Simon and Caz

Simon and Caz 1

There used to be a really interesting looking shop on Shepherd’s Bush Road in Hammersmith, the quirky middle-class kind of place with a mix of antique furniture, up-cycled old rubbish and stuff your working-class mum would’ve thrown away as old-fashioned in the ’90s. It looked like it could either be full of beautiful old treasures or a load of flea market tat, and I was always fascinated by it, but never went in. Next time, I said. Next time.

I walked by it again the other day. It was closed. For ever. The shop was totally empty; lettering removed from windows and the peeling sign above; light fittings dangling scrawny and bare. When I looked again, my eyes adjusting to the gloom within, I noticed there was one piece of furniture left: a great, imposing dark sideboard, like my grandmother used to own to store tumblers, shot glasses, letters she wanted to ignore and bits of knitting. It looked sad and undignified there all by itself. Everything else had been snapped up, claimed, but this solitary sideboard remained. I could’ve gone in at any time to look at everything else, but now all there was left for me to gaze at was the sideboard. Too late, I’d snoozed too long. That shop is online dating in a nutshell. The sideboard is you.

Today would have been that grandmother’s 90th birthday and what with that and Brexit and Pride this weekend I am feeling reflective and mortal and restless. It is a relief, then,  to turn my attention briefly to Simon, a 29-year-old rail operations consultant (?) and Caz, 32, an art administrator. Read what happened on their date (spoiler: bring caffeine) before I dip in and pull apart everything they say for no reason.

Simon is in blue and starts us off. Caz is kind of mauve.

sim hope

That’s it, Simon, reach for the sky.

caz hope

Again, goals about as aspirational as setting out to make a dog wag its tail.

sim first

Pretty. I love people telling me I’m good-looking, don’t you? I don’t care whether it’s true. Obviously because I am no longer a baby, I hear it less often, but my boyfriend does tell me I’m handsome at least three times a week and it’s quite the comfort. If I were a budgerigar, I’d never be out of the mirror, believe me.

caz first

welcome-to-the-friendzone-2-2100697206

I am honestly running out of GIFs for friendzoning. If you have any good ones, please donate – demand outstrips supply.

simon talk

These are all quite good until the last one which, as regular readers will know, is something of a bête-noire for me. I’d rather trim Satan’s toenails than have someone recount all their dating horrors back at me, but who am I to judge what two grown-ups want to bore each other senseless with, over a free meal?

caz talk

You do wonder whether Simon and Caz were sitting at the same table, as none of these subjects match up at all. It happens every week, two people talking out into the void.

Ultimate Frisbee: I once worked with an Ultimate Frisbee CHAMPION. Beat that.

Rush hour crushes: yes, I always find it a good idea when on a date with someone, who you’re friend-zoning at a rate of knots, to talk about lusting after strangers on public transport. “I don’t fancy you at ALL, but I did get really excited at the thought of banging some guy wearing tight grey joggers on the Piccadilly line  on the way here”. Gee, thanks.

sim awks

giphy-2

This date sounds like quite the rollercoaster ride, doesn’t it? What next? Coughing into a napkin? Spilling a bit of water down the front of their immaculately ironed jerseys? Can’t wait.

caz awks

tumblr_nd8zu9t4iC1stfiuco1_500

sim table

Do you reckon Simon leaned over, just as Caz forked yet another floret into her mouth, and told her broccoli was “the colon’s broom”? I hope so.

caz table

I know you’re “only joking”, but I probably wouldn’t open with this one at your one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe, Caz.

simon best

We hear about eyes a lot in the Guardian Blind Date, especially from men. I am sure Simon is being genuine here, and on closer inspection, Caz’s eyes seem perfectly pleasant and serviceable – there are two, I assume they open and close, her lashes aren’t made of shit-covered scythes etc – but I wonder if men say this because they can’t say anything else. Women have very rightly taken back ownership of their bodies, and you only ever really hear that someone has a cracking arse if you’re amid a gaggle of gays, a group of women or, of course, on a building site dangling off the side of some scaffolding, leering at a schoolgirl. I just wonder whether the eyes compliment is a placeholder for something else.

What this means, sadly, is that whenever someone tells me I have nice eyes, I’m going to assume they’re dreaming about my dick or the way my T-shirt sits across my chest. That gets awfully awkward, especially when it’s an elderly male relative complimenting you on your peepers.

caz best

As best things about someone go, this is up there with “has a head” and “did not kill anyone in my presence”.

If this praise were any fainter, it would be my hopes and dreams for the future.

caz friends

I wonder which members of her elite fan club Caz thinks Simon is worthy of meeting.

