Kat and Nick

kat nick pic

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but dating is a huge library and sometimes you have to admit there simply isn’t time to read all those Catherine Cooksons all the way through. Knowing this, the people we date try to make a good impression – hair is shiny and clean, wardrobes are agonised over, sales of chewing gum on a Friday night reach record highs. We want to look good, we want to be fancied. I’m cool, but respectable, we want them to think. You can trust me. I shower. I have never knowingly killed twice.

It’s like getting ready for your school photo: you know this is the one that will be on the mantelpiece for ever. You really don’t want any spots, coldsores or wayward hairs ruining it for you.

And yet there are some who use the first impression to challenge us. They don’t want to conform to societal norms like brushing their hair or arriving at dates sober, because they want to ‘test’ us. “This is who I am!” they exclaim, as they pit an olive while still smoking a cigarette. “Take me or leave me!” As shallow as it may sound, you should probably leave them. Anyone who wants to “make you think” or “challenge perceptions” on a first date is either an undercover reporter or the kind of person who would throw themselves down a flight of stairs at their own birthday party for a bit of extra attention.

Challenging our perceptions this week are Kat, a 27-year-old digital marketing manager who is holding a hedgehog because KOOKY, and Nick, 35, an animal welfare student. I don’t know what this means. Read what happened on the date, which is a rollercoaster ride through every evening you’ve never wanted to have, before I try to find something to say after each disastrous turn of events.

Kat is up first and is in green. Nick’s answers are in orange.

kat hoping

Very often, I slate the daters’ answers for being too boring – we are reading this in a magazine, after all. So I have to hand it to Kat that she is at least, from the very off, having a good go at being entertaining. And this is what we all hope for from a date, isn’t it? Sod “good food and good company” – what we all want is Mr Right or the potential ride of our life.

nick hoping for

Hahaha, yes, the Guardian Blind Date pages are often dripping with Salma Hayek lookalikes who can’t wait to meet the man of their dreams in one of the most renowned romantic wastelands on the planet.

I am suspicious of men who go on about women being “petite” – if you want a woman you can pick up and carry, join the fire brigade or buy a matryoshka.

kat first impressions

Yes, you’re zany. Congratulations. When are we going to get to the fact you’re holding a hedgehog? I know you’ll be mortified that I’ve noticed, but I have.

nick first imp

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kat talk

“Don’t really remember much.” I wonder how many times Kat’s parents have said to ashen-faced dinner party companions: “Just ignore Katherine – she’s merely showing off because we have guests”.

Threesomes, tattoos, a hedgehog – conversation topics guaranteed to make you move seats on the bus, yet here you are on a date expected to listen to this.

nick talk

“A bit of x-rated talk.” I think even the kindly vicar out of Miss Marple could’ve run to using the word “sex”, Nick.

kat awkward

kitty cringe

Who are we rooting for here? The man-baby who blanches at a bit of swearing, or the plastic rebel who mistakes an affection for the word “cunt” for having a personality?

nick awkward

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Is this being filmed? Are we part of some dreadful candid camera experiment? How much worse can it get? Is an aeroplane going to crash into their table? And can we honestly say that would be a bad thing?

Table manners next. I’ll be watching through my fingers.

kat table

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“No, no, just carry on with your starter. She’ll get bored eventually. We’re not looking at you Katherine. We’re not interested.”

nick table

I can’t use chopsticks. Oh, I’ve tried. I’ve endured disappointed looks from potential dates as I gamely stab at noodles with them, before giving up and asking for a fork. But that’s the thing: I always did, at least, ask for a fork.

Whether or not it’s bad to use hands when eating a starter rather depends on what it is. I mean, spring rolls, that’s fine, right? Mind you, if the person whose hands are getting all up close and personal with your starter has just told you she regularly pets a hedgehog, you’re probably right to be hesitant.

kat best thing

“Tonight the streets are full of actors; I don’t know why.”

Does admitting he finds Kat scary – probably because she’s not a pocket-sized Salma Hayek he can feed Milk Tray to – means he’s passed the test or failed it?

