Darryl and James

darryl james

The older you get, the more rituals you seem to observe. I have inexplicably picked up a terribly grasping middle-class habit of making sure my first cup of tea of the day (first two at the weekend) is from one of two cute china cups I own. I am determined to become as much like my two grandmothers as it’s possible to be without being oppressed or dead.

Another ritual of mine – and now yours, I assume, if you’re reading this – is poring over the Guardian Blind Date and hoping there’ll be some kind of verbal annihilation. When they get on, it’s lovely, and we can all make that old Cilla joke about buying a hat etc, but really, all we want is blood.

So can 51-year-old local government manager Darryl and James, 40 and a production manager, provide us with all the gore we deserve on Halloween? Click on through to have a read of the actual date before I deal out the trick or the treat.

Darryl begins:

darryl hoping

‘Click’, in northern, means to ‘pull’ somebody while you’re out. On dissecting a night out, it would not be uncommon for my mum’s friends to utter the killer question “So, did you click?”, to which the answer would sometimes be a doleful “Only me tights”.

Anyway, Darryl takes an astonishing nine words here to say what he really meant to say in one. That word being “sex”. Look, it’s a gay couple – these typing fingers have seen a lot.

james hoping

See? There’s nothing so disturbing as queuing up for a self-checkout in your local retail misery dungeon and recognising at least half the line as pouting seductroids from Grindr or Tinder or whichever app you’re using that you tell yourself isn’t as bad as Grindr.

darryl first

Whenever I hear the word ‘elegant’,  I always imagine Margo Leadbetter from The Good Life running her finger along the top of a grand piano and wincing at the dust upon it. I don’t know why.

Anyway, ‘elegant’. It’s a compliment, I guess.

james first

Smiley.

wilting

If someone compliments your smiley face, it usually means they’re not interested in seeing your sex face. It’s the new ‘calling a fat person jolly’.

darryl talk

Years from now, when my bones creak and my hair is paler than a child queuing for a tetanus jab, I know for a fact  one thing my aged mind will remember to do will be to order wine.

I can’t believe anyone’s conversation is that interesting it involves forgetting about wine, but let’s see what they were talking about, as only James actually properly answers this question.

james talk

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You know you’re on a date with someone over 35 when ‘medical histories’ gets a nod. “Allow me to charm the pants off you with my torrid tales of undiagnosed osteoarthritis and an interactive map of my psoriasis coverage.”

It’s cocktail hour somewhere, right? I need a drink.

darryl awkward

Were these inevitable gaps before or after “MRI machines I have known and loved: A retrospective” and “A guided walking tour of all my health scares”?

james awkward

This is, ladies and gentlemen, a very early spoiler that we are careering toward the friend zone.

How do I know? Well, when you really fancy someone, you won’t diss their hobbies on a first date. You’ll nod along politely, or say “Oh I don’t really follow it” and smile. Why? So you can get sex.

Dating is as much about looking for “the one” as it is just finding someone you can bear to have sex with at least twice. And if you have to sit through three double Tia Maria and Lucozades and an encyclopaedic walkthrough of every episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians to get it, then, usually, you will.

To get my end away, I have pretended to like football, opera, radio comedies and actual PEOPLE. If you dismiss something someone likes so quickly on a first date, you’re not into them. It’s very simple. Unless you are one of those bellends who think flirtation means disagreeing with everything your date says all night and then bending over to tie your shoelace as you leave the pub. In which case: I see you.

Table manners!

darryl table

Some might call this marriage material, but I hate having my glass filled for me – when waiters pour chilled wine into a glass that already has warmish wine in it I start to go into anaphylactic shock. But it’s nice to be nice so I’m happy if Darryl is. Maybe it was red. They look like red wine drinkers, don’t they?

james table

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darryl best thing

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I don’t agree with Tory policies at all and if I look at David Cameron’s face too long I start to have an existential crisis, but there are few things as hyper-boring as an autopilot anti-Tory. You just know these people would have argued over who had the last scoop of Maxwell House in the sixth-form common room.

Anyway, after a gushing tribute like that, what’s James got to say in return?

james best

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darryl three

james three

It’s a double chatty! If balloons fell from the ceiling every time a Guardian Blind Dater used chatty as one of their three words or a “best thing”, I’d be forever popping them. Imagine the tinnitus.