Somewhere out there, in various one-bedroom luxury apartments above a Sainsbury’s Local across London, Caz’s friends are wondering whether they’re the one who’d get an intro to Simon. I’d expect some incredulous texts this weekend, Caz.

simon made

giphy

Simon you are ADORABLE and there is no need to be nervous but can I please ask if you really ironed your jeans? I was always taught – I’ve no idea who by – that ironing your jeans was the squarest thing you could do aside from actually read and enjoy textbooks. So I hardly ever do.

100 extra points if he put a crease down the front.

caz made of you

Caz is a bit like one of those gentle comedies on Radio 4, and by gentle I mean you have to send out a helicopter and a full search party to find every punchline.

sim go on

Is there a phrase more cheap, more infantilised, more Brexit than “school night” when you’re 29? Cheeky Nando’s, bantz, #lads, don’t mind if I do, “lashings of ale for me please, bar keep!”, chillax, listen mate, dirty burger, London I am in you, food baby, om nom, life hack, get in among it, get in my belly, man-crush, little glass of fizz on arrival, BOLLOCKS. I loathe it. 

Sorry, Si. As you were.

si kiss

304048_1

caz kiss

tumblr_n3erypxdNj1smcbm7o1_500

simon change

caz change

It’s part of the human condition, isn’t it – never saying what we truly mean? All the things left unsaid, the slights ignored, the tensions simmering like angry, desperate porridge on the hob, all because we can never truly say what we’re thinking. Oh, yes, there are potential Big Brother contestants queueing round the block to go on TV and tell you how straight-talking they are, but even those unpleasant show-offs aren’t being true to themselves. It’s performance, an act; they don’t mean a word of it. Because “telling it like it is” is not a thing. Only sociopaths would dare. We don’t say what we’re really thinking or how we honestly feel for a variety of reasons. The truth really does hurt, and we care too much about our fellow humans to see them upset. Sure, we can blow them to pieces in wars and murder them for their mobile phone or for having different politics, but few of us really want to make another person cry or feel uncomfortable. Most of the time we ourselves don’t want to admit the truth either, so keep it within. And, more obviously, if we went round blurting out what we thought all the time, we’d spent the entire day in fist fights with rude checkout operators in that Tesco on the Strand. The truth is apocalyptic – let’s never speak of this again

And this is why we have two people, who didn’t fancy each other and had a perfectly pleasant but ultimately directionless and pointless evening, saying what they’re saying above, instead of “everything”.

They both score each other an 8, which is very polite and sums up the entire feel of the date, really. Not awful, very polite, but sexless and devoid of charm or light.

But will they meet again? Will Caz get an opportunity to try out that exciting new standup material she’s prepping for Montreux? Will Simon be getting out his Rowenta and pressing his best chinos any time soon?

si meet

open-your-eyes-look-up-to-the-skies-and-see-gif

caz meet

yeah_sure_jon_hamm

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 great. 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 I think people who iron their jeans are 💯, not squares. 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.

Another note: There will be no Blind Date blog on 16th July. I’m at a wedding in Paris. I may never come back.

Photograph: Felix Clay, David Levene, both for the Guardian

Advertisements

Aidan and Padraig

aidan padraig

What’s the worst thing about going on holiday? Is it having to clear all your emails before you go, or the dread of knowing how many will await you upon your return? Is it getting food poisoning on the first night and spending the rest of your break doubled up in agony and not leaving your apartment? Arriving to find your accommodation looks like somewhere they’d send a family of rats in witness protection? No.

The worst thing about being somewhere else for a week or two, away from home comforts and, let’s face it,  strains and struggles, is the familiar creeping in. It’s popping down to breakfast in your brand new shorts and, as you deliberate over whether to have one half of grapefruit or two, hearing a familiar accent piping across the dining room, like an incessant vuvuzela. They have found you, you didn’t go far enough. It’s someone from home.

Meeting another person from, say, Bradford (I was born there) on your holidays is the worst. If you’re one of those amazing inverted snobs that nobody admits to being anymore, you will try your utmost to distance yourself from them and their point of view on just about everything. Your stomach will churn at their boring talk of the closure of various fish and chip shops on Sunbridge Road, how there’s nothing good on at St George’s Hall anymore, and how you won’t believe what they’ve done up at the Interchange now. They, of course, will think you crave this familiarity because you’re so far from home, and will latch onto you, grimacing at you across the pool, searching for solidarity over the price of the cocktails, dragging their chair over to you and telling you why they’re Brexit. And holidaymakers from other countries – lithe and elegant French people, or chiselled, staring Swedes – will glance at you with a mixture of amusement, pity and suspicion, thinking you are as one. “The British” they might mouth to one another, over their meals that are, by the very state of not being anywhere near you, a  thousand times more sophisticated, nutritious and tasty.

The exception to this, however, seems to be Irish people. I am from an Irish family on my mum’s side, and believe me, this lot LOVE to bump into one another wherever they go. Go anywhere with an Irish person and they will actually have a cold sweat if, within half an hour of arrival, they are not tapped on the shoulder with considerable force and greeted with a “Sure, don’t I know you – don’t you work in the off-licence in Altnagelvin?” The only exception to this was my nana, who would cross seven lanes of motorway traffic if she saw one of her sisters coming the other way along the pavement. As she once told me, while she sliced a Mars bar for me and heated the milk for my bedtime Corn Flakes, “I didn’t cross on that boat and spend hours chucking up over the side to spend all my time chatting in the street to Mary Flaherty”. So there you go.

Anyway, this week, it’s two guys – GAYS! 🌈 – called Aidan and Padraig, so you don’t exactly need a team of scientists, or even a quick Google, to work out where they’re from. Read what happened on the date between Aidan, a 23-year-old primary school teacher and Padraig, 27, a journalist, before I tap each of them on the shoulder and say, “Sure, aren’t you the two fellas I’m about to destroy in my blog?”

Aidan kicks us off and is in blue. Padraig is in green.

aid hope

pad hope

Nobody ever says “sex” do they? Do people really go on dates to “meet an interesting new person”? Is that why the entire world sits glued to Tinder, swiping their way into the void? To meet someone you might come across in a supermarket checkout queue?

“The one.” I find this mythical search for “the one” quite depressing. If you do have a “one”, I have a cold, hard fact for you: he’s married to someone else, and he’s not looking for you. Never mind “the one” – just find “someone” and make do, like everybody else.

aid first

friendzone

Incredible. Masterful.

pad first

A smile that sounds like it didn’t travel far – I bet his Irish eyes weren’t smiling etc etc etc.

aid talk

These are the most “two lads from Ireland in their 20s living away from home” conversation topics I have ever heard in my life. I love this. Something something roast dinners; something something BREAD.

pad talk

Oh God, not that Piers Morgan style of questioning. It’s so lazy. Your last supper if you were on death row – a big cake with a file in it? Something poisoned? A meal from McDonald’s so once you’d finished you could use the paper bag it came in to scream and hyperventilate into, crushed by the inevitability of what was about to happen to you?

“Twitter and why he should join it.” I think anyone who’s made it all the way to 23 and not joined Twitter should probably stay off it for their own sanity – and I say that as someone who massively defends Twitter in the face of naysayers. It’s… well, it’s a Pandora’s box you probably don’t want to open in 2016, isn’t it?

aid awkward

image1

Oh no. This is awful. Imagine this terrible scenario. You are 23 – 23! – but someone mistook you for a 25-year-old. How could the evening recover?

I bet Aidan is the type of person who fist-pumps when he gets asked for ID as he buys beer – Harp, of course – from the supermarket. If someone adding two years onto your age – especially when you’re basically an EMBRYO – is as awkward as your night is going to get, you’re off to the races, Aidan.

pad awks

oprah bread

I don’t really eat bread anymore. Once your metabolism takes off its sneakers and slows to a stumble, it’s not something that’s really available to you if you want that beach body that people pretend not to strive for. Plus, it makes me feel ill. I’ll tell you what my death row meal, would be, you basics – it would be a mountain of bread. Ficelle, baguette feuilletée, a tiger tail, three loaves of Warburton Toastie. The lot.

There is no greater sign on a date, however, that you don’t want to ‘seal the deal’ than eating loads of bread. Try eating half a baguette and then trying to snog or have sex. Ugh. It’s horrible. Get off me, I’m full. I taste of bread. No.

aid taBLE

pad table

Empire wine throw punch Cookie

What’s the most bored you’ve ever been? Think back to all those school holidays when your friends were away, there was nothing on TV, the sun was burning hot and you would sit at your window, glaring out at it all, at Earth, and wondering if you’d ever have fun again. Is this more boring than that? I think it might be.

aid best thing

Engaging is the new “impeccable”, isn’t it? It’s a non-compliment. If someone said it about you, you’d be aware that it was positive, and that you might be interesting or funny or clever or attractive, but you would not know which. Engaging robs you of your personality; it’s a “one accolade fits all” kind of nothing. If someone is hilarious and sexy and fascinating and intriguing SAY SO. You’re on a date, not filling out an online feedback form about your sodding dentist.

pad best thing

fake wow

aid three

“Smiley” is actually Gaelic for “his dick will never touch mine”.
“Inquisitive” is “nosey”.
And “driven”? By the Uber, at breakneck speed, in the opposite direction, at the end of this date, I predict.

