close, her lashes aren’t made of shit-covered scythes etc – but I wonder if men say this because they can’t say anything else. Women have very rightly taken back ownership of their bodies, and you only ever really hear that someone has a cracking arse if you’re amid a gaggle of gays, a group of women or, of course, on a building site dangling off the side of some scaffolding, leering at a schoolgirl. I just wonder whether the eyes compliment is a placeholder for something else.

What this means, sadly, is that whenever someone tells me I have nice eyes, I’m going to assume they’re dreaming about my dick or the way my T-shirt sits across my chest. That gets awfully awkward, especially when it’s an elderly male relative complimenting you on your peepers.

caz best

As best things about someone go, this is up there with “has a head” and “did not kill anyone in my presence”.

If this praise were any fainter, it would be my hopes and dreams for the future.

caz friends

I wonder which members of her elite fan club Caz thinks Simon is worthy of meeting.

Somewhere out there, in various one-bedroom luxury apartments above a Sainsbury’s Local across London, Caz’s friends are wondering whether they’re the one who’d get an intro to Simon. I’d expect some incredulous texts this weekend, Caz.

simon made

giphy

Simon you are ADORABLE and there is no need to be nervous but can I please ask if you really ironed your jeans? I was always taught – I’ve no idea who by – that ironing your jeans was the squarest thing you could do aside from actually read and enjoy textbooks. So I hardly ever do.

100 extra points if he put a crease down the front.

caz made of you

Caz is a bit like one of those gentle comedies on Radio 4, and by gentle I mean you have to send out a helicopter and a full search party to find every punchline.

sim go on

Is there a phrase more cheap, more infantilised, more Brexit than “school night” when you’re 29? Cheeky Nando’s, bantz, #lads, don’t mind if I do, “lashings of ale for me please, bar keep!”, chillax, listen mate, dirty burger, London I am in you, food baby, om nom, life hack, get in among it, get in my belly, man-crush, little glass of fizz on arrival, BOLLOCKS. I loathe it. 

Sorry, Si. As you were.

si kiss

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caz kiss

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simon change

caz change

It’s part of the human condition, isn’t it – never saying what we truly mean? All the things left unsaid, the slights ignored, the tensions simmering like angry, desperate porridge on the hob, all because we can never truly say what we’re thinking. Oh, yes, there are potential Big Brother contestants queueing round the block to go on TV and tell you how straight-talking they are, but even those unpleasant show-offs aren’t being true to themselves. It’s performance, an act; they don’t mean a word of it. Because “telling it like it is” is not a thing. Only sociopaths would dare. We don’t say what we’re really thinking or how we honestly feel for a variety of reasons. The truth really does hurt, and we care too much about our fellow humans to see them upset. Sure, we can blow them to pieces in wars and murder them for their mobile phone or for having different politics, but few of us really want to make another person cry or feel uncomfortable. Most of the time we ourselves don’t want to admit the truth either, so keep it within. And, more obviously, if we went round blurting out what we thought all the time, we’d spent the entire day in fist fights with rude checkout operators in that Tesco on the Strand. The truth is apocalyptic – let’s never speak of this again

And this is why we have two people, who didn’t fancy each other and had a perfectly pleasant but ultimately directionless and pointless evening, saying what they’re saying above, instead of “everything”.

They both score each other an 8, which is very polite and sums up the entire feel of the date, really. Not awful, very polite, but sexless and devoid of charm or light.

But will they meet again? Will Caz get an opportunity to try out that exciting new standup material she’s prepping for Montreux? Will Simon be getting out his Rowenta and pressing his best chinos any time soon?

si meet

open-your-eyes-look-up-to-the-skies-and-see-gif

caz meet

yeah_sure_jon_hamm

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 I think people who iron their jeans are 💯, not squares. 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.

Another note: There will be no Blind Date blog on 16th July. I’m at a wedding in Paris. I may never come back.

Photograph: Felix Clay, David Levene, both for the Guardian

Aidan and Padraig

aidan padraig

What’s the worst thing about going on holiday? Is it having to clear all your emails before you go, or the dread of knowing how many will await you upon your return? Is it getting food poisoning on the first night and spending the rest of your break doubled up in agony and not leaving your apartment? Arriving to find your accommodation looks like somewhere they’d send a family of rats in witness protection? No.

The worst thing about being somewhere else for a week or two, away from home comforts and, let’s face it,  strains and struggles, is the familiar creeping in. It’s popping down to breakfast in your brand new shorts and, as you deliberate over whether to have one half of grapefruit or two, hearing a familiar accent piping across the dining room, like an incessant vuvuzela. They have found you, you didn’t go far enough. It’s someone from home.