Remember these dudes have a mere THREE words to spare here. Just a trio of plaudits to dish out. Only three. If a date wasted two of them – that’s two thirds of the answer, the majority – on calling me ‘sweet’ and ‘chatty’, I would be ringing round all my local plastic surgeons begging for help, before texting all my friends and asking them if I really was so dull, so unattractive, so NOTHING that they would ever call me ‘sweet’. And then I’d go to the shop, buy seven baguettes, a large Warburtons Toastie loaf, some Lurpak and maybe some ham, and I’d sit and eat the lot in 25 minutes flat, pausing only to choke on my tears.

Think calling someone sweet is anything other than a copout? I don’t need three words to tell you where you need to go.

darryl somewhere

james somewhere

Darryl’s “I was happy to follow” breaks my heart because it says so much, whereas James’s clipped response to this seminal moment of the date gives it even more meaning.

When you go out of your way, you are hopeful, you are trying. You wonder. I’ve walked to bus stops, waved taxis by and crossed roads, parks and marshland out of my way in the hope that maybe tonight will be the start of a million nights.

I was wrong, like, 100% of the time.

Obviously I don’t know the full story with Darryl and James here, but experience has shown me if someone is willing to let you walk out of your way to their bus stop – and no further – without protest, they’re probably not worth the journey.

darryl kiss

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james kiss

Hahaha. “We’re gay but we’re not ANIMALS. God!”

darryl change

A date’s not a date unless you’ve managed to talk yourself in and out of their bed at least seven times over the course of the evening. Darryl appears to blame himself here for the date not being the start of a great romance, but the truth is sometimes, heartbreakingly, they really are just not that into you.

Anyway there appears to be something in my eye so here are the scores.

darryl score

james score

Anyone giving a “point-five” as a score should have to stand up in front of the class and explain exactly why they didn’t deserve a whole number. And to make sure their explanation isn’t a load of bullshit, they should be attached to electrodes and perhaps standing on a very small, ever decreasing, island in the middle of a pool of sharks wearing, you’ve guessed it, laser beams.

What I’m saying here is a point-five score, unless it is a 9.5, is a diss and an attempt to look, oh I don’t know, something, and you need the balls to back it up if you’re going to try it.

I think we both know how this song goes but let’s stick it out until the third chorus – the lyrics might change unexpectedly.

Darryl?

darryl meet

If Darryl is beating himself up about this, I’ll be very cross. The Catherine wheel was out of your control, Dazza – they have to burn out eventually.

james meet

No spark but the house was on fire? James wouldn’t be a very good witness in court at an arson trial, would he?

But I think we have our answer.

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Photograph: James Drew Turner and Graham Turner for the Guardian

Note: I generally don’t take sides, and 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 this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

 

 

Jack and Zoe

jack and zoe

Sometimes things that start off really well can’t help but turn out very badly. Charles and Di, French Connection doing those FCUK T-shirts, Dallas. And yet, more often than not – especially in romance and dating – catastrophes somehow evolve into things of wonder. Or so we would have each other believe. You can’t move for smug couples pretending they “hated each other on sight” or lying they never fancied each other remotely until <insert dreary romcom trope here>.

So which direction will today’s date take? Read how  25-year-old designer Jack and Zoe, 27, a health policy officer, got on on their date before I return to switch all the lights on and tell everyone it’s time to go home. For some reason they have left the comments open under the date this week and it was already moron soup when I last looked an hour or ago so goodness knows what it’ll be like now. Enjoy yourselves.

We begin with Jack:

jack hoping

25, eh? Some quality food. OK.

Not sure about “open and relaxed” conversation on a first date. How open? How relaxed? Are we talking a frank discussion of my hopes and fears after a scrotal ultrasound or just half an hour of high-rising-intonation monologue about how “awesome” Bali is?

zoe hoping

Oh yes. That’s all you want really. You want that electrifying buzz of turning up to meet a perfect stranger to become a thrill you both share, each staring into each other’s eyes, biting your lip and wondering when would be the right moment to touch their knee (start with the arm, after drink three).

jack first

You… you were late? You kept her waiting? You didn’t turn up on time? What? How late were you? I can’t believe you left that out. I’m guessing absolutely ages.

So here we have something starting badly. I’ve had some dates never recover from an initial lateness. There are some people, though, who coast through life being late for stuff and keeping us all waiting and kind of breezing about at their own leisurely pace. They almost always look like Jack, don’t they? And there are just as many people – Zoes – out there willing to overlook it. More fool them. Be on time: you’re not Madonna.

zoe first

No mention of the lateness. She fancies him. Jack’s got away with it again.

I tell you what: if stone-cold uggos like me can’t get away with being late, then neither should anyone else. (Lateness makes me so irritable; I can’t even. I must seek out therapy or something.)

jack talk about

Oh God, are they them? The incessant high-fivers?

