Ben and Henry

Ben and Henry copy

On a date, the very first decision you need to make as soon as you lay eyes on the person you’ve turned up to meet is whether or not you can get drunk in front of them. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve met in a park for an ice cream – how twee – or a quick coffee in Starbucks. Can you have a drink? If you do, what will happen? Will it make you fancy them more, and, more importantly, will it make them fancy you less?

Seventeen vodka-tonics, a packed bar and a missed Tube home can change your life.

If you’ve turned up and your date is a teetotaller, well, GOOD LUCK to you. Nobody ever drank five coffees and thought “Oh to hell with it, I may as well shag them”, but perhaps fortune will be smiling on you.

Ordering another round and leaving their debit card behind at the bar this week are Ben, a 29-year-old dancer, and Henry, 25, who the Guardian website says is a web editor, but the print edition says is a journalist. I’m going to need to see some LinkedIn receipts, Henry. Read what happened on the date and then I’ll get busy with the fizzy.

Ben kicks us off and his answers are in what you might call mustard – Henry’s are in that delightful shade of orange you might see on a scarf in Oliver Bonas.

ben hope

Do you think Ben is one of those people who says things like, “Oh, you know, I can eat whatever I want and never put on any weight!” like all those post-partum celebrities who claim they never go on diets they just “lost all the weight running around after my children”?

Why isn’t there a tax on this kind of thing?

henry hope

Henry, ladies and gentlemen, has never read this column in his life before. You will meet drunks, you will meet bores, you will meet people who are sweet, you will meet those who are ‘chatty’, you will meet people who will make a terrible joke about your hair seven minutes into dinner. Fun? Hmmm. Have you tried hanging around at funerals instead?

ben first

Did you know that eye fetishes are an actual thing? I couldn’t give two bronze farts what colour someone’s eyes are, but apparently it can be very important to some people.

I remember back when I was single, going on a date with a guy who kept staring into my eyes really intensely and telling me how nice they were. “Expressive” I think he said. Anyway, I let him kiss me ‘etc’ and we agreed to see each other again. A while later, he got in touch to say he couldn’t wait to stare into my “beautiful big brown eyes” again.

Reader, my eyes are blue.

henry first

This is very early on in proceedings for an “engaging” to be wheeled out. I didn’t realise people said this in real life. I thought “engaging” was a word you used when filling in a feedback form after sitting through a really boring talk at a dental hygienists’ convention, or what PR people say at screenings when trying to find something nice to say about a really boring film.

Do you notice how they both compliment each other’s laugh? Is this a thing? I’ve heard of laughing someone into bed but I didn’t realise the sound of it was such a draw. Maybe this is going to be the natural successor to selfies – everyone uploading to Audioboom endless recordings of themselves chuckling along to an episode of You’ve Been Framed in an effort to lure suitors. Imagine.

ben talk

If at least two pics in the top four rows on Ben’s Instagram aren’t of him pouting I will be very surprised.

Pouting does look awful though, and not just on men. If you’re doing it to look more attractive, then, great, but you do realise you can’t stay like that all the time, right? Blowjob lips should be presented only when you’re about to give one, guys and girls – it’s like walking around with a napkin permanently stuffed under your chin just in case food comes your way.

henry talk

Funnily enough, the first sentence of Geri Halliwell’s CV says exactly this.

ben awks

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Just say “no” if you’ve nothing to say.

henry awks

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Table manners. Warning: I spy the I-word.

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This is all quite sweet, isn’t it? Two lovely boys sitting down and saying something nice about each other, in turn. Such a nice change from all those horrible bitchy gay men out there. Or something.

henry table

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ben best thing

The eyes are back. Ben really can’t resist these baby blues. On reading this, I zoomed right in on my screenshot of the page to have a closer look at Henry’s eyes.

After this scientific experiment, I can tell you that mine are probably nicer, plus, I would rather someone compliment something else other than my eyes, but good for Henry.

Nice of Ben to praise Henry’s sense of humour. It’s good thing to say. We take our sense of humour for granted. I feel sorry for people who can’t take a joke, or who don’t get irony or, who sit – usually head-to-toe in acrylic, with a documentary blaring out of the radio in the background – and say things like “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit”. How the HELL would you know? You’re boring. You never made anyone laugh.

Never fuck anyone who won’t laugh at someone falling over. Unless it’s an old person – I won’t have that. But, you know, a child or someone wearing their Converse a bit too tight or a doctor’s receptionist. Fair game.

henry best thing

I think this is one of the nicest things I’ve ever read in the Blind Date column. Quite an understated, not to mention undervalued, compliment. “I talked. He talked. We listened.” Not to be sniffed at.

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Never underestimate how grim, how dispiriting, it is to be on a date with someone who hasn’t listened to a word you’ve said. Someone who asks you the same question more than twice, or forgets where you said you worked or, the ultimate diss, forgets your name. Don’t waste your time on these people. Seriously, just don’t bother. if you’re not heard, not listened to, you start to feel like you don’t exist, and nobody deserves to feel like that.

The only time it’s acceptable for someone not to listen is if they can’t remember what you’ve said because you are so DAMN BEAUTIFUL and they can’t concentrate and all they can think about is their new goal in life, which is to take you away somewhere, with your permission of course, and fuck you until you see stars.

ben three

These aren’t character traits, Ben – you’re describing to police the man who sold you a stolen Ford Focus.

“Tall.” “Blond.” You’re not putting together a photofit. Christ.

henry three

Henry describing the guest speaker at an HTML developers’ award ceremony there.

Can we sex things up a bit here? Quick, somebody say “dildo” or something.

ben made of you

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“Dishevelled.” I know this is the question where you really have to pull out your weapons-grade false modesty, but there’s a photo RIGHT THERE Ben, and you’re a dancer, and you’re about as dishevelled as Kate Middleton on her wedding day.

Dishevelled. I just can’t. A tenner says Ben posts selfies looking like he just stepped out of a Kardashian botox party with captions like “Feeling SO rough today”. You’re 29, Ben, you want to see dishevelled? Get an Uber to my house. I’ve been up since 6:30, my eyes look like a rat’s yo-yo and my skin’s more leathery than an old bible.

henry made of you

Oooooh now what I’m getting from this is that dancer Ben had a few comments about Henry’s posture. Things like this are always useful, if a little demeaning. For example, I haven’t crossed my legs since 2011, when my best friend’s mum poked me with a pan of porridge and said I shouldn’t do it as it as an expressway to having varicose veins.

That said, I wouldn’t take any shit about the way I sat from some bloke on a date. Want to share all your handy tips? Go get a blog.

ben kiss

henry kiss

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YES. You can always rely on the gays, can’t you? Here we are, getting beaten up by your older brothers and called “poof” and laughed at by bouncers if we try to hold hands and yet, despite all that, we’re generally having a better time than YOU.

I am going to take Ben’s absolutely disastrous attempt at being coy to mean that they shagged.

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ben change

meryl lightning strike

A mistake?! No combination of anything that ends in a drunken snog with someone whose eyes you can’t stop banging on about should ever be labelled a mistake, Ben.

henry change

I don’t like port either. And I’ve got blue eyes. Hey, Henry, “IT ME” etc.

We’re at the scores. This has gone pretty well, hasn’t it? But are you getting a “will be picking out furniture in a year or two” vibe? Or, at the very least, “will be arguing at a cash machine about how much to take out ‘and by the way don’t think I didn’t see you looking at that guy just then’, while a long queue stands behind them, seething” vibe?

Hmm.

ben score

Tom Cruise what

7. Is this face-saving? The date went well, you snogged (and possibly more) and yet you’re wheeling out a 7? A seven is a 1 with a double-garage and vague plans to build a conservatory, not a score you give someone you actually like.

And yet. I don’t know. Look back at Ben’s answers again. He doesn’t really say how Henry made him feel. There’s attraction, but it’s… empty. There isn’t a lightning strike here. And Henry too, despite saying all the right things, has a slight chill to his answers.

henry score

Eight. OK. Rubbish.

I have two theories: 1. They ‘did it’, but one of them left kind of early, like too early, or maybe even straight after (!) so it seemed maybe they didn’t really like the other one that much. Maybe he had a really early dance rehearsal to go to or something. (Oh come on, of COURSE it was Ben.)

These scores, and indeed almost every answer, are the very definition of cautious. They don’t want to appear like they fancy the other one too much in case they’re rejected.

2. Or they’re embarrassed to say that, while it was fun for one night only, the “forever and ever” achievement has not been unlocked. I’ll leave that one for you to chew over.

This is the price of the knowledge that someone out there somewhere is ‘swiping left’ on our face right now. It makes us afraid to say “YES, I’m into you, but if you’re not into me too, that’s OK, I don’t feel a fool, I had fun, I’ll get over it”. By the same token, we’re just as fearful of letting someone down. Just say “thanks but no thanks” – it doesn’t make you a bad person. Just don’t leave them dangling.

In a world where disappointment and rejection are much easier to dish out, and encountered more often, we’re not becoming hardened to it, as you might expect – we’re actually more frightened of it. You can have no fear when you are dating. Your heart can take it. Trust me. Also, you’re in a magazine, spill the bloody haricots or get the fuck out of Dodge.

Anyway, will they meet again? Fuck knows. It’s like playing poker with a table mat. I mean, 7. Bloody hell.

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henry 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. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. And if you’re not into someone, just tell them for God’s sake. 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. 

Photograph: Teri Pengilley; Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian

Thomas and April

Tom April

How soon into a date can you tell it’s going to be a disaster? Usually, I’d know by the second creak of their ‘vintage’ loafers that a guy wasn’t going to be a keeper. When the repulsion is so instantaneous, you have two choices: you can either make a break for it and call and end to the date there and then, or you sit back and think, “Well, I might as well enjoy myself, even though there’s no attraction”. Option 2 is the best way to spend an evening, but be warned: sometimes you end up going back home with them anyway out of sheer boredom, or morbid curiosity for how bad you can make an evening for yourself without being murdered or in prison.

On other occasions, however, you don’t know you’re on a bad date until it’s nearly over, if at all. And even then, you’re puzzled. You will never know what you’ve done, what you’ve said, but for whatever reason, your fellow dater has taken agin you and there can be no going back. It’s not until you get home, maybe – or in this case read it back in a magazine column – that you realise that joke about Prince George maybe wasn’t quite appropriate.

Read what happened on the date between architecture recruitment specialist, and I’m guessing prolific LinkedIn updater, Thomas, 30, and 31-year-old April, who works in – yes you’ve guessed it – PR, before I wade in and dish out of a whole can of “Oh mate, really?” to the unsuspecting duo.

Thomas starts us off and, like his speech bubble in the pic, is in blue. April, therefore, is in pink.

thom hoping

I’m just going to throw this out there, but I dare say if someone isn’t interested enough in you to want to take something past the first date, they’re hardly likely to want to be confronted on a daily basis by your #eatclean avo-toast breakfasts, sweaty marathon training close-ups, jauntily-angled pictures of St Paul’s cathedral or grainy, over-compressed screenshots of a meme you saw on Facebook.

People are very discriminating with their follows these days, Thomas. Take the gays, for example – if that tops stays on for more than five selfies in a row, they unfollow you faster than a dessert trolley could whiz across a crowded restaurant.

April hope

“If nothing else” – it sounds like April walked into this date with all the enthusiasm of a toilet brush looking at itself in a mirror and realising what its role in the world actually is.

thomas first

Pretty is a good first impression to make when you walk in somewhere, I guess. Accent fetishes, though – oh, wow, I really don’t get this. “Phwoar, I just love your accent.” Piss off.

A South American man I used to date told me, on breaking up with me, some rubbish about being sweet or whatever, but also that I’d been like his “very own Hugh Grant”, with my English accent. There are a couple of problems with this, the first being that I don’t sound anything like Hugh Grant. The second? I suddenly realised I had been, all this time, merely a talking dildo. He wasn’t interested in my chat or my hopes and dreams or even my strange fascination with the way dogs drag their ass on their ground – it was just the accent, the idea. I could’ve been anyone so long as I talked the talk.

april first

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I can count on precisely zero fingers the number of times a date has ever come back from the woman participant commenting on the height of the guy within the first two answers. Height is a big bugbear for some. It has never bothered me, really. Pocket rockets, string beans and everything else in between – I’ve no hangups.

Short, friendly and wearing a nice shirt. Hmmm.

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thom talk

Great, an Official The North Is Amazing Tourist Board stan.

I am from the north. I don’t have a particularly northern accent though – see above – so when I went on dates, my northern heritage would usually go undetected. You’ve no idea how many hours I spent being lectured on why the north is the best place, like, ever by some floppy-haired Toby from Surrey who went to university for one term in Manchester and smoked a rollup outside Affleck’s Palace once.

“Couldn’t live there, though,” they would always finish, sweeping that expertly GHD’ed fringe our of their eyes. “I’d miss London too much – you can’t even get decent sushi up there”.

In my experience, aside from oily faced local councillors with bellies cultivated from fact-finding lunches and kickbacks, the north does not need you to sell it to the masses, believe me. It wants you to stay the hell away.

april talk

“Where we went to uni” – April is 31.

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Box sets. I sometimes think box sets are God’s way of telling you that you should take up alcoholism or murder.

thom awks

Getting someone’s name wrong on a date is the most supreme of disses, the ultimate “fuck you”. On your way to a date, you need to repeat their name over and over and over again until it takes up so much space in your brain, there’s no room left to remember your home address. And, if the evening goes well, there’s every chance you won’t need to know where you live.

april awks

Have you ever noticed that when you want to have a good old whinge about your age, someone will be along in a matter of seconds to remind you they are three days older than you and you’ve nothing to complain about. Social media makes this much easier now, of course – in the old days, you’d have to fling yourself bodily onto tables and into other people’s conversations to let them know. Now you just slide into their mentions like a turd coming back up to the surface, post-flush.

Fat days, bad hair days, feeling old days, having no money days – there will always be someone in earshot out to trump your misery, the most bizarre form of oneupmanship known to man. “My life is worse than yours. Pity me.” JUST LET ME FEEL OLD. This isn’t about you.

It’s table manners now. I’m smoothing down my tie and pushing my chair back slightly – I have a feeling I’ve got an Oscar winner coming up.

thom table

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april table

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GO YOU, THOMAS. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t instantly want to shag a guy who did this. I can only assume by this point, Thomas had realised the prospect of pudding turning into anything else was about as likely as David Cameron remembering which football team he supports two days in a row.

thom best thing

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april best

I mean, nobody has said the dreaded “chatty” here, but put these last two answers together and it’s as good as.

Oh no, hang on, here it is:

april three

Nice. Friendly. Chatty. Something you’d overhear in the staff room of a care home, as the assistants describe the latest resident to peg it in the middle of the night.

thom friends

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Yaaaaas I bet Tom and his mates really carve it up on a Saturday night with the spirit of ‘Beefa – nonstop bantosaurus-rexing and giving it full gangsta as they polish off their third boozy mochaccino spritzer in whichever brass-rail, clean-shirt, “all the bar staff wear floor-length black aprons and moustache-shaped lapel pins”, lads-lads-lads duff watering hole they pick on a Saturday evening.

She’s not too nice for your friends. Nobody is, unless you went to school with Maleficent and Ian Brady.

Only joking, Tom. I’m sure you’re a delight to have a pint with.

thomas three

I’d leave the “chic” plaudits to the ghost of Coco Chanel, if I were you, Thomas.

thom go on

I wonder how hasty we’re talking here? Although April has been delivering her answers with all the brio of a rubberised plug, and Thomas did rather overzealously boast about his dessert, the date hasn’t sounded too dreadful – what could possibly have led April to make like the roadrunner and scram?

april go on

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Oh. Um. Well. It rather depends on how Thomas did this, of course, but it’s not the best of form to ask someone if they’d like to do it again before you’ve left the table.

Maybe he was just too keen or perhaps the wine had gone to his head and he thought “fuck it” – thinking “fuck it” isn’t done nearly enough and should be encouraged, but the trouble is nobody ever thinks it at the right time. I digress.

The best way to ask if someone would like to see you again is over the cold, hard reality of texting, or WhatsApp, or whatever. A brisk knockback is much easier to take on a screen – nobody wants to be left sitting watching the table decoration wilt, even if they do have friends close-by for a debrief.

That said, she could’ve at least said “maybe”. You’re on telly, you know.

thomas kiss

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Says who?! Anyway, her loss, Thomas.

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kitty shake head

Not just no, but absolutely not. There’s more to this than meets the eye.

thom scopre

Ooh, Thomas. Harsh, but fair. I wonder if this will be enough face-saving to counteract whatever score April’s going to conjure from her rapidly draining goodwill for you?

april score

Oh. Nope. Bad luck, T-man.

So, with the crushing inevitability of asking a child whether it enjoyed its school dinner, we must ask the killer question. He got her name wrong, asked her out again mid-dinner, banged on about the north, got rebuffed. She picked the wrong dessert, has ageing issues and raced out of the restaurant. Will they see each other again? Will they BUFFALO.

But let’s ask it anyway.

thomas meet again

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There’s better storylines out there for you somewhere, Thomas.

april meet

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Then hang up, April. It’s for the best.

kitty walks out

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. 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. Sometimes appearing in the Blind Date column is God’s way of telling you to give Tinder another go. 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. 

For Victoria Wood. Thank you.

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

 

David and Kevin

Kev Dave

It’s occurred to me more than once that I’ll never have those proud moments as a parent. I won’t get to wipe away a tear as I watch my progeny take its first step, totter off into school for the first time, toot the horn on its first driving lesson, or graduate. Thanks to social media, life does seem to be a great big competition to have as many big emotional moments as possible crammed into your day, and save for watching Madonna do Vogue at the MTV Awards in 1990 for the umpteenth time, my days are remarkably light on those.

One good thing about not being a parent, however, is that I won’t have to pretend. Being a parent looks like a lot of pretending. Pretending their first portrait of you is a masterpiece and not a rather frightening rendition of what you would look like if a bomb went off in your mouth. Pretending their singing or acting in the school play was anything other than the standard of the first three weeks of Eldorado. Sitting tight-lipped when they bring home yet another wastrel and profess their undying love. Not saying I told you so when it all goes horribly wrong. Ignoring all the signs the process is about to begin again.

As a parent you have to ignore the horror and glide through life like everything is fine, hiding your dread when they do something disastrous. And this morning, I felt that parental pang when I saw today’s Guardian Blind Date duo because, reader, I ‘know’ one of them. He follows me on Twitter, and I him. I didn’t know he was going to be in the column this week, or indeed ever, so when I spied him on the page this morning as I forced my eyelids open, I had to make a call.

Do I sit this one out, and wait for next week? Keep a respectful, parental silence? Or do I do what no parent should ever do – as soon as the curtain comes down on their school play, walk calmly over to them and hand over my critique of their performance, in the reddest of pens and the thickest of nibs? What would you do?

Well, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter what you’d do, because I am sitting here and you are not. I’m going in.

Read what happened on the date between 28-year-old publicist David and Kevin, 25, a political campaigner before daddy gets to work.

David (left) is in green and starts us off. Kevin (on the right, obviously) is in yellow.

dave hoping

I suppose this would be a reasonable expectation if you were going to a burlesque club or maybe a cosy pub, sitting in the snug with the hustle and bustle of the boozer just enough out of earshot to hear each other talk. A Vietnamese restaurant in the ‘wilds’ of Islington, however, which is where these two have ended up, isn’t exactly making me bite my lip in anticipation.

kev hoping

Kevin has literally never seen this column before in his life.

dave first

I like it when ‘sweet’ comes up. Not just because it’s as twee and sexless a compliment as you can give anybody, but because it is actually a huge signal, a spoiler if you will, about how the date’s going to go.

🚨🚨🚨🚨 He doesn’t fancy him. 🚨🚨🚨🚨

And kind? Ouch. I haven’t seen a friendzoning this fast since Taylor Swift coughed awkwardly when Ed Sheeran asked her out to dinner.

k first

Clothing and friendliness, very good, yes yes, but what’s the low-key about here, hmmmm? Was he hiding under the table? Dressed in camouflage? Communicating only by blinking?

d talk

I know this is Kevin’s job, so I get why this has come up, but I am allergic to talking about politics on a date. I can’t. Every time politics have come up, it’s gone badly. On pretty much each occasion, the other guy has been doing perfectly well and then out comes the politics and a garbage opinion.

When I’ve mentioned this before, I’ve been told this is a good thing and I should enjoy the debate and try to put my point across, and while I do enjoy feedback from boresplainers, I’m afraid I cannot agree. The thing about politics is you will almost never be able to change the other person’s mind, even though you will both aggressively, thickheadedly try.

It is good, I guess, to weed things out early on – like, nobody wants to fall in love with a mad racist – but beyond that, arguing about Brexit or the coalition or foreign aid or, as always comes up and would always send me flying into a rage, people on benefits and single mothers. People who think those on benefits are cheating the system, for example, will never change and your date is only going to go off a cliff if you carry on arguing the toss with them.

If you are both really into politics and this is a turn-on, then great, but I guess I had a nasty habit of picking men who voted for the ‘wrong’ side.

Anyway, I digress. I once went on a date with a political candidate. I have some interesting sex stories should he ever become prime minister, but his chat wasn’t up to much. We got on quite well but I can only assume he eventually Googled me because a few days later the dirty texts stopped and  I got the most hilarious missive explaining he wanted to concentrate on his career. Every so often he pops up in the paper, grinning amid his constituents, and I do find it vaguely amusing what else I’ve seen that earnest face do.

k talk

Idly wondering whether Australia being in Eurovision got a mention.

d awks

Very often on dates the best part of the entire evening is before you arrive. The anticipation, the butterflies, the last frantic chomps on chewing gum before you walk in; the smiling, nervous glance around the room to see if they’re there. Heaven. Like a drug. I’d cherish those moments.

But of course with every high there is a comedown, and then your date arrives and his photos are obviously 10 years old, he’s not 6’1″ and he’s come straight from after-work drinks and the first thing he talks about is UKIP.

k awks

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It’s table manners now. Here we go.

d table

This may seem classy to David, but it’s a no from me. At restaurants like this, the system is your food comes when it’s ready. It can be a bit of a pain if one of you has ordered something more complex, of course, but that’s the system. Rules are rules.

When you’ve known someone a while, you can conspiratorially agree to dick about with the waiting staff’s day and pretend you ONLY want to order starters so they don’t bring everything all at once. You then wait until the plates are being cleared away and go “A-ha! Actually we do want a main course too!” Waiters can see right through this, of course, and will go back to the kitchen and roll their eyes while you congratulate yourself on ‘sticking it to the man’. Your medal is in the post.

Insisting your food comes in the time and way you choose is, well, it’s a bit like when aged celebrities who are trying to keep it real go to posh restaurants and insist on egg and chips being specially prepared for them. Maybe it seems charming, but, when in Rome, y’know. This is the kind of thing your granddad would do to assert his authority. It would flag up to me that this guy was a little on the controlling side. Not a good look.

And *that* is how you psychoanalyse someone to within an inch of their life, based on the most casual of remarks.

Woman waves like a queen

k table

I let others order first. I’m very polite. But if they take too long, I steam on in because I hate to see a waiter dither. So now you know.

d best thing

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Imagine someone saying the best thing about you was actually something you were not.

Pity us poor bitchy gays, forever left on the shelf because a few special snowflakes can’t take some REAL TALK. How ever will we survive?

k best thing

Mildred surprised flattered face

“A lot to say for himself.” Yes I’d be thrilled if someone said this about me. Truly.

d intro

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We’ve all been there.

I went to see The Bodyguard, but Alexandra Burke was in it. I did go to see a musical Beverley was starring in, but when I got there discovered it was her night off, FFS. Amazing fact: I bought Beverley Knight’s first-ever single, Flavour of the Old School, on cassette. They’re my Beverley Knight anecdotes. Not as good as the one above, but they are at least TRUE.

k friends

Well, this is nice. Well done, boys.

d think

I’m pleased these boys are getting on in a “thanks but no thanks” kind of way, but I’m also thinking of sticking my finger in the plug socket just for something to do, tbh.

k made

He doesn’t mention that you were funny at all, Kevin. I’ve checked. He says you were sweet, twice, decent and personable, which is how police would describe a man who knocks on old people’s doors and cons them into having their gardens paved over or empties their savings tins from under the bed.

“He was so personable” is possibly the least sexy thing you can say about someone without describing them as a microwave oven.

k kiss

Gay men now officially as sexually liberated as a straight couple doing the Atkins, with early starts in the morning and bemoaning a lack of ‘spark’. Truly the equality we have all been fighting for all these years.

(This is a joke. If you don’t want to kiss, don’t kiss. Please don’t write in.)

d change

Why stop at two, David? What this date desperately needed was a bucket of wine each and SHOTS.

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k change

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d marks

k marks

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Sevens. Barely worth persevering to the main course, tbh.

So we’ve made it to the end, and have witnessed two very nice young men sit at the same table and continue to exist, if nothing else. But does their destiny lie together – and if it does, will they ever be able to get over the fact I’ve seen second cousins with more sexual chemistry – or will they merely take their polite and personable selves in separate directions? It’s the ‘meet again’ clincher:

d meet

k 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. 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 – you should know the drill by now. 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. 

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

Michael and Rebecca

Michael Rebecca main

I am not a romantic, I’m clinical and practical. I don’t know whether it’s genetic or simply that my heart’s been hardened from years of sitting in pubs on dates with men who accidentally spit on me whenever they say the word “scissors”, but I’ve grown to learn romance is for fairy-tales and storybooks and comedies starring Andie MacDowell.

And yet I kind of admire romantic people, even if they are idiots. I wish I could wake up one morning with a Disneyfied view of the world – maybe my eyes would be all big like Bambi’s and I’d have little tweeting birds helping me get dressed, instead of little Twitter birds in my mentions telling me I’m wrong about something. But it isn’t for me. And even a Disney story needs a Maleficent or a Cruella or an Ursula. Some of us have to be honest with ourselves: we were born to be the wicked witch.

And, yes, Andie, it is raining, of course you noticed, and do you realise you are going to die of pneumonia about three weeks after the credits roll, right?

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This week we have a romantic in the shape of Michael, 28, a scriptwriter and 29-year-old campaigner Rebecca. Read what happened on the date, before I take Michael’s script, grab my red pen and cut out all the scenes where he gets to kiss her.

Michael begins and is in orange. Rebecca’s in green.

michael hoping

Oh come now. Surely, the worst-case scenario would be a fabulous new nemesis you could have huge battles with, or someone you could write into one of your scripts who gets killed off by something heavy early in the first act?

See? I’m just a wicked old witch.

rebecca hpping

Well, yeah, but everything going smoothly or running like clockwork isn’t exciting, is it? If you’re going to be together for ever, you want something to bore the grandchildren with. You want knickers trapped in your skirt, or his fly undone, or him spilling a carafe of red wine over your head, or, as I observed at a party last night, a woman getting her scarf trapped under the door of the ladies’ loo and trying valiantly to free it for what felt like untold millennia.

She had to get a waitress to help. It was mortifying. I’d have left it.

hael first

I think they need to be clearer about this question. Does it mean “What did you think when she walked in?” or “What was your first impression as a whole?” because the answers vary wildly. Like, you can’t tell whether someone has a fun personality when they walk into the room. Unless they’re wearing a red nose, tooting on a bugle and have a huge pair of plastic comedy breasts gaffer-taped to them. And even then, that is not a “fun” I want to be stuck in a lift with.

reb first

See? Our Michael – Mikey, I bet, to his aunties, who all adore him – is a romantic. He brought flowers to make it a proper date. This is beautiful. And also massively impractical. What are you supposed to do with the flowers on the date, but put them to one side – perhaps on the chair beside you, wet stems slowly staining the upholstery – and watch them wither and die? Rather like your romantic aspirations.

Also: “sweet”. Is Rebecca describing someone she would like to get to know intimately or merely a cute, bespectacled kid from a flyer for an after-school club? Can you “sweet” someone into bed? It’s not a conundrum I’ve ever had to unravel, I must admit.

michael talk

Work work work and then death.

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rebecca talk

Writers. You get two types. The first is the kind of writer who goes on and on about things they’ve written. Every misplaced semicolon, every twee, reactionary opinion, every muddled cliché offered up to you, like your dog returning to you after galloping off in the park and dropping a used condom at your feet. The other type would rather talk about an ingrown toenail or the surprising places you find eczema when you’re on holiday than anything they’ve written. Oh and there’s a third type – the one who pretends he is neither of these people. 😇

Erotomania. Do you think this is related to the near-death experience? A stalker tale? Did Michael really bring flowers, or is Rebecca an erotomaniac who never went on a date at all, and in fact this all happened at a bus stop and Michael is a litter bin? Oh my God.

mike awks

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That doesn’t mean there weren’t any, Mikey babes.

reb awks

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Michael. You did not. You did not try the “Oh no I’ve missed the last train!” gag.

This is the real damage the 24-hour Tube will do to London. Not the Hammer Horror nightmare of being trapped in a carriage with a group of drunks singing Bitter Sweet Symphony at jet-plane decibels while they vomit kebabs over your dog-eared copy of Women In Love. Oh no. It’s the definite end of all the “well we might as well” sex that happens when your date misses the last Tube and you offer to let them kip at yours. Because once you’ve got someone back in your kitchen, and you don’t hate them – and they’re clean enough and not too scary to sleep on your couch – you might as well screw them.

No? Just me? Oh, suit yourselves. Die virgins, then.

Table manners!

mike table

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reb table

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Is Rebecca talking about a man she may well end up snogging after a few negronis or reading out the report card of her toddler’s first day at nursery? I haven’t had vibes this sexless since I first saw myself in Speedos.

michael best thing

Who’s Becca? Has the female role been recast halfway through the date?! Like when Pippa in Home and Away went outside to hang the washing out to dry and came back inside with a new head?

Anyway, sharp mind, which is what you’d say about a pensioner who could still remember your birthday, and a sense of humour. Great stuff.

reb best thing

The ability to laugh at yourself. If ever there was a second prize of compliments, it’s this. The ability to realise you are, in fact, a ridiculous human being and to smooth over this fact by laughing at yourself – when all you want to do is cry – is not top of my self-awareness goals tbh.

michael friends

Hmmm, Mikey babes, if you have 12 mutual friends on Facebook and had to be introduced to her by way of a magazine column rather than social osmosis, I’d take this as a sign that, no, you’re probably not meant to be together.

Also, have you been doing a few quick post-date spot checks of her social media?! Duuuuude, don’t say that out loud. We all know that we do it; we just never admit it.

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reb friends

Would they? Are they LIONS? Huge GORILLAS, maybe?