Notice not one single word that, on hearing them, would make you think, wow I sound pretty cool. I don’t know what I’d do if someone described me as “smiley”. Luckily this is not a maze I’m ever likely to find myself lost in.

pad three

tropicana-sanguinello-1l

Wow, I’d really feel like someone wanted to bang my brains out if they read this out to me, wouldn’t you?

If you mean optimistic, just say so. Sanguine has slightly different connotations, so either Padraig is being VERY clever here and sending out a flare telling us all is not as it seems – or he isn’t quite clever enough. oprah_what_is_the_truth.gif indeed.

I think Padraig may be “showing off because we have guests”.

aid made

Well, he thought you were 25, so that’s a start, I guess.

There is a magic age, I think, where you forget about being a try-hard and stop wanting people to think you are more “mature and sorted” than your peers and just feel totally comfortable to be who and where you are at that exact moment. It’s the number that fits you and you’re fine with it. Sadly, it very quickly gives way to the flip side of all that nonsense, which is wanting people to think you are younger and still relevant and pawing at your face in the mirror wondering if these ridges beneath your eyes are permanent. I don’t know what the magic age is – we must never know, that is the whole point – but we seem to blink and miss it.

It is only when you are about 15 years past being 23 that you realise you have never been so powerful, and desirable, and faceable as you were then*. Don’t sleep, Aidan.

*not strictly true

pad made

Oh Jesus, two lads in their 20s having a pissing contest about who is the most mature and grown up.

Life experience? What is that exactly? Bills and disappointment and rejection and fake orgasms and pregnancy scares and clap clinics and dashed hopes and the withering of dreams and breakups and diets and trying being vegan for a month when you’re 30 and recycling and arguing and regretting all your debt and terrible sex and awful kissing and unrequited love and embarrassing passes at men you don’t really want who don’t want you either and giving up bread and switching to Coke Zero and agonising over how big a tip to leave and IBS and true love that isn’t and worry and spite and losing touch and car insurance and finally having enough money to buy your lunch from Pret every day, not just Fridays. That’s life experience, mate. Keep it. Keep. It.

Enough-GIF

Stay green, it’s better that way.

aid go on

Aidan, you have just spent a good portion of this column telling us how grown up you are for a 23-year-old, only to button your cardigan all the way to the top and say that it was a “school night”. I mean, I know you’re a teacher, and it’s probably your running joke to say “It’s a school night” whenever you’re leaving yet another poor desperate fool with a half-hearted lob-on gagging to press you up against the doorbell, but COME ON.

pad go on

wine

That’s the spirit.

SCORES.

aid scores

pad scopres

Sometimes it’s not about the score itself, it’s the marks they knock off. What two things do you reckon stopped Aidan giving Padraig a 10? And which three made Padraig dock Aidan’s points to give him what I like to call a “Gentleman’s One”?

How much is it worth, to fancy someone, to want them? Can you put a value on it? Apparently, you can, and today it’s worth 2 points for Aidan and 3 for Padraig. One of Aidan’s deducted points is for the bread, isn’t it?

Anyway. Somehow we dragged ourselves all the way here to the finish line. We’re tired, we’re limping, and all we want is a Lucozade Cherry, a crisp sandwich, Fair City on the box and a nice chat about our mammies’ roast potatoes. But will our two Irish boys meet again for more bread and anxiety over who’s the most grown up? Or is this the very end, with their Irish brogue destined for some other ear?

aid meet

beyonce blows up car 2

pad meet

dog hits man in face

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 great. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. And my Irish stereotyping is borne of experience from my family and one of my best friends who is from Derry and will back up EVERY SINGLE thing I have said here. 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.

Another note: There will be no Blind Date blog on 16th July. Like, for real, I’m out of the country.

Yet another note: Bonus points to anyone who noticed Aidan didn’t say “I found a herb in my teeth” in the column at all. I wonder why they cut it?

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

Michael and Laura

1191

Photographs are unreliable souvenirs. The more time there is behind you, the less lucid and piercing the memories. You know you were somewhere and at a thing, because there’s a photo, but that’s all you know – the cold hard facts. The feelings change over time; they’re dulled. You look back, then, at pictures to jog your memory. The camera doesn’t lie, no, but you wouldn’t want it as your star witness in a murder trial. You look back and try to remember what was happening, how you felt, but only your blankly smiling face stares out at you, responding to the well-meaning “say cheese” of whichever poor sod you convinced not to be in the photo so you could be. But you can’t teleport into that head. You can never feel what it was like to be you then, not again. Because you know what’s coming up; you can see round corners and know all the next lines. The future you has ruined the past for you for ever – because this version of you remembers how it all went wrong.

I wonder what Michael, 24 a software developer, and 22-year-old graduate Laura will think in 10 years’ time when they look back at their Guardian Blind Date mugshots. Such hope. Untold eagerness. Will they regret wearing those clothes or wish they’d styled their hair differently? Or will they look back and say, “This was the moment when I could’ve backed out, but didn’t, because I wanted to be in the magazine more than anything”. Who knows. Read what happened on the date, before I crack my knuckles and do the usual.

Oh, and 24 and 22 – yes, we’re back plundering the kindergarten for participants. Pass me my anti-ageing cream and 40 quaaludes – I feel one of my heads coming on.

Michael is in blue and Laura is in pink and that’s just the way it is today.

michsle hoping

Michael once read a leaflet in the careers office at school – which he can still remember very clearly because he’s 24 – that you should be direct and say exactly what you are looking for to avoid any misunderstandings or disappointments. So here it is.

laura hoping

Leaning out of a window and having a piano fall on your head is a pretty out-of-the-ordinary evening, Laura, so do be careful what you wish for.

michsel first

laura first

I get the feeling Michael and Laura were the kind of students who wouldn’t read the entire test paper before starting an exam. As FASCINATING as this hug story is, neither of their answers describe a first impression.

“Lanky, nervous, teeth the colour of celery” – that is a first impression.
“Charming, friendly, could imagine divorcing him in 2024” – another first impression.
“Ooh we went in for a hug and aren’t we ever so awkward and adorable and OMG we’re useless, aren’t we, but it worked out OK in the end” is a Facebook message to a bored friend.

rsG7Rmj

michael talk

Being interrogated on a date is terribly dull. Oh, you think it’ll be great, talking about yourself for an hour to someone who at least pretends to be interested, but here’s a spoiler: you’re boring and don’t actually do that much, ever. The devastation when you run out of things to say about yourself and have to dig into childhood stories or lamenting confectionery brands that are no longer available in the shops is colossal. You may never recover.

Anyway, when you’re nervous and the person opposite you just sits in silence, staring into the sleeves of his Berghaus fleece, you may well find yourself asking a lot of questions.

laura talk

I am quite glad I didn’t have front row seats for this particular matinee.

mike awks

You “tried to kiss her to see if there was any spark”? What were you expecting? FLAMES to shoot out of her mouth? An enchantment to fall upon you both, leading to everlasting love?

This isn’t how you do it. It’s the initial spark that leads to the kiss, the kiss doesn’t reveal it. It’s like getting married to find out whether you’re in love, or buying a dog to find out if you’re allergic to them. The cart is before the horse, Michael, and there’s manure absolutely everywhere.

If this elusive, mystical spark wasn’t there in the first place, why did you try to kiss her at all? “Oh well I didn’t like her that much, but I figured true love’s kiss or whatever might create a spell and we’d fancy each other.” And why would she want to kiss you?

You didn’t try to kiss her because of this ‘spark’ nonsense – you just thought you might as well. While I’d usually applaud this, she said no and that’s the way it is. Brushing aside the absolute garbage idea that “not kissing on first dates” is even a thing, if she didn’t want to, she didn’t want to. A part of you died inside? Maybe try to kiss someone else – see if you can get the spark that can bring it back to life.

Either that or wire yourself up to a Ford Focus with jump leads. Spark. Honestly. Go buy a Zippo.

tumblr_o5aiwmve9R1ro21o5o1_500

laura awks

And yet Laura doesn’t mention this disastrous kiss at all. Not once, in the whole column, not even at the ‘Did you kiss?” question. What a shame she spared Michael’s blushes – they would have generated the only heat we’re going to get off this pair.

I’m skipping table manners because I don’t actually care what two CHILDREN think of each other’s eating habits. So long as they both ate their Alpha Bites, I’m happy.

michael best

But sadly she didn’t naturally generate electricity, so I’m afraid I’m out.

laura best thing

They both say “open”. Open. Like a door. Or a wound.

michael friends

emma stone

I’m sure Laura will be crushed to hear this. Do you see where this is going?

laura friends

David Bowie portrait

I’m sure after reading this, Laura’s friends would quite like to meet Michael too.

michel made

Isn’t this fascinating, this breakneck roller-skate down to the friendzone Michael seems intent on? Because he didn’t get to kiss her on the first date, he has naturally assumed that a) she didn’t like him and b) she will say so in this column and so he needs to get in there first.

This is the  problem, isn’t it? This is what we’re dealing with now, not just with Michael, but with men everywhere. If they don’t get exactly what they want, if they’re rebuffed in any small way, it’s game over. Men on Tinder asking a woman if she wants to sit on his dick, two messages after saying hello, and being astonished and angry when she says no. Hordes of huffing, boring fucking MANSPLAINERS striding into conversations that were totally fine without them, scratching their bollocks and expecting everyone to drop everything and listen. A massive inability to accept they can’t control every situation, that their charm is far from instant, that their whopping sense of entitlement is distasteful and unwelcome. They never ask why others react this way to them. Aren’t they curious? Not even remotely? Do they think it’s everyone else who is wrong?

As Anna from This Life said to Miles during one of his many tantrums: “They say that when a baby is newborn, it doesn’t really understand that other people exist. It quite naturally assumes that the whole universe revolves around it. YOU are that baby, Miles. You never got past that first stage. You never found out that not everything on this Earth has got to do with you.”

And it isn’t ever going to change is it? We can see this stuff and call it out and grasp our heads in despair and write things like this, but it won’t change. Because these men don’t want to change; it’s not in their interest. To change would be to admit something was wrong, and they are taught to avoid that at all costs. They’re forever at the mirror, but they don’t see themselves at all.

You must learn from rejection, realise how useful it can be, how it can arm you for the future and fine-tune almost every decision you’ll ever face, accept there will be a “no” sometimes, and that it can make a “yes” all the sweeter when it comes, but a yes is not your divine right. Otherwise, rejection is all you’ll ever encounter.

And if you think I’m being hard on Michael, wait until you see his score. This is not my first time at the rodeo.

tumblr_mw46vkacC41ql5yr7o1_r1_500

laura made

He said you were talkative, bubbly and genuine. Bubbly. Like an Aero. Talkative, like a parrot. Genuine, like the fiver in my fucking pocket.

michael go on

Here’s a tip: when someone on the door of a ‘cool bar’ – especially one in Mayfair where your date was – tells you there’s a “20-minute wait”, it means “fuck off, you’re not getting in”.

laura go on 2

I wonder if this is where the abortive kiss happened. All Bar One. Where else, eh?

michael change

I don’t think a slight change in geography was going to help you here, Michael.

laura change

Instead poor Laura had to go and stand in a queue for 20 minutes just to see if there was sufficient spark to charge their sodding iPhones – both of which have cracked screens, I’ll wager.

michael kiss

Cat hits toddler

Oh, get over it.

laura kiss

The fact Laura didn’t mention it at all suggests either this happens all the time so it didn’t even register, or it just wasn’t that big a deal. He went in for a bit of a snog, she was, like, maaaate, we’re in All Bar One. Happens all the time. To me, anyway.

On to the scores now and all I can say is WELL.

michal score

are you aware you are trash

Four. I sat and read all the answers. Twice. The date went well. That we live in a world where someone is penalised for showing an interest in your life and asking you questions makes me feel quite sad in a way. I mean, Laura is 22, a graduate. She probably hasn’t been on *that* many dates before, especially not formal ones like this. And how else do you get to know someone without asking questions? Sit waiting until they release their autobiography? Settle down with their Twitter timeline or have a good rake through their LinkedIn profile?

Asking a lot of questions on a date can be a sign that you don’t find yourself that fascinating, and that you would bore whoever you’re with if you started going on about yourself. I’ve done this. It’s a weird form of modesty. We are also told again and again and again, by mean aunties who like to make sure you don’t grow up ‘spoilt’, that it is rude to talk about yourself.

Anyway.

This 4 is not about Laura asking too many questions, or making Michael feel like he’s on a job interview. This 4 isn’t about Laura at all, she may as well have not even been there. This 4 is a man-baby throwing his man-rattle out of his man-pram because no teat was available to him.

You queued 20 minutes to get into a bar – you wouldn’t bother doing that for a bad date, a 4 wouldn’t get that much investment. You are face-saving, because you’re expecting her to give you a massive drubbing. She was an 8, at least – your rejection has brought the score down.

The 4 is you, Michael. The 4 is you.

laura score

Zac-zac-efron-26058334-500-203

Ordinarily, I’d be like, OMG, how could you not see this was a total disaster, but the truth is it wasn’t, was it? Laura is probably so used to telling boys to back up, she didn’t even consider it a minus point. I have a feeling a few more years of it will change her mind.

Laura has plenty of time to make mistakes – thank goodness Michael won’t be one of them.

Here we are then, the final furlong. The big question. Will Michael and Laura grace the polished floors and shiny brass rails of All Bar One again, or are they forever destined to be standing in separate queues and different ‘cool bars’ that they have zero chance of getting into?

michael meet

tumblr_static_tumblr_static__6401

laura meet

tube hologram woman smaller

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 great and that Michael is a stand-up guy who just made a mistake or whatever. 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.

Another note: There will be no Blind Date blog on 16th July. Like, for real, I’m out of the country.

Photograph: Felix Clay, James Drew Turner, both for the Guardian

Mansoor and Alice

Mansoor and Alice

Before we start, just to say that I’m in the Guardian Weekend magazine – home of the Blind Date column – this week talking about the surefire ways you will mess up your first date. The print version looks very nice indeed and has some cool goldfish in it. The online version has GIFs – yep, really, on the Guardian website – and you can read it there now.

Anyway, to business.

Something you have to remind yourself very early on in your adult life is that not everything can be exciting. For every wedding, birthday, big win at the casino, or night spent in Paris pressed up against a bar by a sailor who definitely doesn’t have a gun in his pocket, there is the mundane stuff: days spent cleaning out the guttering, trips to B&Q, finding moths in your merino cardigan, Catchphrase reruns. We need the dullness to make the brilliance shine all the brighter. Light needs shade.

And it’s the same with dating. For every romantic, starry-eyed evening where you never want to be apart again, there must be queuing for a pop-up in the rain with the unofficial king of halitosis, listening to him tell you about a choc ice he once ate in Sandown in 1986. It has to be this way, otherwise everybody would go on only one date, fall in love and that would be that. And then where would we be? Well, the Blind Date column would be a lot more one-note for a start.

Hoping that today will be the big one and not a damp squib are Mansoor, 31, a telecoms executive, and 26-year-old Alice, a commodities analyst. Read what happened on the date – I predict the millennia are simply going to fly by – before I call them both up and ask if they like scary movies.

Mansoor kicks us off and is in lurid green. Alice is in the more subdued yellow.

mans hope

I must confess I’m immediately unsettled by this use of lil’. I know some people can only convey their true feelings through song lyrics, so I thought it might be one of those. Some quick Googling brought me nothing but headlines from the Sun about Lily Allen.

alice hope

“To meet someone new.” I know it happens in most soaps and sitcoms at least once, but in real life, how many times have you turned up on a totally blind date and it’s been someone you already knew? I suppose hoping to meet someone new is a pretty good way of meeting your expectations because it’s, like, achievement unlocked as soon as you walk through the door.

manso first

Mansoor does sound a little like he’s a vet checking a puppy over for distemper, but these are actual compliments for a change. Cute, as regular readers will know however, is best left to teddy bears and the afore-mentioned puppies.

alice first

To me, if you arrive bang on the arranged time, you’re already late. The only exception is on a date, where you should aim to arrive second, and be three to five minutes late. So both Mansoor and Alice fail miserably at this one.

“But what if both of us follow this advice; it’s impossible to get it right!” I hear you cry. My honest answer? I don’t know. Create a diversion and keep going in and back out again until one of you arrives late.

mans talk

Broad City hot handsign

I think I’d rather get every tin and jar out of my kitchen cupboard, pour the contents into a blender, blend them, pour the sludge into a tall glass and drink the lot than talk about *any* of these things on a date. Especially rent prices. Why not just hold up pages of the Standard at each other and have done with it?

alice talk

POINTLESS

These all sound like pointless answers on, where else, Pointless, in response to the question “Things people talk about on dates”.

mans awks

Hello-Im-New-LOGO

First of all, what are you doing ordering spaghetti on a date, Mansoor? Yes, it was a relatively sensual and seductive meal in Lady and the Tramp, but remember: a) that was a cartoon and b) they were dogs – dogs lick themselves (everywhere) and consider it romantic.

Is there anything that ruins your chances as much as food does on a date? You can be hot, and beautifully dressed and saying all the right things, and your date’s mind will wander to thoughts of Christmas Day engagement rings, ordering the favours for the tables at the wedding breakfast, your first child falling and cutting its knee – only for it all to come crashing down when you order yaki soba and eat like Jabba the Hut trying to get the dregs out of a Slush Puppie, using only a pair of tweezers.

alice awks

tumblr_m0nxs8s2vS1qb2n4qo1_250

“Only.” “Only a few.” “Awkward.” “Silences.”

We mustn’t be afraid of silence – there is so much noise, so much chatter, that a little break from the low, juddering hum of human existence can be quite refreshing. The only kind of silence that belongs on a date, though, is comfortable silence. Say, oh I don’t know, you’re on a date with an artist and you’re appreciating the landscape – assuming you’re not on a date in a Tiger Tiger or outside a cafe next to the bins by Primark – that would be a comfortable silence. Maybe you’re both taking a moment to reflect on Alexandra Burke’s righteous victory on X Factor, no problem.