Kat is probably looking for someone who can handle her. But why would anyone want to be “handled”? Endured, tolerated, managed, like osteoarthritis or a dodgy lock on the bathroom door you’ve been meaning to fix. Having a personality and a few quirks to talk about over dinner is fine, but when you go out of your way for people to eventually confess, as you toss aside your chopsticks, that you’re scary – what’s the point of that? At least someone’s entertained, I guess.

nick best thing

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Exceptionally diplomatic, but this is someone desperately searching for a positive in a vat filled with faeces. “Well, yes, my house is on fire, but at least I won’t have to put the heating on!”

kat friends

Once I went to a the birthday party of one of my friend’s children. I got there about 3 minutes after they’d emptied the very last funsize packet of Skittles into their tiny, psychotic mouths and the weapons-grade weariness I felt then is what I’m feeling now. Come, sweet nervous exhaustion, and take me away from all this.

nick friends

It doesn’t help, of course, that Nick’s answers have all the va-va-voom of a bank manager telling you he’s not going to be writing off that unauthorised overdraft penalty again this month, and could you please keep your voice down, because you’re disturbing the other customers, as you have, inexplicably, actually visited a bank branch in 2016.

As electric and crazy and edge-of-your-seat this entire thing is, I am bored. And I am a dangerous creature when bored. This is humdrum am-dram with an extra shot. I wish I’d stayed in bed.

nick three

kat three

I’d have given them both a fourth word, and it would’ve been the same one. Predictable.

Zany. I mean, COME ON. Conventional.

Seriously, these two:

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Stranger pairings have worked, I guess. Sometimes, in a couple, what makes you different can actually bring you closer together. Perhaps what Nick secretly longs for is a lifetime of wincing at someone saying the c-word and stepping over a hedgehog on his way to the front door. And maybe all Kat really needs is an eternity having cricket scores and touching paragraphs from charity pamphlets read aloud to her while a Radio 4 panel show thunders along in the background.

kat go on

Say what you want about Kat – and people probably do, while they back away from her on public transport – but she has not been dull. And, hedgehog ownership and eating with hands aside, we’ve all been a bit Kat on a date. Well, unless we’ve been a bit Nick. I think, despite everything, I’d rather be a bit Kat.

Give us five drinks and someone to show off in front of, and nine times out of ten, we will.

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kat change

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I don’t think even Geri Halliwell would try this hard to come across as interesting in a magazine.

nick change

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Nick. You had all this material to work with. And this is the best you can do? Not “I’d have taken methadone between courses” or “I should have told her she was about as zany and daring as a peanut allergy”, but “Ooh, I really wish I’d eaten something else”.

Fucking HELL.

Scores.

nick scores

kat scores

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So, believe it or not, we reached the end, despite everyone’s best efforts. So will these two meet again? Perhaps round 2 with the totally real and not invented guy she met on the Tube? Does anyone care?

nick meet

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kat meet

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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 lovely and not at all attention-seeking weirdos. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally.  If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

Photograph: Sarah Lee; James Drew Turner, both for the Guardian

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Ollie and Ruairidh

Ollie Ruairidh

21. How was it for you? I may have to comb through the endless dusty tomes within my mind to recall those days, but I do remember being 21. I had horrible hair, parted down the middle and assaulted every eight weeks by a man who’d only ever used scissors before to trim rind off bacon, in a salon called something very ’90s like Storm or Studio or Envy.

My sartorial look was librarian cosplay – all woolly jumpers and sensible jeans and cords, shiny black boots. I wore a lot of checked shirts, which were all three sizes too big for me, because I had the physique of a genetically modified pencil. To cloak myself in winter, I wore a long corduroy coat that I got from TK Maxx. I was a child playing dress-up and longing to be taken seriously, so dressed like an old man. If I’d known then what I know now, my T-shirts would’ve been tighter and my morals would’ve been looser and I’d have got that fucking hair cut off, but that’s hindsight for you. So that was 21 for me.