Looooook, as wild and out there as I’m sure your cabal of buddies is, ask yourself this: if the prospect of introducing a guy like Michael to them is too terrifying to imagine, maybe – just maybe – you should… oh I don’t know, get some different friends?

Groups of friends who would “eat him alive”  – almost always a boring puddle of one-can Dans who still can’t get over Jar Jar Binks and vote in polls on Q Magazine’s website.

Give me a break.

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michazel theee

Engaging. Don’t describe people as engaging. Things that are engaging: plays you pretend to like, PowerPoint slides with animations, reading your flatmate’s diary. Things that aren’t engaging: people.

Smart and funny are cool compliments, I guess, but do people really say those words out loud, or do they use them in movie reviews to describe a wisecracking heroine who will be made over, dumbed down and married to some feckless hunk by the end of the film? You’re the scriptwriter, Michael; you tell me.

reb three

I don’t know about the ‘honest’ because it seems a weird thing to flag up, but I’d happily take the first two. And even though I can sense this is going absolutely nowhere – every answer Rebecca gives is like  a sympathetic ruffling of the hair rather than a ‘come hither’ – I ship these two. I do. I ship them bad.

michael made of you

I don’t think Michael was remotely boring, but I yawn all the time. I mean, just as I typed the word ‘yawn’ there, I yawned. And again. And again there for ‘yawned’. Oh God, I have to stop typing this bloody word.

Anyway, Rebecca, teach me your wizardry when it comes to stifling yawns (yep, again) because I am ruining some of my best relationships this way.

reb made of you

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reb kiss

“You are getting on that fucking train, Michael.”

michael change

I had a quick squiz at the menu. Spaghetti doesn’t appear to be on the menu – which is devastatingly straightforward; I can’t imagine why you’d need to ask the chef to help you pick the nicest thing – so I assume it was a special. A special usually means they’ve ordered too much of something and need to get rid of it. One restaurant I go to far too often has had a ‘meat platter’ as its special for so long, I dread to think how many dead animals must be cluttering up their fridge.

reb change

“I had to sit through all this sober.”

I can’t help but think how different things might’ve been for Michael and Rebecca if the wine had flowed, if he hadn’t had to drive home from the station, if he had missed the last train.

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It’s the scores. Does anyone else have that sense of dread?

michael scores

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I. Refuse. To. Grade. People. It isn’t like Tinder, Michael – you swipe left and right, for a start – and you don’t get to come on a date that has a very strict format, which you know will end up with you having to give a score, and say, “Oh no, I don’t do that. I’m too cool for that”.

What’s really happening here is that you’re frightened she’ll score you lower than you did her because, oh I don’t know, masculinity-so-fragile or some other internet meme. There isn’t anything  wrong with admitting you like someone a bit more than they did you. It doesn’t make you weaker, it makes you look confident, genuine. Don’t be that guy, like all those other guys. Be you. Or if you can’t be you, be a better version of you.

Anyway, I can see a 9 there which you say is for “the evening” so I will take that to mean you thought Rebecca was a 9, so that went well for you didn’t it?

reb score

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7’s pretty low if you actually like someone, Rebecca. What aren’t you telling us?!

So we’ve come this far, but the story has to end somewhere. He brought her flowers, he took on spaghetti and won. Will they meet again and miss a train together? Will Rebecca have to persuade her pride of lions to turn vegetarian?

michael meet

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reb 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. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally. After all, this is not Tinder, and I’m sure your mates are totally 💯. 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. 

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

Maverick and Sandra

Maverick and Sandra 750

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but what really gets the heart pumping to the point of explosion is never meeting at all. Imagine all the relationships that are absolutely perfect over phone, text, IM, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Twitter and the like, only to be spoiled for ever when you do the unthinkable – meet them in person.

During my dating ‘career’ – and let’s be honest here, that’s what it was, and indeed is, even though I am no longer on the hunt – I managed to go out with a healthy century of suitors. Online, with my fingers never touching even a millimetre of their skin, I wooed them with what I suppose, if you were being generous, you would call my charm and wit. Well, it certainly wasn’t my photos, my bank balance or intimate snapshots of my middle-aged wang.

But as soon as we met, at least 50% of the time: disaster. Charm succeeds where flesh cannot. I often wonder if this is what has kept the Guardian Blind Date – which I love with every beat of my putrid, nut-sized heart – going all these years. Its readers like the idea of getting a nice meal, a lovely photoshoot, being in the paper so their friends can see etc. All sounds pretty good so far. But then there is the crushing reality: you actually have to go on the date, meet a stranger who will probably get too drunk or be really weird or bring a hedgehog or will suddenly, mid-Merlot, turn out to be a colossal racist or, worse, work in PR.

Braving the glossy pages of disappointment in the name of romance this week are Maverick – yes, that’s right – a 43-year-old independent film-maker, job and Sandra, 57, a wedding photographer. Read what happened on the date between these two camera-wielding romantic hopefuls before I walk into shot and ruin everything.

Maverick kicks us off and is in blue. Sandra’s all pinky-purple.

mav hoping

18 years. I used to shake like a shitting dog before dates after a gap of only 2 days, so Maverick must’ve been borderline hysterical waiting for Sandra to rock up.

sandra hoping

A spark. There are good sparks and there are bad sparks. There are coup de foudres; there are nights where you feel like you’ve known each other for years, even though you’re barely past the starter; there are instant lustful thoughts.

And then there are the sparks you get from two acrylic cardigans rubbing up against each other in a bus stop.

mav first

Sandra is very pretty. She looks a bit like Cherie Lunghi (actress who had to endure being called “the thinking-man’s crumpet” every time she was mentioned in TV Times in the ’80s) or a fashion sketch of the woman from Supernanny.

sandra first

TOM DALEY PROBLEMATIC

Stavros. Hmmm. I am assuming she’s referring to Stavros Flatley, the comedy act from Britain’s Got Talent, featuring two tubby guys of Greek origin whose whole shtick was doing wonky Irish dancing with no tops on. Yes, really, this was a thing. That’s the UK for you.

Anyway, I’m guessing Maverick doesn’t dress that way because he’s desperately shy, so not to comment on it would be weird. Stavros, though. I’m watching you.

EDIT: Quite a few people messaged me to say they’d assumed she’d meant Harry Enfield’s ’80s comedy character Stavros, a stereotypical Greek kebab shop owner.  I remember thei character and, beyond the moustache, didn’t see much of a resemblance. That’s what I meant by “I’m watching  you” – was she trying to say Maverick was Greek? It’s dodgy, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. FWIW, I thought he looked a bit like a less cartoonish version of Patrick Marber playing Spiros – Pauline Calf’s dodgy lover in Three Fights, Two Weddings and a Funeral.

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A kind reader had another suggestion, leaving this in the comments:

  
Sounds good to me. 

Anyway, I’m glad we could clear that one up. Onward:

macvv talk about

Maverick sounds almost wistful here. This is what dates do sometimes, when we’re least expecting it. You get a peek into someone else’s experiences and can, once you compare them against your own, feel inadequate, that you haven’t quite lived the life you should’ve done. Should I have done more? Should I have taken chances? But would that have brought me here, to this moment? Who could I have been?

However, you can also sit there thinking, “Shut the fuck up about your fab, crazy, zany life and let me tell you about my obsession with closed London Underground stations, you humblebragging bore”. I mean, Gaaaaaawd, write an autobiography or get a blog or something.

sandra talk about

Gambling doesn’t come up much on these dates, does it? An addiction to scratchcards, maybe? Swapping bingo stories? We’ll never know.

Moustaches. Maverick has a moustache, everyone. Did you know?

sandra awkward

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“It wasn’t really awkward, but when you ask me a question about something awkward, I’ll mention it. But it wasn’t awkward, not at all.”

Someone putting their hands near your foodstuffs – even if they’re merely decoration on your cocktail –without your permission is awkward, Sandra. Let’s not stay polite just for the sake of it.

Table manners!

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mav table

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maverick best

Hot take: Maverick fancies Sandra.

sandra best

Hotter take: Sandra could well be reading out the dating profile of a Labradoodle.

mav friends

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Why does everything Maverick say, even when it’s perfectly upbeat, break my heart?

mav three

sandra three

I ❤️ that they both use eccentric, especially Maverick. He’s, like, yes, that’s right, I can turn up dressed like a fancy dress shop owner whose family made him get a Gok Wan makeover and still call you eccentric. Yes, you can, Maverick.

Not sure about the “passionate” and “full of love” – it does sound a bit like he’s just watched her sculpt a tall vase on a potter’s wheel – but at least he’s being nice.

mav made of you

I refuse to believe that Sandra’s notched up 57 years on Earth and the oddest man she’s ever met is some guy with a moustache. Has she never nipped into the McDonald’s next to Charing Cross station after 4 in the morning?

sandra made of you

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I’m very impressed with Sandra’s recall for compliments. Maybe she was recording him on her phone. “For the benefit of the tape, can you just repeat the second compliment – it was ‘intelligent’, right?”

mav go on

Good-looking older lady who lives on a houseboat? Iconic.

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mav kiss

💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔

sandra kiss

I’m starting to think Sandra might have an unusual variant of Tourettes that compels her to say the word ‘moustache’ every other sentence.

Be warned, beard-cultivators: not everyone loves your face fur. It could be getting in the way of a passionate snog.

mav change

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sandra change

See? She can’t help herself. But, no, Sandra, you were right not to brave it if it wasn’t for you.

Kisses: they’re not automatic. They are not a right.

It’s the scores. Oh God. How do you think this one is going to go?

mav score

This 10 is like when you’re eating something in the same room as a dog, and it pads over to you to see what it is, and even though it doesn’t like what you’re eating, it will nudge you and start to make those big eyes at you in the hope that whatever you’re eating will magically change into something it does like, and that once that transformation has occurred, you’ll give it some.

But what Sandra’s eating is immune to magic tricks.

sandra score

This 9 is the smile you give a stranger on a train when you hand them the umbrella they almost left behind on the seat next to you. It’s warm, it’s sympathetic – it is brief.

Have these two eccentrics found common ground? Will they set sail on Sandra’s houseboat? Is Maverick’s walrus moustache about to come into close contact with the blades of a Gillette?

sandra meet

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mav meet

I’ll come see Anomalisa with you, Maverick. And you can keep the moustache. Just keep your hands out of my popcorn.

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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. 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 or comments you might have. 

Photograph: Graeme Robertson, Linda Nylind, both for the Guardian