Stephen and Zoë

Stephen Zoe

There are only a couple of problems with being old, really. The first is looking it. What a cruel trick of nature that is. In your head, you feel 18 – but, like, wiser, and with better taste in knitwear, and more money – and you barely even notice now the twinge of your arthritic knee or the “ooooh” sound you make when you sit down. But grey hair, wrinkles, the dulling of your eyes, your once-full lips fading to a scar – they really are a punishment for not relishing your youth enough while you had it.

The other main issue with being old, of course, is youth itself. It didn’t just go out of fashion the day it left you; it’s still out there, clinging to the tight skin and even tighter buns of all those young people in your eyeline every single sodding day. Just like you were, they’re dismissive of the power their lack of birthday candles gives them. But that’s up to them. Getting old means there are so many more of them. And because you’ve sailed past that magic age of relevance – a number which is never revealed to you, by the way, until at least three years after you’ve passed it – you are invisible, undoable. Especially if you’re gay, to be honest. As a friend over 40 put it, “I could walk into a gay bar and set myself on fire and nobody would notice”. I’m not sure this is true – they would at least stoop to light their cigarettes from him. This is why your parents are posting vaguely racist memes from 2003 and soapboxing about Brexit all over Facebook – they just want you to see them.

Anyway, I don’t care about being older and although I love young people I don’t particularly want to be ‘noticed’ by 17-year-olds throwing up their Mai Tai in the smoking yard in G-A-,Y thank you very much, but I would like to look a bit fresher. Ah well.

Bridging the generation gap today are Stephen, 36, a textile designer, and 25-year-old lingerie seamstress Zoë. 36 and 25. Eleven years. A lot can happen in 11 years, especially to Madonna’s career, but even more can happen in a couple of hours on a Blind Date. Go and read what happened on it while I queue patiently for the carvery and prepare to have an argument with the staff about just how many slices of gammon are appropriate for the “meal deal”.

To match the speech bubbles in their picture, Stephen’s answers are in pink and Zoë’s are in yellow.

step hope

Reading on, I hope it’s not much of a spoiler to say that Stephen should perhaps have invested instead in an electric blanket, a North Face jacket, a sheepdog or a burning building – all much warmer options than going on a date.

I mean, dashing a scalding cup of cocoa in someone’s face would warm them up considerably – it would certainly distract them from the cold for a few short, bloodcurdling minutes – but I’m not sure I’d recommend it.

zoe hope

25, eh? If you could buy York Notes on how to answer questions in the Blind Date column, this would probably be up there in the ‘safe things to say when you have the breadth of imagination of a newt’ section.

youths

step first

“Eyes are popping out, whilst lips are receding.” Eyes are the big new trend in what men bang on about in the Guardian Blind Date, it seems. I think it’s because men are so nervous about complimenting anything physical about a woman, they have to go for the least offensive.

Nobody really minds if you say they have nice eyes. Hair, too, I guess, is safe. But wouldn’t it be kind of refreshing if, when asked this question, or the “what’s the best thing about them” question, they said something like, “I really loved the way I could see the shape of his dick through his cords”? I once spent a date wearing trousers so tight my buttocks had to get a restraining order, and the guy I was on a date with couldn’t stop looking at them, so I know people notice these things. (Yes, he got to see everything close-up later – I’m not an animal.)

zoe first

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Poor Stephen. It was done for him before it had even begun. Rightly or wrongly, there are things people just can’t get over. Age. Height. Bad hair. UKIP.

Arriving at a date and knowing straightaway it’s a non-starter is such a crushing disappointment – you know you have to go through with it because you don’t want to look shallow, but every staccato response to their perfectly innocent and amiable questions is peppered with the annoyance you feel that you’re wasting your time. You don’t want to be mean to them, because it’s not their fault they don’t live up to your expectations – unless they’ve lied on their profile or their pics were 100 years old – and yet to give them false hope wouldn’t be fair. Sometimes I’ve gone home with people from dates like this just because I felt sorry for them. Don’t do this.

step talk

These conversation topics sound like things you’d be asked to draw in a game of Pictionary.

If you’re ever stuck for a conversation, “the horror of renting in London” is quite a good one. It is impossible not to have an opinion on it, whether you’re a millennial trying to save for a deposit for a luxury hutch in Zone 8000, a broken Gen X-er still clinging to Dalston or a baby boomer who couldn’t give three bronze fucks where anyone else lives as long as it’s not anywhere near the five-bedroomed house in W1 they bought for 7p in 1973 and rent out to the precocious child of an oligarch.

“Mad Men.” I liked Mad Men but what I liked even more about Mad Men were actual men, in real life, telling me in very, very granular detail how great Mad Men was, and what we could learn about society from it, and how lovely the styling was, and what fantastic clothes Don Draper wore, and how Don was an icon but obviously things have moved on a lot since then, and what a terrible mother Betty was, and how Peggy’s rise to the top was so inspiring even though is such a shame more women don’t get those chances, and isn’t it great how it’s been such an influence on modern culture and let’s try an Old Fashioned!

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zoe talk

It is probably best, on a date, not to slag off what TV programmes people watch, because it’s a little bit snobby and why do you care? Let them live. Unless it’s Hollyoaks – I’m sorry but I can’t have anyone telling me they watch and enjoy that.

I hate wildlife documentaries. I just don’t care. I know that’s wrong – lots of dates used to tell me this, actually, which was always fantastic – but I am not remotely interested in what lions do, or whales, or bears. I don’t kind watching a penguin vomit into the mouth of its young of entertainment value every now and again, and I like David Attenborough generally, I’m not in thrall to the natural world.

Warning: things get really weird now.

step awks

monkey puppet omg shock gif

What?

Sorry, what?

I think I… has anyone got a paper bag handy? I need to… I’m not sure what’s wrong with me, it’s just that I can’t really breathe and… I can’t feel my legs. I…

No. Don’t do this. Even if it looks like they’ve finished. Like vampires coming over the threshold, any food sharing – if you really are going to get into this – has to be by invitation only. Not that this sounds like sharing; she just nipped off to the loo. I am a great believer in not wasting food but if anyone had done this to my dinner I swear to God I would be typing this from the top bunk of a prison cell.

zoe awks

robin hood

Half an hour?! What was he doing? Phoning his bank to sort out a direct debit? I don’t really understand why he had to go and “get drinks” anyway – why isn’t someone serving you?

Maybe this is one of those “half an hour”s that is actually seven to ten minutes, which is how long it takes to get served at a semi-busy bar if you’re not absolutely drop-dead beautiful or over six feet tall. Oh, I have stood at many a bar watching gods and models and giants who just turned up get served before me.

Here’s a tip if you’re around 5’9” and want to get a drink at the bar: send someone else. Someone taller. It’s quicker.

step table

zoe

“Yes” is a very funny way of saying “The bastard waited until I had gone to the toilet before attacking my plate and taking my last piece of chicken – I mean who does that? What kind of garbage person are we dealing with here?” But this is Zoë’s story to narrate, not mine.

step best

If this praise were any fainter, it’d be a drawing of a cloud, etched on tracing paper, using a pencil dangling from a bit of string.

zoe best

Nice people are underrated. We forget about them, as we push on and off trains during our morning commute, or roll our eyes at them when they serve us in McDonald’s, or peer over their shoulder while talking to them at parties, looking for someone more attractive, or dangerous, or exciting. And that’s a shame, because being lovely and kind is a lot more admirable than spending two hours getting ready to look beautiful or having a really good job or whatever.

That said, if kindness was really the best thing anyone could say about me – not that there’s any danger of that – I’d burn their house down.

This is a very nice thing for Zoë to say, but “lovely and kind” is what you would say about the care worker looking after your grandma in the old people’s home.

zoe friends

Zoë, readers, is actually best friends with a load of tarantulas, serial killers, and flesh-eating bugs. THAT is how scary her coterie of buddies is.

juloanne

step made of you

Three boxes ticked here. Style, intelligence and personality are all 💯 when it comes to compliments. Vivacious is interesting because, frankly, Zoë’s replies have been anything but. Maybe she really brought it on the date; I can imagine her throwing her head back in raucous laughter when Stephen spent half an hour at the bar, before returning to tell her why the Kardashians were trash. Yes.

I suspect that this “vivacious” actually means “young”.

zoe three

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stephen made

I have been Stephen on a date, and I have been Zoë. I’m not sure which I preferred. To know, absolutely, that the person sitting opposite you is put off by you because you were born first is quite unsettling. It feels like propaganda, I know, but age really is just a number. Honestly. Inside this slightly more careworn packaging, we are still insecure and a little bit stupid and scared and desperate not to show it. Yes, we can remember Kylie’s first comeback and actually watching Eldorado live on TV, but don’t let that put you off.

By the same token, being trapped at a table with a know-it-all who tells you that “you wouldn’t understand” or that a really important cultural event was “before your time” or “you had to be there” is zero fun too. So you’re older, great! More time on Earth to hone your ability to bore people to death!

But, seriously, if you’re dating people your own age and aren’t getting anywhere, go younger for a bit, or try someone older. You don’t have to know who’s no.1 in the charts or remember rationing to be relevant – your minds should align, not your birthdays.

step go on

forgodssake

HAHAHA. This is my favourite thing.  I’ll assume Zoë was faking her tiredness to bring a relatively dignified close to the evening. I certainly hope so. Zoë is 25.

Tiredness does not exist when you are 25. It’s not a thing. Save tiredness for when you’re straining to open a bag of Werther’s Original on that boating holiday you’re on with the husband you’ve been with for 28 years but don’t really love. Don’t be tired at 25 – it’s an absolute insult to those of us who can’t stay up long enough for the second episode of Family Guy.

step kiss

britney

I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect someone to kiss you on the lips if they’ve shown zero interest in you throughout the date, Stephen. After all that, even queueing at the bar for half an hour, you didn’t get so much as a tongue sarnie, eh? Shame.

(I know what Stephen actually means. Please don’t write in.)

zoe change

*reaches for Guardian Blind Date York Notes on bookshelf YET AGAIN*
*thumbs through it in bitter concentration*
*comes to section entitled “Oh my God I can’t think of anything to say that won’t sound like I was a hostage negotiating my way out of a kidnap, and I can’t really be honest and say what I’d change would be his HEAD, and his age, and everything else, and let’s not forget that chicken thing”*
*answers as above*

Scores:

step score

zoe score

polite applause

These scores are the equivalent of getting into a cab, pecking the date on the cheek, then leaning over to the cabbie and saying “JUST DRIVE”.

So after all that, the theft of the chicken, the Mad Men diatribe, not even one horrendously post-lad mention of the fact Zoë sews knickers, and half an hour at the sodding bar waiting for them to mix a Raspberry Collins, will our dynamic duo see each other again?

Zoë?

zoe meet

not ever

step meet

Olivia Newton John Physical react

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. 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. If anything, I want to know what the hell took Stephen so long at the bar.

Another note: There’ll be no blog on 11th June.

Photograph: Felix Clay, Linda Nylind, both for the Guardian

 

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Richard and Charlie

Richard Charlie

I don’t believe in soulmates, but I do know there is someone for everyone. And by that, I mean that even the vilest shoe in the shop has, somewhere, its twin to make a pair.

I went on a lot of dates. Well, I didn’t have a television and once you’ve read every book next to your bed twice and run out of pictures of Jake Gyllenhaal to ‘gaze’ at, your options are quite limited. I saw it as socialising, but with strangers. Because I went on so many, I would quite often separately encounter the two halves of the perfect pair. “Oh, another theatre bore. Great. He’d have been just right for that other cultured snob who bored me rigid back in January.” If I’d been a nicer person, perhaps, I would have dug to their numbers and introduced them over text: “Here, you two should hook up. Save you ruining someone else’s night.” I never did, though.

Hoping to find that someone today in the Guardian Blind Date are Richard, 32, a brand consultant and 30-year-old Charlie, a songwriter. Yes, I’m afraid heterosexuals have once again infiltrated the Blind Date column, but don’t worry, I’m sure there’s a gaggle of gays waiting in the wings to sprinkle glitter over it once again. Read what happened on the date before I turn up wearing the same dress as the mother of the bride and spoil everyone’s day.

Richard kicks us off and is in green. Charlie’s a rhapsody in blue.

rich hope

char hope

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Not one, but TWO Bridget Joneses.

rich first

Here you go, Rich. Treat yourself:

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charlie fiest

I can see it now. The anxious little hand to mouth gesture, perhaps a bit of bumbling as he stood up to greet her. Maybe one of them dropped a shopping bag or knocked a fork off the table. And outside the restaurant, their waiter peered through the smeared glass, stubbed out his Marlboro menthol and rushed inside, zooming over to their table to take their order before they broke something.

rich talk

Exes. Don’t talk about exes on a first date. It’s like going to a wedding and talking about funerals or having lunch with your dad and saying you like Mum best.

Scrabble. I hate Scrabble. Because I’m a writer, people assume I love to play it and a set would often be whisked out in front of me at the bourgeois dinner parties I am no longer ever invited to. But Scrabble isn’t about words, it’s about tricks and points. It’s not a beautiful experience.

Boggle, however, is the best word game ever invented and I would happily star in a multi-million pound advertising campaign for it, should any PRs be reading this and like the look of my eye. Honestly, Boggle is ace. It is the red squirrel to Scrabble’s grey.

char talk

Jobs aside – because seriously, I couldn’t give a shit how you make your money unless it somehow means I will get to ride in a limousine all day, every day – these are very good conversation topics for a first date and I’d like to offer my congratulations to both. Well, I don’t like talking about food that much, really, but I know a lot of people are really into it, so I’m just going to back out of this room with my hands behind my head and let everyone live.

rich awks

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char awks

giphy1

Are we in a magazine column or a new scripted reality show – YOU DECIDE.

In my experience, people who describe themselves as awkward and clumsy, or ditsy or a little bit gauche or whatever, need to be watched like a hawk. It’s a scam. You’ll fall in love with their little flaws, forgive them their faux-pas and then, before you know it, they’re texting you from a bar, at 1am, one-handed, saying they can’t make your brunch appointment tomorrow because whoops they got a little bit too drunk. You know where that other hand is? It’s down some other guy’s trousers and the sound you hear – that shattering noise – it’s your heart in pieces, on the floor, at their feet.

Anyone who volunteers the information that they’re a little bit awkward and random is an evil genius trying to throw you off the scent and I refuse to be told otherwise.

It’s table manners. Let’s go. I’m ready for these two klutzes.

rich table

giphy7

char table

I eat everything with cutlery. I hate eating with my hands so much; I can’t stand to have anything ‘on’ them. I once went on a date with a guy who watched me eat pizza with a knife and fork and asked me why I was doing that – FYI, none of your actual fucking business. Anyway, I went through the whole rigmarole about liking to have clean hands, and he sat back in his chair with curious bemusement, like he’d just watched a cow being milked for the first time, and told me I was “probably a little bit OCD”.

Nobody is “a little bit OCD”. Nobody. OCD is a nightmare for anyone who suffers from it. OCD isn’t about liking things to be tidy or carrying around hand wipes or never wearing odd socks. You can’t be “a little bit OCD” – never date anyone who says they are. They’re just TIDY; anyone can be that. Except me.

My nana was such a cutlery fanatic that she would cut up Mars bars into pieces before eating them. I would be allowed approximately one slice every half-hour. A much more elegant way to eat chocolate. This ritual taught me many things, including patience, how to inflict your patience on others, chocolate as a low-level method of torture and that I’d rather do three hours of jazzercise on the roof of an Austin Maestro than eat a whole Mars bar all at once.

rich best

“I talked her head off.”

char best

Ugh, TWO Scrabble fans. How many Words With Friends games do you reckon they’ve played against each other so far?

This is all very sweet and the poem thing is… well, I guess that’s nice if you’re into that kind of shiz, but are these really the best things they could say about each other? Call me a shallow old snake but if someone was asked what the best thing about me was and it didn’t even include a HINT of one physical or behavioural characteristic, I’d throw myself out of a window. I mean, fine, if the face or the rack isn’t doing it for you, can you at least say one thing about my personality? Anything. Did I make you laugh? Is my chat amazing? Do you like the way I twirl my spaghetti around my fork or smile at waiters? Anything. Give me something. Don’t make it be about board games or my ability to listen. Make me feel amazing. It’s the BEST thing. The A1. The summit. Try harder.

rich made of you

See? No, sorry, Rich, all I’ve got here is [thumbs through notebook in fake concentration] SCRABBLE. Yeah, she liked the fact you were into Scrabble. No mention of your looks, I’m afraid. Nah, ‘easy-going’ didn’t make the cut either. Just Scrabble. Happy with that? Nope? Oh well.

char made

enough

rich go on

Charlie is doing this all wrong. If I were single and on a date and had a wedding to go to the next day, you can bet that cheap-ass engagement ring – which we all know belonged to his ex – that I’d arrive at this wedding absolutely rip-roaring drunk, smelling of the first-date sex I had TWENTY FIVE minutes ago and dressed to slay. But not everyone is me and I am reminded almost hourly that this is a very good thing indeed.

char go on 2

brb, just booking a table at wherever this is.

rich kiss

char kiss

Come on, Oprah, you’re on:

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If they really did only partake in a small peck, then it’s a teensy bit shitty of Rich to suggest, with his “no comment”, that it was a little more than that. No comment means yes.

By the same token, if they really did go at it like two Dysons on a Persian rug, then Charlie’s coy answer doesn’t cut the mustard either. If you don’t want people to know that you scrapped the inside of each other’s mouths with dictatorial precision, there’s a really easy way to hide it. Text each other, and agree to say no.

Obviously one of you will ruin it by saying you did it anyway. Just make sure it isn’t you. Again, Oprah, if you don’t mind:

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rich change

Yep. You should always arrive to a date between three and five minutes late.

char change

tom cruise wink

SCORES:

rich score

char score

OK, I’m calling bullshit on that “small peck”, Charlie. Two nines! Excellent. We’ve got a pair! I mean, they’re a pair of neck-breaking stilettos and the heel’s probably going to come off or get stuck in a grate because “clumsy”, but a pair is a pair.

The final furlong is upon us, only one more killer question awaits. Will this ditsy, klutzy duo meet up again? Will they trip up and fall into each other’s arms? Or is one of them about to get that fateful text from the club?

rich meet

rabbit fall over

char meet

Wear crash helmets, you two. 🤕

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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. 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. But let’s not pretend you’re even remotely awkward – I see you. 

Photograph: Felix Clay, Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian

Scott and Ryan

Ryan and Scott

Thursdays are the hardest when you’re single. Maybe Wednesdays too. Oh, you’d expect it to be the weekends, wouldn’t you, when everyone is out having fun, but the thing with weekends is that you can get lost in them if you try hard enough. There are brunches with friends and quick dinners in town and boozy nights in bars slinging your eyes from one corner to another looking for someone to take home. But on Thursdays, there is just Thursday – and you.

Thursdays are the day you text the one you love and say, “Shall we meet for a quick drink on the way home from work, get ready for the weekend?” Thursdays are cultivating a mild, mutual hangover you can joke about all day Friday over WhatsApp. Thursdays are cooking together, slating what’s on the TV, one more glass of wine before bed, vague discussions about what you might do at the weekend. But when you’re single, Thursdays are none of those things. Thursdays are a date who cancels, or one who won’t drink because it’s a “school night” or one who gets too raucous because “today is my Friday”. Thursdays smell of regret and wet dog, with the fear of an activity-free weekend looking ahead of you. I will never forget feeling alone on Thursdays.

Hoping to turn their Thursdays into a lifetime of Saturdays are Scott, a 46-year-old research nurse, and Ryan, 36, a petrochemical consultant –ooh, here comes the science bit, concentrate! Read what happened on the date before I walk calmly over to the specials board and cross out everything they were about to order.

Scott is on the left, btw, and his answers are in the yellowy green or whatever that is. Ryan’s pink.

s hope

Every so often, a celebrity comes along who wouldn’t get a second glance if they worked behind the fag counter at Tesco (as I once did, while doing my A-levels, and it was my favourite job ever FYI). For some reason, they’re elevated to sex-god status and I sit and watch this unfold, puzzled, at home, like a pensioner who needs to get his grandchildren to set the TiVo. It used to be Benedict Cumberbatch (no), it’s currently Tom Hiddleston (seriously, he is just nothing, nothing at all) and for a tiny while, it was Chris Pratt.

This is a good picture of Chris Pratt:

Star-Lord-Chris-Pratt-With-Real-Raccoon-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy

He’s on the left, btw.

ry hope

“Someone who was OK to have a few drinks with.” That’s it, Ryan, really reach for the stars with your expectations here.

scott first

ryan first

Is “lovely smile” the new “sweet” or “chatty”? I tell you what “lovely smile” is, it’s “I don’t fancy you”.

If I walk into a room and the first thing someone can say about me is that I have a lovely smile, I’m done here, I’m beaten. Not that anyone will any time soon. I am an ugly smiler. Oh, yes, we’ve all heard of ugly crying, but did you know ugly smiling is a thing too? It’s when you look hot when you sulk, but you’re a dog when you smile. It’s why Posh Spice never cracks a grin. Brooding and miserable, Posh and I are beauty queens. Turn that frown upside down? Children run away in floods of tears and people hurtle toward us to throw a tea towel over our faces before we spoil the milk.

scott talk

ryan talk

Say what you want about this encyclopaedia of polite conversation, but what’s glaringly clear is that neither of them was listening to the other. Not a single match in conversation topics.

I do love how “his vegetarianism, my love for chicken” is thrown away like it’s totally insignificant. Knowing vegetarians as I do, and knowing committed meat-eaters who enjoy winding vegetarians up as I do, I can tell you this will have been quite a passive-aggressive marathon.

I did read somewhere it was perfectly possible to eat healthily/be a vegetarian/have a love for meat without banging on about it until the end of time, but I don’t think it’ll ever catch on.

scott awks

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What used to amaze me as I staggered through the devastating corridors of singledom was how bad at playing poker everyone would’ve been. I’m not going to say my charms were playing to an empty house every night, but once in a while I’d see faces drop at my arrival. Because I like nothing better than to drive myself to the brink of insanity by worrying about what a stranger I don’t care about will think of me, I used to look out for it specially.

Some might be disheartened to see disappointment cross the face of a date, but I used to take it as a challenge. I would turn up the charm to 11 – yes, ELEVEN – and do things that I know had worked on men before. Talk a certain way, be a certain way – men are ridiculously predictable and easily led, like a trusting puppy. And then, just as I had made them fall in love with me, and they were pleading with me to have another drink, or go on somewhere or, and it happened quite a lot, asking if I wanted to go back to theirs, I would invent a deadline, or feign tiredness and bring the night to a close, and exit with a curt shake of the hand.

Why, when things were going so well? Oh, you really want me now, do you? I’ve grown on you, have I? Tell your face, four hours ago. Too late. Goodbye.

Anyway, reading back, Ryan says his first impression of Scott was “not nervous” which suggests he was, so let’s give Ryan a free pass for this one and sign Scott up for some Geri Halliwell-style self-confidence YouTube tutorials.

ryan awks

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scott table

I know people really lose their shit over someone filling up their wine glass for them, but I detest it, and here’s why:

  1. If you have a little bit of wine left in your glass, and A N Other pours some nice chilled white wine into it, that wine will now be warmer as a whole. Warm wine is a no from me.
  2. The person filling the wine glass is usually doing this because they have finished theirs, and unless you have also emptied your glass, there’s a good chance they will fill your glasses to the same level as theirs, meaning you lose out on some wine.
  3. Either that or they will ridiculously overcompensate and fill your glass to the brim, meaning they’ll finish their next one even more quickly, and you’ll be playing catch-up from way behind and will have to start DOWNING it so they don’t, yet again, put lovely chilled white wine (or rosé if it’s sunny and you’re a bit basic like me) on top of tepid, slightly murky wine.

I don’t know whether these rules apply for red wine, I don’t drink it. Enjoy your black teeth and inability to stay awake for pudding or sex. In short: keep away from my glass of wine.

ryan table

Monique_b9f3f2_1060518

I have said it before, and I will say it again. You cannot – and should not – share food on a date until you have at the very, very least snogged and mildly dry-humped them. Or unless you want to have sex with them that evening. Sharing food is a level of intimacy you shouldn’t encourage on a first date.

And it has to have been a really passionate kiss too, like a really dirty one up against a wall, drunk, while the rest of the pub slow hand-claps you in disgust.

scott three

Engaging.

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Why does this keep cropping up, this horrible, “conference room full of slick-haired clean-shirts” buzzword? Why is it back? What is it doing in this supposedly romantic setting? It has no place here. It belongs on a feedback form, or hidden in a PDF about educational guidelines. Disengage from engaging, please.

Handsome, though. I dunno, call me handsome more than three times in an evening and, unless we’re blood relatives, I’ll probably fuck you.

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Don’t be fooled by “cute”. It’s a diss in a compliment’s overcoat. It’s what you say when you don’t know how to describe someone you don’t fancy, but don’t want to admit it. I mean, you know they’re not ugly, because nobody is truly ugly, but you want to make it clear you are not DTF.

Puppies, toddlers, babies, matching outfits, trinkets, cupcakes, ribbons – all cute. Men? No.

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But you didn’t answer the question, Scott. What did he make of YOU, do you think? Are you frightened to say? Sometimes, we just have to say.

“I think he liked me, but in the way you would like your friend’s children. Out of duty, because they belong to someone you love, not because they’ve done anything interesting, or earned your admiration.”

ryan made

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“Pleasant.” Was there ever a word more of a digestive biscuit or day without weather than “pleasant”? I like these guys, but if this date got any more sexless, it would feature all of our parents, reading out directions to one another in eye-drying monotone, from an outdated A–Z.

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Fucking Thursdays.

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I had a quick squiz over at the restaurant where the Guardian sent them. I can only assume either Scott didn’t tell them he was veggie, or the person who arranges the dates used to have a vegetarian boyfriend who was particularly annoying, because this was on the homepage:

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And this:

The vegetarian option? A napkin.

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Oh, it’s quite sweet that he wishes a nicer cocktail on his date.

The cult of Negroni though – what the hell is wrong with them all? It’s what I dread most about summer; that I’ll be dragged to some execrable pop-up on the roof of a condemned building and spend hours listening to why I really should try a Negroni, and how delicious they are.

Look, if you want to drink a cocktail that looks like mouthwash, tastes like a migraine that comes on every suddenly in the middle of Sainsbury’s and takes ages to make, thus holding up the bar queue, that’s up to you, congrats. You may, if you like, recommend it to me once, but when I politely rebuff you, saying I’ve tried it several times and don’t like it, you will ACCEPT this, and not bang on about how I “must like Negronis, everyone does” or how “refreshing” it is. I mean, seriously, are they on commission from Aperol? Bore off.

scott score

Half a mark was knocked off for that disappointed face, Ryan. As Beyoncé would say, don’t hurt yourself.

ryan score

A solid 8. Solid in this instance means “it will never be a 9”.

So here we are at the very end, the Negronis have been drained, the last of the flesh has been torn away from the chicken bone. We’ve had a pleasant evening in the company of two Tesco sandwiches drenched in Givenchy. Will we be seeing each other again? It’s the big one:

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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. Just don’t get me started on Negronis. 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: Alicia Canter; Teri Pehgilley, both for the Guardian

Lizzie and Angela

Lizzie and Angela

Do you remember when Sainsbury’s supermarkets briefly used the slogan “Try something new today”? It would have been more honest of them to say “buy a semi-exotic ingredient you’ve never bought before which will lie rotting in the back of your cupboard until it causes an argument between you and your spouse and unwittingly kicks off a messy divorce”, but there’s a lot to be said for being slightly more adventurous, especially in dating. When you go on a lot of dates, maintaining really strict criteria for who you do and don’t want to meet is a fast-track to being bored very quickly.

Whenever someone tells me they can’t get a second date, I ask them what type of person they tend to go for, or are looking for, and then I tell them to forget it. An idea can never live up to reality, and, usually, you will always find something you like about someone who doesn’t fit your very narrow brief. Like Sainsbury’s briefly said back then: try something new.

And we are trying something not new, but rare in the Guardian Blind Date column today, because it’s two women. This hardly happens. Gay men, yes, they can’t wait to get their faces and beards and their collection of Zara slim-fit shirts in the hallowed pages of Weekend magazine, but lesbians tend to shy away. The only downside to this is you’re much more likely to get seriously stupid responses to the questions if you have at least one man involved, but you never know, one of these two might turn out to be a roaring sexist or fall off their stool drunk. Here’s hoping.

Read what happened on the date between 42-year-old entrepreneur Lizzie and Angela, 39, a vet before I… hang on. Angela.  Ange. Have we met? Weren’t you in that other dating series the Guardian did, with Google Glass – Watch Me Date? Yes, you were. And I reviewed you back then. I couldn’t pick out of a lineup a gay man I’ve been talking to for half an hour in a bar, but I never forget a lesbian.

Here she is, way back when:

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As Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan might say: I see that top’s clearly a favourite. You’re back for more, are you? Well.

Lizzie kicks us off and is in the pink. Angela’s orange.

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Great conversation. Oh God. You’d think this would be a given, something really obvious to hope for, but let me tell you, great conversation is rarer than rocking-horse shit.

One of my favourite things about not being single anymore is that I no longer have to endure many different ideas of ‘great conversation’. Because here’s a spoiler: it hardly ever is. I mean, I get first date nerves and all that, but some of the absolute shit I used to have to listen to. One guy, who thought he was the most fascinating creature on Earth – and he was wrong, because that would be a Siamese fighting fish or a capybara – spent well over an hour telling me about his university entry interview, in excruciating detail. He had graduated over five years previously. Another asked me what kind of houseplant I would be.

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Netflix Friday sounds like an event they’d hold in a retirement home or a bail hostel.

Does Angela mean she’s looking for someone to have sex with while   the Netflix menu glares out from her TV ? The grim “and chill” that everyone is so fond of? Or is she looking to have a mild, yet lengthy argument with someone about whether to watch Ruthless People or Outrageous Fortune? (Outrageous Fortune edges it for me.

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This is quite a talent, but both of them have managed to make their first impressions sound like a spectacular diss.

If I’ve learned anything from years spent hacking into friends’ emails and listening about people bitch about me behind my back, it’s that when someone calls you ‘confident’, it’s rarely endearing, but perhaps these two will buck the trend.

Angela’s answer is a strange impression which I imagine is based on looks. In her original date back on the old Google Glass, Angela said her family had given her grief for dating “non-white women”– is it safe to assume from this answer that she means she doesn’t usually date white women? Oh, I don’t know. Suffice to say, your first impression of someone being “nope, not used to this” isn’t a good omen. You know what they say, Angela – try something new today.

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Yes, always a good idea on a date to talk about how many OTHER suitable people there are for you out there, rather than the person sitting right opposite you. Why not go the whole hog and draw a few diagrams about the last really great shag you had?

I know people are fascinated by zombies and stuff like that, but the thing about apocalypses is people tend not to survive them, so that would be one conversation I’d be clipping shorter than a sailor’s crew cut.

“My newest skill is headstands.”

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I see you, Angela.

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YES. The gym. Sigh. I have the misfortune not to go to one of those super-homo gyms you see through ten filters of a gay guy’s Instagram, but a depressingly heterosexual one. All the men have heads like swedes, terrible prison tattoos, torsos like fridges and little spindly legs like two strands of cotton dangling from a hem. They are monstrous machine-hoggers, leaving their fetid towels hither and thither like an old-school Benidorm holidaymaker trying to secure a sun lounger, spending hours on one machine, exercising just one muscle. The men in my gym are so dreadful and leering and preening, most of the women tend to work out in corners or behind pillars, as out of sight as they can possibly make themselves so that some ‘bro’ doesn’t come and disturb them.

I don’t attempt to move these big hulking brutes off the machines because they’d pulverise me, but there is a really plucky lesbian at my gym who does. And then, sometimes, because we have ‘shared’ a machine before and we both kind of know we’re ‘not like the others’, she will beckon over to me and ask if I want a go on the machine she has managed to wrestle from the grip of the great big roid-raging man-baby who is now sulking in a corner chucking back a protein shake. That’s gay solidarity right there. Suck it up, straights.

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Only two things about this could possibly have been awkward: 1, if you’d been caught; and 2, that it was only ‘nearly full’. Couldn’t you at least sneak out a full one? I’m embarrassed for you.

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OK, forget the illustrious and prolific music career, posho fox-hunting sons and what-have-you. You don’t even know him as Jerry Hall’s ex-boyfriend?! Jerry. Hall. That’s his main claim to fame, for me.

It’s table manners!

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Unless you’re intending to bang me later, get your spoon out of my pudding.

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Yeah, well I would have lost that bet, Angela, because she got all up close and personal with your pudding. That’s not my idea of good table manners.

I wonder if, when asking Angela for a shot of her dessert, Lizzie used that voice people use. Oh, yes, there’s a special tone of voice for when you’re asking someone to let you taste what’s on their plate. It is my kryptonite, my dog-whistle. As soon as I hear its sickly-sweet, pathetic siren’s call – usually accompanied by a vague waggling of a fork, comedy raising of eyebrows and a subtle lick of the lips – I sit bolt upright in my seat, and pull my plate toward me. I was brought up an only child – I’m not accustomed to unwelcome cutlery attacking my sausages.

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Not a single physical attribute or personality trait praised, instead Angela and Lizzie stand up in class and report some dreary facts about the evening. Lizzie’s response is especially clever/dull, as it completely swerves talking about Angela – it’s about her and how boring she thinks she is. Thanks for dropping by.

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Great, she’s a sodding camera lens.

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Look, if you can’t think of anything to say, just say ‘chatty’ or ‘sweet’ – it’s what everyone else does.

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Lizzie, you ‘stole’ a bottle of wine that was free anyway – you didn’t exactly climb the north face of the Eiger.

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I know people describe themselves as ‘scatty’ in an attempt to look cute, but I’ve never understood it and I’ve certainly never been drawn to it.

Why are you trying to tell the world that you’re a disorganised mess? Angela is very clearly intelligent and confident – this dumbing down of ourselves we do to look more attractive to others is horrible. And, yes, I’ve done it – I’ve made adjustments depending on the man I’m seeing. I have pretended to like radio comedies, I’ve endured ironic bingo, I’ve sat through football matches, but unless you’re totally honest with yourself, and can be yourself, you’re screwed. It will never work.

Scatty, are you, Angela? Let me see your sock drawer – I bet it’s immaculate. I’ll wager your house is a shrine to Marie Kondo – you fold, not roll, don’t you? Don’t you?

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What kind of “nope” is this? Is it, like, nope, but I wanted to. Is it, nope, because I don’t do that kind of thing? Or is it a noooooooooooooope, man, are you serious, I’d rather kiss a cat’s snatch? I need to know.

liz change

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Stop pretending you’re really boring – self-deprecation can be cute, but it needs to be authentic. “Oh you probably all hated me because I was just too dull and too ugly and just a waste of time.” Well, not at all, but I’m starting to now. There are few ways surer to kill a boner or snap a vagina shut than to go on about how dull you are. That, in itself, is dull.

(Although, I am quite dull myself; did I ever say?)

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I wholeheartedly agree with this – they should send people bowling instead. One day I will tell you all about my ‘very last first date’, which involved bowling and some very tight trousers (mine), but today is not that day.

Angela is a vet, so she spends all day picking up great big dogs and chasing gerbils round her surgery – she’d have whipped Lizzie’s arse at bowling and she knows it.

Speaking of winning, we’re at the scores. These two have given very little away until now, so what will the numbers reveal?

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I’m not here for point-fives; we’re not putting sugar in tea. A full mark or nothing. I am downgrading this to a 7, because Lizzie said very, very little about Angela at all. Like, seriously, read it back. Apart from her first impression and her ‘three words’, Angela doesn’t get a look in.

As any fool knows, the only thing worse than somebody slagging you off or disliking you is not saying anything about you at all, to feign indifference. A while ago, I complimented a friend on a new hair style. She looked unsure. “Do you really like it?” she muttered, self-consciously patting her hair. “Of course I do,” I replied. “If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have said a word.”

Silence – it’s more powerful than you might think.

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Shit. OK. This is a good score. Angela’s a good person; she knows how this works. I think this is a kind 9, because I’ve seen no evidence that this date has been anything other than “well at least the restaurant didn’t burn down with us inside it”.

And now the killer question: are we doing this again? Will there be more (stolen) wine? More long, meandering stories of nonsense? Lizzie:

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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 it’s early. Not even had a cup of tea yet. 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: Alicia Canter; James Drew Turner, both for the Guardian