21 for Ollie, the guy in the picture above who looks like he’s going to a fancy-dress party as Stephen Fry’s laundry basket, is to appear in a dating column in a national newspaper. Imagine being 21 and having exhausted all avenues for meeting someone that you need to throw yourself upon the mercy of possibly the least successful matchmaking  outlet on the planet. A gladiatorial arena whose walls are still stained with the blood of every thankless drip who talked about running, or doled out an “impeccable” when describing someone’s table manners, because they have all the creative imagination of an egg sandwich. Perhaps he’s here for “good food and good company”, or maybe he just really wants to be in a magazine. Or maybe it’s something else. Riddle-me-fucking-ree indeed.

Anyway, 21. Read what happened on the date between Ollie, a theatre marketing manager (makes tea, corrects spelling mistakes on flyers) and Ruairidh, 26, who is a journalist (sits at a computer in desperate need of a system upgrade trying to think of different ways to say “The answer might surprise you” in a headline) and then I shall review it to the best of my ability and as much as my already sapped energy will allow.

Ollie’s answers are in pink, and Ruairidh’s are in blue. Sorry if this colour selection causes a #TeamMasc meltdown – why not write to your MP or demand your money back?

Full disclosure: a few days ago Ollie tweeted at me that he was going to be in the column and very politely asked me to “be nice”. Thing is, I didn’t get where I am today (sitting on a knackered kitchen chair in my spare room, typing this bilge, draining a cup of tea) by letting strangers tell me what to do and I’m not about to start now. This isn’t my first time at the rodeo, boys – but it’s definitely your last. Just so you know.

ollie hoping

A gay man with plenty to say for himself. Hardly hen’s teeth, but it’s nice to have an achievable aspiration.

ru hoping

*’GOOD COMPANY’ KLAXON*

ollie first

Well this is a good start. It’s the first impression we all want to make, after all. Who doesn’t want others to think they’re gorgeous? Anyone who tells you otherwise has very likely come out on the wrong side of a series of used, losing genetic scratchcards.

ru first

That light clinking sound you can hear is your grandmother placing her china cup back in her saucer, right after she said your “lovely new friend” was “polite and well-mannered”.

ollie talk

Shared tastes! Why they’re getting on like a house on fire. Question is, do we call the fire brigade or grab a marshmallow and toast it in the roaring flames?

disastergirl

ru talk

Uh-oh. There’s trouble at t’mill. “Mainly his work.” This is the problem with people who think they have exciting jobs – they tell you all about it in gory detail. However, Ruairidh is a captive audience, so that’s something.

ollie awks

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Why people go to the toilet a lot on dates: cocaine; drinking too much water because they’re nervous; excitedly texting mates to say how well it’s going; angrily texting mates to say how dreadfully it’s going; Domestos fetish.

Life hack: don’t go to the loo a lot while you’re on a date, because sometimes your date’s eye will wander over to the good-looking waiter at the bar, and the waiter’s eye will wander back, and then those two eyes – and the rest of their bodies – will soon find themselves at it like knives in a cubicle. Possibly even the one right next to where you’re on your phone to your pals, dispensing a load of emojis to say how things are going. Better tack this one on the end: 😢

ru awks

*ROM-COM CLICHÉ KLAXON*

It’s table manners. Hold on to your napkins.

ollie table

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ru table

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As long as he didn’t proudly tip the bowl over and put it on his head when he was done, I’m sure it was fine.

ollie best

A gay man with a beard fetish. What are the chances, eh?

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Being appreciated for your sense of humour is, at least, better than most of the answers people give to this one each week.