Awkward silences, though, when you’re willing the other person to speak – like say anything, even that they have two tickets for Dignitas at the weekend and would you like to come – are the worst. They span oceans, reach out to space, they last for ever. Just go to the bar. Quick. Get doubles.

mans table

rainbow plane crash

alice table

Said with such gritted teeth, I bet, even water couldn’t get through the gaps.

mans best thing

We need to make people realise how unctuous and unpleasant it is to say “easy on the eye”. Ugh. It’s that uncle, isn’t it? The one who always mysteriously has a quarter of penny chews in his coat pocket, their wrappings dog-eared and faintly grimy – he’d say someone was easy on the eye. And then he’d adjust his flies and say he was off to clean his van.

alice best thing

I’ve read that topping up someone’s drink is chivalrous and romantic – and it can, of course, make them look easier on the eye – but as I’ve said before, you’re putting fresh booze into non-fresh booze and ruining my ‘taste sensation’. You just look after your own glass there, babes, and I’ll sort myself out.

Someone seeming interested in everything you say is quite a nice thought, I guess, but it wouldn’t have me rushing to my calendar to arrange date 2.

mans friends

Mansoor’s mates have made a bet with him to get the word ‘easy’ into the column as many times as possible.

OK, this is nice; of course you can introduce her to your friends. They’re just people. We’re all people.

alice friends

Beryl Reid Blankety Blank

Oh, honestly. People with different interests can stand in the same room without tearing a hole in the space-time continuum, you know. Are you telling me your coterie of close-knit buddies don’t ever talk about the cost of renting, or London? It’s just Brazilian jujitsu all the way, is it?

Truth bomb for everyone with friends: they’re not that fascinating and you could do with some exciting storylines. I’d introduce some new blood if I were you, keep things fresh.

mansoor three

“Bored me rigid about her holidays and her French lessons. Fit, though.”

alice three

“He talked a lot. I hope he enjoys his first-class journey on a Japanese bullet train to the friendzone.”

mans go on

I feel a bit sorry for Mansoor – there are few things worse on a date than knowing for sure that the person you’re with can’t wait to get out of there, even if they have to climb over an electric fence. In a bikini.

Demi-Lovato-Wipes-The-Tears-Away-Reaction-Gif

What did I do, you wonder. Could they not even fake it, for another ten minutes? Go through the motions and have one more drink – a soft drink, even?

alice go on

“I’m sorry but we only serve Pepsi, not Coke, is that OK?”
“No.”

This ‘school night’ nonsense, though – let’s not play this game. If you feel the coup de foudre, that insane attraction where you’re so frightened to let them out of your sight in case they meet someone else that you want to glue yourself to their groin, it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is.

You could have to be up the next morning to fly a jumbo jet to Canberra, you’d still stay out and be with that person. To want to go home is Alice’s right, of course, but it isn’t a weekday that’s calling the shots here, it’s you.

mansoor change

This is a very polite tactic by Mansoor here, because of all the things he could have changed – I mean, having your date actually interested in you would be quite a good alteration to make – this is the one that puts him in the wrong. It’s very gallant and I’m sure Alice didn’t do anything particularly offensive anyway, but I’d have to make something up here. We’re in a magazine, I’d want to draw blood. Maybe Alice is sharpening her fangs as we speak. Let’s see:

alice change

1698f574753cde67a7ffff73ef0ea583

Tom Hiddleston has replaced Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Benedict Cumberbatch, that one off Parks and Recreation, and untold other famous, average Joes as the default answer given by people who panic when asked “Which celebrity do you fancy?” It’s like we’ve been conditioned to find Tom Hiddleston attractive. I mean, you could put him in the paddock and be assured the horses wouldn’t rear up in horror, but is this it? Is this the pinnacle of male hotness? Someone, who, if he weren’t dressed in designer labels and groomed to within an inch of his life, or worked behind the counter at that McDonald’s opposite King’s Cross station, wouldn’t get so much as a second glance? It would appear so.

We get the studs and starlets we deserve. 2016, this is yours.

Scores.

mansoor marks

alice marks

What sad sevens these are. They’re sevens that are told by their teacher – who has a grand total of 18 inspirational fridge magnets clamped to the door of their rusting Zanussi – that they can go on to do great things, be whatever they want to be. Their teacher is lying to them. They may look like sevens, but they’re ones. 1. They can’t be whatever they want to be; they are destined only to come before 2, and be a sympathy digit for anyone who can’t bear to give someone a 0. Ones. 1. Uno. Not sevens.

There’s only one question left. Most weeks, it barely needs asking, just like very often you don’t particularly need to see the last scene in a movie to know how it went. Today, however, everyone has been on their best behaviour; the date has even executed with the clean-shirted politeness and tooth-grinding tolerance of a lunch queue in the staff room of an Oxbridge college.

Will they meet again? Will Brazilian jujitsu get another airing? Will Mansoor be able to hear Alice this time?

mansoor soark

PDYZ7G1htScx

alice meet

tumblr_inline_nh4i8tlWIG1rcxv4d

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. Easy.

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

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