Meeting another person from, say, Bradford (I was born there) on your holidays is the worst. If you’re one of those amazing inverted snobs that nobody admits to being anymore, you will try your utmost to distance yourself from them and their point of view on just about everything. Your stomach will churn at their boring talk of the closure of various fish and chip shops on Sunbridge Road, how there’s nothing good on at St George’s Hall anymore, and how you won’t believe what they’ve done up at the Interchange now. They, of course, will think you crave this familiarity because you’re so far from home, and will latch onto you, grimacing at you across the pool, searching for solidarity over the price of the cocktails, dragging their chair over to you and telling you why they’re Brexit. And holidaymakers from other countries – lithe and elegant French people, or chiselled, staring Swedes – will glance at you with a mixture of amusement, pity and suspicion, thinking you are as one. “The British” they might mouth to one another, over their meals that are, by the very state of not being anywhere near you, a  thousand times more sophisticated, nutritious and tasty.

The exception to this, however, seems to be Irish people. I am from an Irish family on my mum’s side, and believe me, this lot LOVE to bump into one another wherever they go. Go anywhere with an Irish person and they will actually have a cold sweat if, within half an hour of arrival, they are not tapped on the shoulder with considerable force and greeted with a “Sure, don’t I know you – don’t you work in the off-licence in Altnagelvin?” The only exception to this was my nana, who would cross seven lanes of motorway traffic if she saw one of her sisters coming the other way along the pavement. As she once told me, while she sliced a Mars bar for me and heated the milk for my bedtime Corn Flakes, “I didn’t cross on that boat and spend hours chucking up over the side to spend all my time chatting in the street to Mary Flaherty”. So there you go.

Anyway, this week, it’s two guys – GAYS! 🌈 – called Aidan and Padraig, so you don’t exactly need a team of scientists, or even a quick Google, to work out where they’re from. Read what happened on the date between Aidan, a 23-year-old primary school teacher and Padraig, 27, a journalist, before I tap each of them on the shoulder and say, “Sure, aren’t you the two fellas I’m about to destroy in my blog?”

Aidan kicks us off and is in blue. Padraig is in green.

aid hope

pad hope

Nobody ever says “sex” do they? Do people really go on dates to “meet an interesting new person”? Is that why the entire world sits glued to Tinder, swiping their way into the void? To meet someone you might come across in a supermarket checkout queue?

“The one.” I find this mythical search for “the one” quite depressing. If you do have a “one”, I have a cold, hard fact for you: he’s married to someone else, and he’s not looking for you. Never mind “the one” – just find “someone” and make do, like everybody else.

aid first

friendzone

Incredible. Masterful.

pad first

A smile that sounds like it didn’t travel far – I bet his Irish eyes weren’t smiling etc etc etc.

aid talk

These are the most “two lads from Ireland in their 20s living away from home” conversation topics I have ever heard in my life. I love this. Something something roast dinners; something something BREAD.

pad talk

Oh God, not that Piers Morgan style of questioning. It’s so lazy. Your last supper if you were on death row – a big cake with a file in it? Something poisoned? A meal from McDonald’s so once you’d finished you could use the paper bag it came in to scream and hyperventilate into, crushed by the inevitability of what was about to happen to you?

“Twitter and why he should join it.” I think anyone who’s made it all the way to 23 and not joined Twitter should probably stay off it for their own sanity – and I say that as someone who massively defends Twitter in the face of naysayers. It’s… well, it’s a Pandora’s box you probably don’t want to open in 2016, isn’t it?

aid awkward

image1

Oh no. This is awful. Imagine this terrible scenario. You are 23 – 23! – but someone mistook you for a 25-year-old. How could the evening recover?

I bet Aidan is the type of person who fist-pumps when he gets asked for ID as he buys beer – Harp, of course – from the supermarket. If someone adding two years onto your age – especially when you’re basically an EMBRYO – is as awkward as your night is going to get, you’re off to the races, Aidan.

pad awks

oprah bread

I don’t really eat bread anymore. Once your metabolism takes off its sneakers and slows to a stumble, it’s not something that’s really available to you if you want that beach body that people pretend not to strive for. Plus, it makes me feel ill. I’ll tell you what my death row meal, would be, you basics – it would be a mountain of bread. Ficelle, baguette feuilletée, a tiger tail, three loaves of Warburton Toastie. The lot.

There is no greater sign on a date, however, that you don’t want to ‘seal the deal’ than eating loads of bread. Try eating half a baguette and then trying to snog or have sex. Ugh. It’s horrible. Get off me, I’m full. I taste of bread. No.

aid taBLE

pad table

Empire wine throw punch Cookie

What’s the most bored you’ve ever been? Think back to all those school holidays when your friends were away, there was nothing on TV, the sun was burning hot and you would sit at your window, glaring out at it all, at Earth, and wondering if you’d ever have fun again. Is this more boring than that? I think it might be.

aid best thing

Engaging is the new “impeccable”, isn’t it? It’s a non-compliment. If someone said it about you, you’d be aware that it was positive, and that you might be interesting or funny or clever or attractive, but you would not know which. Engaging robs you of your personality; it’s a “one accolade fits all” kind of nothing. If someone is hilarious and sexy and fascinating and intriguing SAY SO. You’re on a date, not filling out an online feedback form about your sodding dentist.

pad best thing

fake wow

aid three

“Smiley” is actually Gaelic for “his dick will never touch mine”.
“Inquisitive” is “nosey”.
And “driven”? By the Uber, at breakneck speed, in the opposite direction, at the end of this date, I predict.

Notice not one single word that, on hearing them, would make you think, wow I sound pretty cool. I don’t know what I’d do if someone described me as “smiley”. Luckily this is not a maze I’m ever likely to find myself lost in.

pad three

tropicana-sanguinello-1l

Wow, I’d really feel like someone wanted to bang my brains out if they read this out to me, wouldn’t you?

If you mean optimistic, just say so. Sanguine has slightly different connotations, so either Padraig is being VERY clever here and sending out a flare telling us all is not as it seems – or he isn’t quite clever enough. oprah_what_is_the_truth.gif indeed.

I think Padraig may be “showing off because we have guests”.

aid made

Well, he thought you were 25, so that’s a start, I guess.

There is a magic age, I think, where you forget about being a try-hard and stop wanting people to think you are more “mature and sorted” than your peers and just feel totally comfortable to be who and where you are at that exact moment. It’s the number that fits you and you’re fine with it. Sadly, it very quickly gives way to the flip side of all that nonsense, which is wanting people to think you are younger and still relevant and pawing at your face in the mirror wondering if these ridges beneath your eyes are permanent. I don’t know what the magic age is – we must never know, that is the whole point – but we seem to blink and miss it.

It is only when you are about 15 years past being 23 that you realise you have never been so powerful, and desirable, and faceable as you were then*. Don’t sleep, Aidan.

*not strictly true

pad made

Oh Jesus, two lads in their 20s having a pissing contest about who is the most mature and grown up.

Life experience? What is that exactly? Bills and disappointment and rejection and fake orgasms and pregnancy scares and clap clinics and dashed hopes and the withering of dreams and breakups and diets and trying being vegan for a month when you’re 30 and recycling and arguing and regretting all your debt and terrible sex and awful kissing and unrequited love and embarrassing passes at men you don’t really want who don’t want you either and giving up bread and switching to Coke Zero and agonising over how big a tip to leave and IBS and true love that isn’t and worry and spite and losing touch and car insurance and finally having enough money to buy your lunch from Pret every day, not just Fridays. That’s life experience, mate. Keep it. Keep. It.

Enough-GIF

Stay green, it’s better that way.

aid go on

Aidan, you have just spent a good portion of this column telling us how grown up you are for a 23-year-old, only to button your cardigan all the way to the top and say that it was a “school night”. I mean, I know you’re a teacher, and it’s probably your running joke to say “It’s a school night” whenever you’re leaving yet another poor desperate fool with a half-hearted lob-on gagging to press you up against the doorbell, but COME ON.

pad go on

wine

That’s the spirit.

SCORES.

aid scores

pad scopres

Sometimes it’s not about the score itself, it’s the marks they knock off. What two things do you reckon stopped Aidan giving Padraig a 10? And which three made Padraig dock Aidan’s points to give him what I like to call a “Gentleman’s One”?

How much is it worth, to fancy someone, to want them? Can you put a value on it? Apparently, you can, and today it’s worth 2 points for Aidan and 3 for Padraig. One of Aidan’s deducted points is for the bread, isn’t it?

Anyway. Somehow we dragged ourselves all the way here to the finish line. We’re tired, we’re limping, and all we want is a Lucozade Cherry, a crisp sandwich, Fair City on the box and a nice chat about our mammies’ roast potatoes. But will our two Irish boys meet again for more bread and anxiety over who’s the most grown up? Or is this the very end, with their Irish brogue destined for some other ear?

aid meet

beyonce blows up car 2

pad meet

dog hits man in face

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. And my Irish stereotyping is borne of experience from my family and one of my best friends who is from Derry and will back up EVERY SINGLE thing I have said here. 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.

Another note: There will be no Blind Date blog on 16th July. Like, for real, I’m out of the country.

Yet another note: Bonus points to anyone who noticed Aidan didn’t say “I found a herb in my teeth” in the column at all. I wonder why they cut it?

Photograph: Alicia Canter, James Drew Turner, both for the Guardian

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

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