There’s this weird breed of human who, for no apparent reason, needs constant high-fives to feel validated. They do it over the dinner table, in restaurants; I’ve seen them. They’ll say something – anything, like “Gee, I think tenderstem broccoli is the bomb – and when the other person agrees with them (because life is long and lonely and you might as well) they demand a high-five.

“Can I have a high-five on that?” No you fucking can’t. What’s wrong with you? Yes, I am leaving you hanging. This date is over. My Uber is here. You’re garbage. How about a high-one?

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zoe talk about

“The date.” What, like, you gave a running commentary of what was actually happening? Spoiler: I have some of the actual dialogue from the date right here:

Jack: Wow this is so weird.
Zoe: Yeah!
Jack: But, like, amazing, too. But really weird.
Zoe: Yeah it’s so amazing but, like a weird thing.
Jack: Amazing.
Zoe: Weird!
Jack: Hahaha.
Zoe: Amazing, though. Dating is just so weird.
Jack: Yeah it is. Amazing.
Zoe: Weird.

You get the picture.

Table manners, then. Let’s have it shall we?

jack table

I’m not sure I’d take the word on dining etiquette from someone who can’t turn up to a date on time, but OK. For all we know, Zoe could’ve ordered a trough, plunged her head in and only come up for air to say “Amazing!” and Jack wouldn’t have been fazed.

zoe table

Chopsticks! Sharing!

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jack friends

zoe friends

“Possibly.” Jack playing it cool there. It’s important to play it cool, especially when you’re appearing in a magazine that thousands of people will read.

We must expect to be judged by the company we keep, of course. Perhaps Jack is worried Zoe’s inexplicable hypnosis will wear off if she’s exposed to his cabal of lager-swigging bros with their battered acoustic guitars tucked behind their wardrobes and bedroom floors littered with McDonald’s packaging, protein shakes, copies of FHM and wanking socks.

I’m not really feeling it today. Can you tell?

jack made of you

She was! This could be going somewhere. Better get vacuuming that bedroom floor, Jack.

zoe made of you

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jack go on

Jack. Children are cheeky. Posteriors are cheeky. Actual cheeks? Cheeky. Turning up late for a date? FUCKING cheeky. Sloping off to a pub on Greek Street for a gin and tonic (Gordon’s no doubt – you look the type) isn’t cheeky. Not remotely.

Just have the gin and throw it back like a normal person. Don’t act like you’re a tubby secretary in a ’70 sitcom hovering over a box of eclairs. I am willing to bet cold hard cash-money that Jack has said the phrase “cheeky Nando’s” more than he’s ever said “I love you”.

jack kiss

zoe kiss

CHEEKY. Look, at least it’s not “a gentleman would never say” or “I don’t kiss and tell” or any of that other utterly ridiculous ‘broderie anglaise’ way of saying “we boned”. On the cheek, at the Tube. Fine. Just fine. Like saying goodbye to auntie.

jack change

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OK, well, I take it all back. Except I’m still going to leave it all up there because I’ve written it now. But well done or whatever.

zoe work night

Oh, sorry, everyone, there must’ve been a typo in the Guardian – it seems Zoe is not actually 28, but 68.

If you’re really into someone, and the gins (cheeky ones at that!) are flowing, it doesn’t matter whether you’re performing open-heart surgery in the morning, you will stay out. All the lurid green cocktails, bumpy cab rides and undersides of duvets I’d never seen before I would’ve missed had I worried about dates being “on a work night”.

SCORES. They seem to have got on, there was a drink after, a kiss on the cheek. I dunno. Does it matter, so long as we don’t have to sit next to them in our favourite restaurant, watching them high-five each other after every forkful of shepherd’s pie?

jack score

Which is worse? The louche, surfboard-speak of  “cracking chick”, the paltriness of the score, or the fact it’s a point-five of anything? Jack: do one.

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zoe score

How lovely to see they were almost equally enamoured of each other. Only good things to say but a low score? I’ve a hunch that this date was a little more disastrous than they’re letting on but neither wanted to give, or get, a roasting in a national magazine.

Imagine spending hours on a date and coming away with a shrug and a slight gin headache as a lasting impression.

So while Romeo and Juliet don’t have much to worry about, could this adventure on a work night result in a second date?

jack meet

zoe meet

Yes, you did: a 6.5 and a 7.5. I probably wouldn’t cross the aisle in Sainsbury’s to meet someone who scored me that low but then I am a terrible one for holding grudges.

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Good luck! And don’t be late, Jack. Not again.

Photograph: Graham Turner; James Drew Turner, both for the Guardian

Note: I generally don’t take sides, and 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 this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

Kati and Matt

kati and matt

The thing with getting older is that chances run out. Opportunities tend to knock less frequently, and when they do rat-a-tat-tat at your door, you don’t move as quickly as you used to, so by the time you get there, they’ve moved on to the next house.

That’s not to say you become any less risk averse as you age. Sure, the old cliché goes that you care less what people think of you, the older you get, but while outwardly that may be true, in reality you care all the more. Experience is a curse and a blessing – youthful ignorance gives way to the suspicion, or worry, people may not be all they seem. There are layers. You’ve been screwed over before. The dating scene once you’ve swapped your Converse for Clarks, then, can be pretty confusing.

But you have to give it a go, and taking the plunge this week are 47-year-old script consultant Kati and Matt, 48, an account manager. It’s interesting to see we’re ageing up in the column again, after a brief spell earlier in the year when each week’s participants still had traces of amniotic fluid around their hairline. Read what happened on the date while I wait over here to get busy with the fizzy.

Kati starts us off.

kati hoping

Well, this is the Guardian, so you can see where she was going with this one. However, it is also 2015 – the most rebellious thing a Guardian reader does these days is park his Prius in a neighbour’s parking space. NO PERMIT. Daredevil.

Also: Matt is an ‘account manager’, so good luck with the leftie thing.

matt hoping for

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kati first

If Kati’s actual first impression of Matt was ‘conservative’ I will eat my spoiled voting slip. This is, like, foreshadowing to an incredible degree so hang on to the edge of your seats while we get where we’re going.

matt first

Hey Matt, enough about me. Oh. This is a very nice, if obvious, thing to say as a first impression, but at least it sounds like he means it.

kati talk

matt talk

If this were a game of snap, we’d be laying down cards a long time with no matches, wouldn’t we? Were they sitting at the same table? Amalfi coast/Italy – check. Beyond that, two radios sitting blasting out at each other.

Would you really talk about sex on a first date? Is this what it’s like to be in your uninhibited forties? I’m 40 soon, so I really should swot up on disagreeable things I can wheel out at the dinner table. Did they talk about good sex, bad sex? Every shape of phallus, arse and breast they’ve encountered? I don’t understand.

Oh, and politics: not on a first date. No. It’s boner death. You don’t want it. Even people who agree on politics can’t help but disagree about something, like whether to put salt in with the pasta when you’re boiling it. (That’s a trap, btw: nobody eats pasta anymore.)

EDIT: Someone on Twitter pointed out the “Amalfi” typo in the magazine. Kati’s mistake, or the subs? We’ll never know.

kati awkward

Hahaha yes I REALLY believe someone looking for a “leftie rebel” would sit tight like Miss Muffet when faced with a Telegraph-reading Tory. Owen Jones, famously, has a zip on his mouth that he helpfully closes when within five miles of someone who doesn’t share his views. You won’t hear a peep from him, oh no.

And calling someone a Telegraph reader is a bit… well, outdated. Kati clearly hasn’t spent a few carefree hours wandering through the poisoned tulip fields that are the  comments section under every single Guardian piece.

If you mean he’s a Tory, say so. Some of the Telegraph is great, just like any newspaper.

matt awks

Why did you keep putting the top back on the bottle in the first place? Why did the waiter even leave the top for the wine bottle with you? Who does that? Were you in McDonald’s?

I suppose screwing a wine bottle top on and off would give you something to do while Kati was squirming in her seat at everything you said.

kati table

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matt table

Oh it IS. It really is. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I ask for a fork. I don’t care whether I’m not “fully immersing in the cultural experience” (actual quote from a former date) or look like I’m “not willing to try anything new” (again, a former date).

You have a choice here: you can either sit opposite me, let me get a fork and have a normal, potentially enjoyable conversation while we eat, or you can insist I use chopsticks and watch in horror as prawns, noodles and dignity go flying just about everywhere but inside my mouth. Perhaps it will be funny for the first, oh I don’t know, eighteen attempts to get a snow pea into my mouth. Before long, however, you’ll be wishing we were in Burger Blokes or Filthy Meat Slut or wherever and you were watching me dribble one of their £11 irono-burgers all down my chin.

kati best

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Hang on. Kati, you were only on Northumberland Avenue a minute ago – how come you’ve managed to buy Park Lane AND pass go in just one turn?! Kati has just zoomed ahead and has dropped a massive – and surprising, I must say – spoiler bomb in our laps.

And I agree about tipping. 100%. Well, not 100%. 15%. But, yes, never snog a bad tipper. Perhaps that’s what ‘tipped’ Kati over the edge into “might as well”. Please excuse the pun; I’ve only had one cup of tea.

matt best

Look, I like a compliment and an incorrectly guessed age as much as the next ageing old queen, but even I’d draw the line at someone saying I looked 20. At 20 I looked like one of those part-baked baguettes you only ever get in Co-Op food stores on a horrible main road. Not yet done. Not a lot of potential, either.

Anyway, this is GOOD, isn’t it? I feel we are going somewhere.

kati friends

Oh, Kati. We were doing so well. You can be friends with a Tory, you know. You don’t all have to stand around in circles talking about politics all the time. I have a few Tory friends and, beyond a few ‘interesting discussions’ that leave me gasping for breath and purple in the face, we kind of ignore it. It’s like mentioning someone has vaginismus or an undescended testicle. You know it’s a part of their lives but there’s no need to talk about it until absolutely necessary. Which is never.

And I’m sure your friends would love to roll up the sleeves on their Boden cardigans and tear Matt to shreds; it’d be like a live stage play of any given Tuesday on Comment is Free. In short: you’re in your 40s. If your pals can’t handle a different point of view or a challenge, it’s time to broaden your horizons.

matt three

Dull fact: in the online version of the column they totally stitch Matt up and have ‘leftwing’ as one word (as per the Guardian style guide, oh yes). The mag’s subs – secret Tory voters, perhaps – have been a little kinder, however, and left it as three.

Anyway, Matt is describing Kati as very leftwing but Kati claims to have held her tongue once she found out he was a “Telegraph reader”. It appears Kati may have let very limited control of her tongue.

Oh hang on, we know that already, remember: look where it ended up.

kati kiss

matt kiss

Absolutely! The thing is, even if you don’t have that much in common with a date while you’re wrestling chopsticks and blanching because they just said all single mothers should be thrown into a lake, you might as well kiss them because sometimes the most disagreeable people of all are the very, very best at snogging.

And, as Kati says, sometimes they can surprise you. And Matt certainly did. Maybe it’s time to do a clear-out of your mug cupboard, Kati.

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I’m just so glad somebody finally answered that question rather than run squealing from the room red-faced, like a seven-year-old who just walked in on mum and dad having a quick grope at the kitchen sink.

You know, you “might as well”.

matt think

Haha, aw, I love this. White men in their late forties with slight paunches are famously shrinking violets, so I’m sure Kati was knocked off her seat. Full marks for the endearing self-deprecation though, Matt.

kati change

OK, cool, but did you bang?

matt change

No, then. Oh.

But, yes, the politics will always kill it. Stone dead. Save your ballot-paper chat for the morning after, while you’re searching for your socks in an unfamiliar bedroom, bumping into excessive, ugly furniture and praying you have enough battery on your phone for your GPS to guide you out of wherever the hell you are.

Only bring out the politics once you’re absolutely sure
a) you’d never screw them in a million years, or
b) you’d never screw them again or
c) they’re the best screw you’ve ever had and you don’t care if they’re Ukip – you want that thing everywhere.

kati score

matt score

Are you sure you didn’t do it? I think there’s potential here. From different ends of the political spectrum, yes, but wouldn’t you like to be challenged every day, or do you just want the human equivalent of the nodding dog from the Churchill ads, agreeing with everything you say?

Buttons should be pushed, levers pulled, cordons brushed aside, “DO NOT ENTER” signs torn down. What have you got to lose, eh?

Kati?

kati meet

rWP3v

Have you ever met anyone who said “Never say never” and meant anything other than “never”? No, me neither.

Matt? Fancy joining your right wing with Kati’s left and making a pair so you can, er, soar romantically or something?

matt meet

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Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian.

Note: I generally don’t take sides, and 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 this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

India and Mike

mike and india

When I was growing up, in my mum’s box-shaped council house in a town I’d happily drop napalm on, I used to dream of being middle-class. They had cars, holidays, spice racks, interesting pickles in the fridge, a ‘breakfast room’.

I would play with my Lego and act out what I assumed were scenes of perfect middle-class bliss. I built myself a ‘set’ of five or six houses, a supermarket, a police station converted into flats (people kept buying me Lego police stations in the hope it might stop me talking like a Barbie doll on a French exchange) and would write scripts, giving all my Lego figures names like Sacha and Monica and Felix and Jasmine. Their lives were very exciting – Felix had a helicopter which would crash every other week and Monica was having an affair with her bank manager. It was the perfect escape from my humdrum, working-class experience of the wrong socks, growing into grey school jumpers and enduring animated slices of ham with a face drawn on calling me “gaylord” on the bus.

I couldn’t wait to grow up and follow the middle-class dream myself, but of course I now realise their lives are just as dull as mine was – nobody has helicopters and all bank managers are not simmering sex gods, but acne-battling graduates who wear specs with smeared lenses. I would give anything to go back and play with my Lego.

As if proving my point that middle-class existences are just as boring, but with better kitchens and premium skincare, along come this week’s Guardian Blind Daters. India, 28, is an advertising account manager and connecting with her on LinkedIn this week is Mike, a 31-year-old digital producer, which means he gets paid £300 a day to colour in cells in an Excel spreadsheet, forward emails to web developers (“pls fix asap!!!!”) and tell clients “that’s not really possible within the limitations of your budget”.

Read what happened on the date before I go all “Error 404” on their asses.

India starts:

india hoping

This is exactly what I imagine harassed middle-class parents say to their children, leaning menacingly toward them in the backseat of their Renault Basique, before heading into the local pizzeria for a family reunion dinner.

“Do not mention the hair growing out of Grandad’s ears and, yes, Auntie Bea’s ‘special friend’ is a woman. Now get out of this car and don’t you dare get your phones out before the limoncello or you’re grounded. I just want to have a relaxed meal and it not to be awkward.”

mike hoping for

Lumière from Beauty and the Beast, but in Louboutins? A Catherine wheel? No idea. Best strap a torch to your head, India.

india first

‘Confident’ as a first impression always puzzles me. Perhaps Mike unicycled into the restaurant juggling toasters or was wearing really tight trousers and a saveloy stuffed down the front. We’ll never know.

And ‘tall’ as a first impression doesn’t really work. “What was your first impression of me?” “Oh, that you had two eyes and a nose. And hair.” No.

mike first

First a smile to light up the room, now warmth. Mike’s ideal woman is a gas fire or the halogen light above my hob that turns hotter than the sun if it’s on for longer than 20 minutes.

india talk

His friends? What about your friends?

“The difference between money and happiness.” Can you get a more middle-class, cheese-and-biscuits, ‘I make my own chutney, but just for friends; I’d never sell it’ response than that? It’s up there with ‘travelling’ which – ding ding ding! – is there too. I often find people who like to wax lyrical about money not making you happy, or whatever, tend to have more than enough of one or the other.

Being rich doesn’t make you happy? Bully for you, moneybags – but remember, being poor  can make you really, really sad.

Mike!

mike talk

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india awk

Dates used to congratulate me on my teeth. You see a lot of different ones when you’re dating and so I suppose mine used to come as a nice surprise.

Now that everyone is mortgaging their flats to get veneers, India can be forgiven for wondering whether Mike’s perfect gnashers (as far as I can see) were the result of nature or a jovial dentist with hairy fingers but perfectly manicured nails.

mike awk

“No go on, try it, you’ll really like it.”

You get people like this. Mainly men, I have to say. It’s not enough for them to sit and enjoy whatever they’re eating or drinking; their pleasure has to go viral. They want you to feel it too, and tell others. Spread the word! I have tasted all manner of delicious and disgusting things under duress, because some bloke who didn’t really get the concept of tastebuds waggled their fork in front of me and insisted I would “really like it, honestly – you’ll never look back”. You’re right, I won’t look back, not for a second. And I’ll be leaving you with the bill.

Oh, and negronis are disgusting. I have at least two friends who get really evangelical about them and just can’t understand why I don’t like them. “But it’s such a lovely summery drink!” they trill. Yes, if you prefer to summer in the U-bend of a washbasin in a comprehensive school. No no no to negronis and every single tired, concept-heavy popup that serves them.

Table manners now. Pray for us all.

india table

I see. Mike?

mike table

tunnel

india best thing

Mike, yesterday.
Mike, yesterday.
mike best thing

If someone spent, oh I don’t know, four hours of an evening with me – and they go on somewhere afterward so it may even be longer – and the best thing they could say about me was that I had a nice smile, I would plunge into crisis mode. The comfort eating would be ON.

Was I boring? Did I smell? “Nice smile”? Isn’t that what you say when you see a new mum in the street, lean into the pram for a gawk at the offspring only to find Yoda in a babygro? “Oh what a lovely smile!”

Nothing about my personality, or my looks (I am a shallow human) or even my bantz – just a “nice smile”. I’m a big mouth on a stick. Thanks for dropping by.

india three

It’s back! ‘Chatty’! Yay.

Nothing makes my blood turn to ice quicker than the word ‘foodie’. Let me guess: like just about every straight man in the UK he makes a “mean spag bol”, and he enhances it with a secret ingredient which, on looking at Mike, probably isn’t the bog-standard ketchup or Lea & Perrins but anchovies or dessert wine or “this really amazing oil I picked up in an Argentinian deli in <insert NW postcode here>”.

Foodie. Yeah. Me too.

mike three

Hang on. Is India the cool girl? Spoiler: she tans Mike’s arse at what they insist on calling “fussball” a bit later on, so maybe she is. The dream!

india somewhere

Thanks Chandler and Joey, for making table football even more annoying than it already was. My favourite word for this most dreary of kidult pastimes is the French one: le baby-foot.

I’d rather share a taxi with a person whose face is a TV screen showing a video of gastric band surgery than relive the youth club agonies of pretending table football is in anyway a pleasurable experience, but each to their own.

india made of you

Can you imagine Mike at Christmas, opening his presents and telling you “this is not the worst thing I have ever seen” or “these socks are the very opposite of a terrible gift choice”. You’d struggle to believe him, wouldn’t you? I’m a husk of a man, who could find misery in the most beautiful of sunrises, but even I can wheel out an actual compliment every now and again.

india kiss

mike kiss

Oh, they boned. Cool. That’s what this means, right? This is code. Either that or you think you’re in a Jane Austen novel.

How funny that “I don’t kiss and tell” is in fact the biggest tell of all. If three people on the internet say you’ve banged, you’ve banged. I look forward to two further corroborations.

india change

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Scores!

mike scores india scores

If they really did do the nasty, that’s come conservative scoring.

Perhaps they’re playing it cool. They shouldn’t. Playing it cool is the enemy that keeps us all from electrifying sex with strangers in rooms we shouldn’t be in, in unfamiliar houses that sit on bus routes we don’t know. Playing it cool says no to one more drink, pops open only one button at the neck; it vapes.

Screw playing it cool. Play it hot. You owe it to yourselves. Life can be a joyless tundra as it is – turn up the central heating and take a layer off. Live a little.

With that in mind, what do our devil-may-care daters think to the prospect of meeting again? Excited at the thought of another ‘fussball’ drubbing? Looking forward to necking another negroni. My lips are trembling in antici…

india meet

mile met

…pation. Oh.

You guys stick to playing it cool then. Some of us prefer to stay a little closer to the grill.

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Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian.

Note: My jokes about Mike’s job come from bitter experience and 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 this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

Liam and Dee

lioam and dee

As the old saying goes, “location location location”, but it’s not exclusive to estate agents and Kirstie Allsopp – you’ve got to get it right on a date too.

Thing is, choosing somewhere terrible can actually be a good thing, as you can bond over the awful service, mediocre food and dreadful clientele. If you don’t think you’ve got the chops to charm or laugh them into bed, take them somewhere awful. Then, if you’ve nothing to talk about, you can at least gflect on your misfortune.

Today’s daters are Liam, 24, a media planning director, which could mean anything, and 30-year-old Dee (30!) who is an HR officer and looks quite disarmingly familiar. Eight years ago, I went to the bar where our two daters meet and it was a faux-opulent, charmless dungeon of filthy lucre with all the romantic potential of a Russian oligarch’s least favourite toupée. Let’s hope our daters can break that curse. Read what happened on it before I pull on my plastic glove and get everyone to open wide.

Liam is first:

liam hoping

Shared anecdotes? Like, both telling exactly the same story? Wouldn’t that be a little boring? Unless you both put funny voices on, I suppose.

dee hoping

Where do I know you from Dee? Did I break your heart? Did you break mine? Were we in that Final Cut Pro course together in 2007? Have you tutted at me on the Tube? I don’t know.

Anyway, you look familiar and that’s all there is to say because you’re giving me nothing but gruel to work with in that answer, bae.

liam first

I see Liam has found the original, rejected lyrics to Taylor Swift’s Style down the back of his sofa. “Trendy” is almost certainly a word Taylor would use if she liked your strappy sandals, isn’t it?

I haven’t heard anyone say “trendy” with a straight face since 1984 in the Bradford branch of Ravel (in the basement of Rackhams) when my dad tried to convince I wouldn’t get bullied because of the lovely blue boots I was trying on. Dad was wrong.

dee first

I wonder how you can tell whether someone is confident just by looking at them. Maybe he had his feet up on the table or was reading a porn mag and smoking a cigar and twirling Ferrari keys in his hand.

liam talk about

Regular readers will know I would rather kick a football back to a bunch of school kids in the park than I would talk about dating on a date, but the real humdinger here is the ex chat.

Don’t talk about exes. They are exes. EX-communicated. EXtra info you need only divulge once you’ve been on a few dates. Making your first date all about previous porridge pots you’ve stirred is poor form. Fuck your exes. They are history.

“Dating in London”, though.

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dee talk about

I think Dee might actually be three very short straight men standing on top of one another beneath a raincoat. But, no, seriously, at least they’re getting on.

liam awkward

If you think that’s refreshing, you should try pineapple or a shower on a hot day – they’ll blow your mind.

Liam has invented an awkward moment here that’s actually not about him and suggests there weren’t any awkward moments really but he feels he had to say something.

Hang on, though, there’s a… what is that? *peers into distance* Why, sitting right over there is an elephant. It’s holding up a sign, saying… oh I can’t quite make it out. It says “Wait until you see the next answer”. Oh.

dee awkward

Someone did this to me once.

We went on a date, and got on really well and it was, like, lightning bolts and laser beams and I went home from the (very chaste) date hugging myself and walking on air. Anyway, he texted the next day to say he’d decided to pursue something with someone else, only to text me again a few months later asking for another chance. I gave him this chance, because I am stupid, and it was all very exciting again, until, at the very end of the date, he said he was moving to Canada.

Gm8osvw

Fuckboy.

In Liam’s defence, the Guardian do take a while to pair you up after you first apply, so he may have entered the column in good faith. He could, however, have dropped out.

You can come back from a belch, you can come back from accidentally sympathising with Rose West, but you can’t rescue a date from the knowledge it couldn’t possibly go anywhere – unless there’s a spare ticket to Australia in his clutch bag.

Either that or Liam has decided he definitely doesn’t want to see Dee again and is making it up. Impressive.

liam manners

Not only does Liam make surprise moves to different hemispheres – he shares starters. Nobody does that amicably – it’s a cauldron of resentment just waiting to spill over. This isn’t looking great.

dee manners

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liam best thing

dee bst

I don’t know what this means. It’s kind of like hold-music while you’re waiting on the phone to speak to someone at nPower. “Likes being alive.” Not really an answer, just filler.

liam made of you

Two phones. Back in the day, that used to mean you were a drug dealer. Perhaps Dee was hoping you’d whip a bag of ching out of your blouson.

How did Dee know Liam had two phones? Did Liam have them out on the table? You’re on a date. Nothing is that important. There is something about a 24-year-old saying “I live for my career” that is both hilarious and unnerving. It’s so insincere. It’s what David Cameron would’ve said.

dee made of you

Since the Australia question, Dee has zoned out. He’s phoning it in. Not even. It’s an email.

“What do I think he made of me? Who gives a damn? He’s moving to Australia. It doesn’t matter whether he thought I had potential to be a serial killer or wanted to book the registry office before we’d had pudding. He’s moving 12,000 miles away.”

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liam go on

Big day at work = needed to get back home to charge up his two phones.

dee go on

Dee, you’re 30. You don’t go to school anymore. If you keep turning up at the school gates with your satchel and your lunchbox and your Dairylea sandwiches, they’re going to have you sectioned.

Having to get up early for a trip to Berlin the next day is the very thing that would keep me out on the town. I’d be pouring Sambuca down my neck at 4am and waving away concerned onlookers with a breezy “It’ll be fiiiiiiine”.

My hunch is, though, Dee wasn’t going to let Liam be the only one escaping to another country so totally invented this entire trip just to bring a sash window slamming down on the entire evening.

liam change

That’s all you’d change? Nothing else? No? Hang on, I have a call on line 2:

australia_map

Dee?

dee change

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Scores.

liam scores

dee score

It certainly was a treat – you didn’t have to pay for it. Dee’s cold, efficient 8 after Liam’s gushing praise says what we’re all thinking, doesn’t it? Away and waltz, Matilda.

The final furlong awaits. Will our dynamic duo meet again? Even if they were keen, I’m not sure where they’d manage it. Quick coffee in the departure lounge before Liam leaps onto his Qantas jumbo jet?

liam meet again

YES LIAM THAT’S BECAUSE YOU ARE MOVING TO AUSTRALIA OMFG.

It is very inconvenient of Dee not to be at the stage where he too is moving across the globe, but, you know, sometimes love will find a way.

And sometimes love simply can’t get an Uber.

dee maat again

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Photograph: James Drew Turner 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 this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal.