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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
I see you, Angela.
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.
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.
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!
Unless you’re intending to bang me later, get your spoon out of my pudding.
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.
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.
Great, she’s a sodding camera lens.
Look, if you can’t think of anything to say, just say ‘chatty’ or ‘sweet’ – it’s what everyone else does.
Lizzie, you ‘stole’ a bottle of wine that was free anyway – you didn’t exactly climb the north face of the Eiger.
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?
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.
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?)
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?
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.
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:
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