A sense of humour is not a gift, it is honed through years of experience, full of tough crowds and bad days and things you wouldn’t be able to get through without one. Aside from being called hot, or clever, someone appreciating your sense of humour is one of the biggest compliments. It’s all your own work and almost certainly unique to you, so for someone else to ‘get’ it, and be attracted to it, it’s gold. Don’t ever screw someone with a sense of humour you can’t relate to or doesn’t get yours; they’re not worth your time.

ru best thing

Oh Ruairidh. Engaging. I was rather hoping you’d get to the last slide in your PowerPoint without wheeling this one out, but here we are. Confident: good, good. Super tall. The best thing? Really? I assume this is because you’re counting on everything being in proportion, right? Oh, you. Put your tape measure away.

ollie three

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ru three

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ollie made

Sweetheart, I’ve yet to meet a gay man who was disappointed a date got drunk too quickly. You should put that on your Tinder profile or your Snapchat or whichever “online dating experience that I’m too old to understand” you prefer.

ru made

kitty mouth open

Two things: You haven’t answered the question properly. Also, don’t ever be late to a date. Never. Leave work early, camp outside the restaurant, do what you’ve got to do, but don’t be late. My back would never hit a mattress for a latecomer.

ollie go on

Ollie is actually very sweet. He has that boyish enthusiasm gay men briefly have between the years of coming-out angst and decades of jaded eye-rolling. “It was so much fun” – that really is a beautiful thing to read. Who even says that anymore? Very few. Too few.

ruairidh kiss

ollie kiss

Heterosexual people considering taking part in the Guardian Blind Date column, are you watching? Leave it to the gays to show you how it’s done.

Never mind your “polite peck on the cheek” or “that would be telling” nonsense – leave all that twee rubbish for your no doubt mesmerising post-date text messages to the rest of your “John Lewis click-and-collect service” friends. Yes, they snogged and, yes, they liked it.

ru change

ollie change

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See? It becomes a thing. Lateness – say no to it.

Scores:

ollie scores

Yay. However, I feel a shadow lurking. This is not a cloudless sky.

ru score

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Oh Ruairidh. Why would you do that? You don’t kiss someone and say they’re a 7, especially someone as young as Ollie. And I know that sounds patronising, but if you don’t like my apples, don’t shake my tree.

We forget, don’t we, as we age, what it’s like to be young? We don’t remember how we kind of fell in love with the first person to bring us off, or how, in our minds, we eulogised our early kisses that probably meant nothing to the boy who gave them to us. The excitement of youth and newness is replaced by other thrills, the stuff we do once we acquire all that experience everyone is so keen to get.

Kissing a guy and awarding a 7 – which is, in Guardian Blind Date terms, a 1 that takes three holidays a year and has a cleaner – is deeply uncool, whatever your feelings for potential romance. On Ollie’s behalf, I’m knocking 5 points off your 10, and my decision is final.

So we have come to the end of this carefully curated, choose your own adventure date, which has been like reading a cupcake with my name on it. And it’s spelled incorrectly. Will they bother meeting again, once they know nobody is watching?

ollie meet

ruairidh meet

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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 cooler than the Fonz. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally.  If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. For future reference, if I do get wind that any of the people participating in the date are ‘ringers’ and crafting their answers for my attention or to appear in this blog, I reserve the right to skip a week. I do not take requests.

Photograph: Antonio Olmos for the Guardian

Oli and Elspeth

Elspeth and Oli

Food on a first date – it’s a no from me. If a man ever suggested we go to a restaurant for our first meeting, I’d know he wasn’t a keeper. Why would you, when you have romantic intentions on someone you’ve never met before, want to spend two long hours glued to their disgusting table manners?

“How about we grab some noodles?” they would say. Noodles – a food it’s almost impossible to eat sexily unless you’re being paid by the hour and you’re going to be dragging them out of somewhere else 45 minutes later. If we’re trying our best not to spill soapy broth down our chin, how can we relax and get to know each other? All the talk will be about this meal, and how we both wish we weren’t having it. Want to go on a date with me? Get me drunk and enjoy the show – but don’t ask for menus.

Sadly, the hapless duo who slug it out in the Guardian Blind Date column every week don’t get to decide where they go on their date, and it always has to include food. But where would we be without the table manners question? Food on a Guardian Blind Date is the third character, more important even than a snotty waiter, the peck on the cheek at the end of the night and us, reading at home. The quality of venues varies wildly: one week you can be queueing outside Busaba in the rain with a load of online editors whinging about Adobe Premiere, and the next you may be, as this week’s are, propping up J Sheekey’s Oyster Bar.

Read what happened on the date between 24-year-old Elspeth and Oli, 28, who are both medical students, before I go in make a final incision. As a side note, one of the most unpleasant men I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet styled his name as “Oli”, so I wish this one all the luck in the world.

We start with Oli, who is in blue. Elspeth is in yellow.

oli first

I think I’ve managed to feel more romantic sensation from a self-checkout machine telling me there’s an “unexpected item in the bagging area” than Oli’s incredibly clinical statement. It’s like when you have your appraisal and your boss tells you to fill in a form, and then fill his or her parts in too, and you try to be as non-committal as possible because you don’t want to seem too ambitious or unsatisfied with your job, even though you lie awake at night dreaming of buying a flock of starlings and training them to peck your boss to death.

elspeth first

“An exciting Monday.” No such thing. I love “haunt” as an expression. Although you kind of expect to hear it falling from the whisky-tasting mouth of one of Dorothy Parker’s acolytes, not a 24-year-old. You relationship with a “haunt” isn’t always a positive one – they end up being places you go because nowhere else will have you. If the last place in all of London that can bear to watch you fall off a bar stool is showy (but tasty) fish peddler J Sheekey, you haven’t lived.

oli impress

Don’t call people short. Especially people who are actually short. They don’t like it. We all notice someone’s height, usually immediately because hello they’re standing in front of us. It’s just impolite to mention it. You wouldn’t lean over and congratulate someone on their eyebrows or acne scars or teeth, would you? No. Or would you? If you would, and you’re that lawyer who said you couldn’t wait to kiss me because I had such nice teeth, I still think that’s a bit weird.

els impress

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els talk

oli talk aboit

Not a single match on the conversation topics. Were they in the same room? Rugby. Millennium Stadium. Hmmm. Are they both Welsh?

Oh, and “running” – God, not again.

oli awkward

meryl lightning strike

“She thought I was serious.” Wait until she finds out Father Christmas isn’t real. Anyway, this will be a great story to tell the grandchildren on their one-way trip into a boredom coma.

els awkward

Yes, very good advice. Extremely relatable.

We’re onto table manners next and I can hardly bear to look.

oli table

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els table

Oh, yes, we get it. You ate oysters and you’re the ditsy, elfin heroine of a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ romantic novel.

This is really very nice and I’m all for watching two clean-shirts inhabit the same space as each other and exchange pleasantries but where is the GRIT? Oysters? I think it’s going to take more than that to get these two moving. Quick, somebody nip down to Vauxhall and get them a Viagra.

oli best thing

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The best thing. That attribute ABOVE ALL OTHERS that Oli liked about Elspeth was that she slides out of her pristine bed and into some screwed-up lycra and a pair of sweaty old trainers and goes “for a run”. Nothing else could top it. Not her chat, nor her boobs, nor her eyes, nor her hair, her politics, the fact she too has worked in the Millennium Stadium, her laugh, her smile, her ability to include the word ‘oyster’ in every conversation she’s ever had, nothing. She runs. And that’s the best thing. Perhaps Oli too is a runner and has been waiting all his life for someone else he can bore rigid with his agonising over which knee supports to buy. The best thing. You don’t deserve to be young.

I have to be blunt here. If I spent a good three hours or so on a freezing cold Monday in a fairly upmarket restaurant throwing back champagne (I assume, unless they both had to be up early in the morning to go for yet another run) and guzzling oysters and, y’know, actually getting on, and they said the very very best thing about me – not even the evening itself, but me, as a person – was that I was really into running, I would NEVER EVER EVER EVER fuck them. I’d be keeping that trim athletic figure all to myself. I mean, seriously, at least say you fucking fancy me, you awkward estate agent. Jeez.

And, I even LIKE running.

els best thing

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Hugh Grant, the celebrity equivalent of a Greggs sausage roll that they’ve forgotten to fill with sausage meat. It’s not exactly a mariachi band sitting next to you in the distraction stakes. “He kept my attention even when a movie star who looks like the manager of an East Dulwich deli-cafe sat at the next table.” High praise indeed.

oli friends

“On first evidence” – I wonder what dark secrets Oli thinks lurk within the woman who had to gently explain to him she wasn’t actually a ninja. And they’re both medical students! Nurse! The screens!

Oli’s caution here is quite… weird and unnecessary. Just say “yes”. All this “evidence” nonsense makes it sound like he suspects Elspeth hasn’t been honest with him, or something. You’re talking about a woman, not diagnosing hypothermia. Maybe she actually is a ninja. I hope so; I’d quite like to see her karate-chopping her way out of this mouldy old wine gum of a date.

oli made of you

Oli, you’re 28. If you can’t hold your own against the man who used to hold Elizabeth Hurley’s handbag while she went for a slash, then there is zero hope for you.

els made of you

All together now:

🎵How do you solve a problem like Elspeth?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Elspeth?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!🎵

oli go on

els go on

“We’re medical students, and the entire bill was being paid for by someone else – of course we didn’t go on somewhere. We’re not stupid.”

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els kiss

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Welsh, then.

oli kiss

You just did say. Christ. I WANT TO SEE THEIR BIRTH CERTIFICATES. It’s like watching the figures in an Alpine weather house dance around each other for all eternity.

oli change

See? It’s like I said earlier: the food plays an important role in the Guardian Blind Date. It gives the daters the chance to talk something else apart from each other. It’s a copout. You can always tell when you’ve got a pair of dullards, because when it comes to this question, they don’t say something witty or insightful or sexy – they read the fucking menu out to you.

Tell me how you feel. This is a magazine. The entire print industry is being burned up by the sun and here you are to save it singlehanded, coveting someone else’s starter. I give up.

els change

Not “I wish the night could’ve gone on longer” or even the dreaded “That it hadn’t been a schoolnight”. No “I should have kissed him sooner” or even “I wouldn’t change a thing”, but THIS. Food regret.

Octopus you may very well get to eat again. This moment? It’s never to be repeated; this is your one shot. What are you going to do with it? More octopus? Less you.

It’s the scores. You ready?

oli scores

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SEVEN? You kissed her and it’s a seven?! You had a Hollywood movie star sitting next to you, and she didn’t look over once, or rush and tell him how many times she’s seen Four Weddings and a Funeral (87) or get drunk and scream “Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed” and yet you still score her a seven, which is a ONE with a conservatory built on the back? What did she have to do for an 8?

els scpore

giphy-92

The passion is oozing from this exchange, isn’t it? I’ve seen more romantic potential in a queue for the flu jab.

So one more question left. Will the running enthusiast and secret ninja meet up for another long stare at each other over expensive aphrodisiacs, or is it time to switch off this particularly dreary radio play?

oli meet again

Oli, what the hell are you talking about? What weren’t you sure about, exactly? Did you spy a handgun in her Peppa Pig backpack? You “hate to make a judgment” after one date, so you’re going to seer her again to decide whether you, erm, want to see her again? Imagine picking out Ikea furniture with Oli – your nerves would be shredded. “Just TELL ME, Oli, we’ve been here for four hours – wide or narrow Billy bookcase?!”

Elspeth, please, for the first time in the entire column, give me some content.

els meet

bette davis closes door

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 dicks – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re cool people. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally, and I hope you enjoyed your oysters.  If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian

 

 

Leigham and Vincent

leigham and vincent

It has never been easier to be a serial dater. That ability to swipe left and right and block and ignore and favourite and ‘wink’ – it’s turned single people into instant-gratification nightmares, knowing that if tonight’s date doesn’t work out, they can always get another one. There is always, always another, even for the physically unfortunate.

The trouble with going on lots of dates with different people is that you find yourself predicting from the off how things are going to go. The awkward greeting, the awkward offer to buy the first drink, “So, what do you do?”, the awkward offer to buy a second drink, is it worth getting a third drink, am I drunk, will we have sex, where am I, oh God am I in Hackney again?!

You become so used to it, you find yourself staring glassy-eyed out of the window, dying to find a break in the conversation so you can lean over and say, “Look, I know how this works. We’ve had two drinks, we will probably have two more. My job is awful and boring and I’d rather talk about leprosy. This pub is too loud and I don’t have to be anywhere until 10:30 tomorrow morning, you like me and I like you, so take me home and let me show you all the tricks I learned from the last one. Unless you live in Hackney.”

But you never do.

Two guys who should definitely have had that conversation are Leigham, 26, a law student, and 28-year-old fashion buyer Vincent. I have been stood up on a date three times, and two of those times were by a fashion buyer – the same fashion buyer, if you’re reading this, Joe, you’re still a bastard – so let’s just say Vincent is going to have to pedal a little faster if he wants my approval today. Read what happened on the date and then we’ll get going.

Leigham kicks us off and is in yellow. Vincent’s in pink.

leigh hope

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vincent hope

This is starting to be my new “impeccable” or food-sharing or “I don’t think he could handle my friends”. You were hoping for a pleasant evening? With good food and good company? Remind me, are you a gay man in your 20s or are you Mary Berry describing what she’s going to do on her coach trip to Bridlington with the Rotary Club? Christ.

leigh first

I think this is the politest way of saying “What the hell is he wearing? He looks like he fell into a clown’s wardrobe!” that I’ve ever read.

vincent first

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I refuse to believe people actually say this, let alone that it’s ever a valid first impression. Vincent, you are losing me fast and we are TWO answers in. Any more of your polite candlelit supper clichés and I’m going to demand to see your birth certificate because I cannot quite take in that you’re not 84.

leigh talk

“Helping old people” – that’s handy, because you’re on a date with the old woman who used to live next door to my grandma and hide her copy of the Sun inside a Daily Telegraph as she walked back from the paper shop.

If you think jeans are an odd thing to discuss on a date, may I present some context for you:

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Yeeeeees.

vince talk

OMG have you ever been on a date with someone who’s done – or is training for – a marathon? If you’re not sure, then you haven’t, because let me tell you, the last drip of your martini from the cocktail shaker won’t have hit your glass before they tell you all about it. Oh yes: running routes, jogger’s nipple, random knee injuries, what the hardest mile was, energy drinks, holding in a piss while they ran over Tower Bridge. All of it. Everything. Runners love to tell you about running. And if you’re not a runner yourself, they’ll tell you why you should be, how liberating it is, how it really “clears your head” and how brilliant it is for your general wellbeing. Not interested? Doesn’t matter. They’ll persevere. They’ve got the time. They have the rugged persistence of a scientologist who hasn’t eaten for three days.

(If you’re wondering how I know this, I once trained for a marathon – let me tell you all about it sometime, hey hang on where are you going come back come back come back ETC.)

Anyway, you run. Great.

leigh awks

so-bored

Make something up. Seriously. Or perhaps there were LOADS of awkward moments and Leigham couldn’t give a hoot.

vince awks

Cool. How? What happened? Why did you almost spill it? Did you time-travel to… oh, let’s say now, and see how fucking BORED my face was and decide you needed to do something, anything, to spice up this world tour of everything vanilla, so ALMOST spilled some of your drink? Not even actually spilled it but almost. Nearly. I’ve almost done lots of things,. Wanna hear about them? No I thought not.

It’s table manners now and holy shit I want some juice here, otherwise I’m going to go and break some crockery.

leigh table

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vince table

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You’re supposed to say no. When someone offers you a taste of their food, you just say “Ooh, no, thanks”. Then you offer them a taste of yours, which they are also supposed to refuse. Don’t even think about waggling your fork in front of my face or, worse, pushing your plate toward mine with a hopeful face – like a farm animal that’s about to be whisked to the abattoir – and expect me to carefully select a piece of my dinner, cut you a portion and then try to slide it onto your plate without spilling it on the table (I will spill it) while you grin wider than a serving dish because now, having taken the food from my mouth, you own me.

I know how this works. It’s a battle. You are trying to get one over on me. Although you are supposed to say no, you have said yes, which means I cannot refuse you. I have to give you some, even if I don’t want to. By taking this venison – do you really need to try venison btw? You can, like, buy it in Morrisons now – you have ruined my life and you haven’t even realised it. Except you have. And that’s why you said yes. Anyway.

leigh best thing

This is the best business meeting I’ve ever been to. Oh, it’s a date? Are you sure? I just assumed. In a minute, someone’s going to unveil a Powerpoint and start talking about “synergy” and “reaching out”.

vicne friends

leigh friends

OK, they’re not all bad. Good on you, lads.

leigh three

There are few compliments greater than ‘stylish’. I’m serious. Being complimented on your clothes is the greatest high. Looks? Intelligence? Well, that’s all very sweet but they’re accidents of birth, Your look, though, what you’re wearing – that’s you. You’ve toiled over that. You have thought long and hard, and prepped and changed your mind a million times, about what to wear on that date. “I just threw something on” – the FUCK you did.

I refuse to acknowledge people who claim they don’t care about what they wear or say “this old thing” and yet still look 💯 because they are absolutely a liar. They’re in the same league as people who claim to eat nothing but junk food but could still limbo under a closed door, or those who claim not have studied for an exam and yet get an A, or people who dismiss great ideas they have that are really successful as a “fluke”. You need to OWN all that hard work you’re putting in to be amazing. Don’t make it look easy when you know it’s not. It’s like being a living, breathing Instagram filter. It’s dishonest and I’ll file you under ‘G’ for garbage.

So, anyway, full marks to Leigham for his clothing congratulation.

vince three

I’m warming to Vincent, but I cannot even with some of these compliments. Calm. How could he be anything else? Nothing is happening! Your top awkward moment is very nearly spilling a fizzy drink  – something that never actually occurred.

leigh made

Well, he thinks you’re eloquent, it seems, so either he was equally sozzled – something tells me that both of these guys are up there with Sandy from Grease when it comes to ability to take their alcohol – or he was so busy staring at you he couldn’t think of anything else.

vince made

He says you were “warm”. Like mittens, or IKEA meatballs when you’ve been queuing to pay for too long, or Bristol in May.

vonce go on

Did you exchange business cards? This is all very factual. “This happened and then this happened and then this nearly happened and then another thing and there was a man there and then a lady came and then I saw a dog  and then I went to the Tube station and then a train came and then I went home.”

leigham kiss

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I get more sexual tension balling up socks when I’m putting away laundry.

leigh change

Food sharing. Again. Food envy. “He let me taste some”  – you’ll spend the entire evening ravaging each other’s plates and talking like two bank managers at an Easter barbecue but you won’t SNOG? I give up.

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It’s time for the scores. We’re nearly done. Just one more triple-shot and we’ll be through. Stay with me.

leigh score

7 from Leigham. A seven is a 1 with tissue stuffed in its bra. Nobody ever had an amazing time and said it was a 7/10. If your Mum put a dinner in front of you and asked what you thought of it out of 10, and you said 7, she’d put your face in it. Seven. It’s a one.

vince score

Eiiiiiight. Eights are more hopeful. An 8 is a stepchild shown an unexpected bit of kindness from its mum’s new boyfriend. The thing with an 8, though, is that it’s too safe. It doesn’t suggest potential; it’s a “that was sufficient, but I never want to eat it again” after you try something new in a restaurant. If nine is wearing suede shoes out in the rain, eight is staying at home until it’s stopped so you don’t ruin them. Eight is sensible. 8.

So, the paint is finally dry. Will our tame twosome meet up again to share marathon stories or denim diatribes? Or will they both go back to their day jobs as mannequins in a department store window?

leigh meet

“There was no romantic connection.” Basically, “I didn’t fancy him” delivered with the dead-eyed precision of Delia Smith icing an eclair.

“Maybe.” “Catch up.” If Leigham were any more non-committal he’d be a straight man in his first relationship, sharing a flat in Clapham and getting the wobbles because his girlfriend wants to go halves on a mousemat.

vince meet

Oh Vincent. Maybe you should’ve spilled that champagne after all – at least one of you would’ve got wet.

40s movie star wink

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 dicks – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally, and might I suggest you step it up if you appear in any magazines in future.  If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian