Marco and David

There was a blackout in Soho yesterday evening. Everything was off: street-lamps, traffic lights, shop signs. Restaurants and bars were either turfing everyone out or making the best of it with candles. It was so strange to wander through it in the dark, people lighting their way with iPhone torches or the dim glow of a Grindr screen. “Ooh it’s like the blitz,” said some 20-year-olds who once read about the Blitz on the back of a Coco Pops packet. A few years ago, the prospect of making your way through Soho’s sinful alleys in the dark might have been exciting for a gay man. Whose hands would grab you in the dark? Who would you bump into? Would it be a handsome hunk, a creepy old perv or, more likely, a pickpocket? We would perhaps have made the most of the unexpected dark, knowing that the light didn’t really want us unless we were behaving ourselves.

Thankfully those days are gone and now we know we’re as safe as houses in Soho. Gay men who might once have felt up a stranger behind Norman’s Coach and Horses are all at home, curled up on the sofa, planning their wedding – almost certainly plumping for cupcakes instead of a cake – or at the gym doing “leg day”, or they’re running screaming to find a bar with power on because they were halfway through a Medium post and the wifi went off in Costa. As alluring as the past may seem, I certainly don’t long to be sexually assaulted in the dark, and the march toward equality means that everyone is now freer than ever to be as boring as they like.

That first brick thrown at Stonewall may have been for freedom, and justice, and equality, but the second was for normcore, nights in, pictures of pornstar martinis, #instagay, and getting matching haircuts at Tommy Guns.

Feeling their way through the dark this week are Marco, a 35-year-old buyer manager who looks VERY familiar – maybe he’s been on TV – and David, 33, a global health adviser who also looks familiar. I dread to think, but I checked the spreadsheet and I haven’t had sex with either of them, so that’s a good start.

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Read what happened on the date before I turn the lights out and throw a tarantula on the table.

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The “far right” after David’s name is making me scream, especially in that T-shirt, as he is anything but.

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Liberté! Egalité! Inanité!

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“Very Italian-looking.” Perhaps Marco arrived at the date on a Vespa and his opening gambit was “Whens’a YOUR Dolmio day?” He doesn’t look particularly Italian to me, mainly because most Italians kind of look like everyone else, but here’s what I think happened. David got the email from the Guardian saying his date would be called Marco and he’s gone into obvious stereotyping overdrive – instantly dismissing I imagine, the scores of eastern Europeans also called Marco – and just decided his date would be Italian-looking. I mean, if a beard and dark hair means you’re Italian-looking then Vauxhall on a Saturday night could perhaps apply to be twinned with Rome.

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Nice. Nice. Ni— Easy-going. Hmmm. As a first impression. How? “Yeah, dude, sit where you like. I’m easy.” Was David sucking the last out of a joint as Marco marched in? Was he asleep? The only way I can tell someone is easy-going from my very first look at them is either they haven’t washed their hair or they’re wearing what can only be described as “floordrobe”.

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“London life” is one of my least favourite conversation topics ever. Ever. Each time someone starts one up, I’d love to raise my hand and stop them. “It’s OK, I’ve got this,” I’d say, maybe. “Let’s save some time and get this out of the way so we can talk about something more interesting and meaningful, shall we? This is all we’ll have to say:
– It takes an hour to get everywhere, yes, no matter where you’re going.
– House prices. Yeah. Terrible.
– But, no, you can’t be expected to move to zone 6. Not until you have a baby anyway.
– So many people.
– Tube. Awful.
– Bus. Worse.
– Boris Bikes. So dangerous. And they don’t wear helmets.
– Nobody talks to each other, no.
– Shop assistants hate you. Especially in Zara, yes.
– No, I don’t have a favourite restaurant. I’ll just say whichever one Time Out are wanging on about this month, although I haven’t been.
– Yes, you have to go east for the decent bars. I never go east.
– Hipsters are terrible, yes.
– So dirty.
– Bloody Heathrow.
– The Tube. Again.
– I’D DIE IF I HAD TO LIVE ANYWHERE ELSE. YES, ME TOO. Okay, great. Done. Now, what do you think of Madonna?”

Bingo.

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Anyone dangerously near the edge of their seat may want to sit back a little, for their own safety.

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I hope David was all right after his fall from his bike, but I have to ask: why do you have your bike with you? Maybe the Guardian only told him about the date on the day, and David was unprepared so had his bike with him and was reluctant to leave it at work – understandable. Or, maybe, David was one of those… cyclists we hear so much about.

Whenever I’d turn up to a pub for a date and see a bike chained up outside, my stomach would drop. The ultimate passion-killer, a sleek metal cockblocker, a gooseberry with a saddle. One of the more decent takeaways from the original Sex and the City book is the critique of boys on bikes. Not because, as it was in the book, they probably can’t afford cabs or anything like that, but because the bike gets in the way – it always does, unless you meet a fellow cycling nut.

Don’t bring your bike to a date. You may as well say you’re not expecting any chemistry, that spontaneity is out of the window. There shall be no “let’s just have one more”, no whisky kisses in the Soho blackout, no avoiding eye contact on the Tube ride home together, no duvet twisted this way and that in a stranger’s bedroom. There will only be a polite peck on the cheek after two Coronas, an awkward exchange of niceties on the slow trundle back to the station and then one of you alone, balls freezing as you pedal down Hackney Road, with all the night’s missed opportunities whirring around you like a coastal gale.

The only bike you need to bring on a date is yourself, honey.

As for the wetting himself, I once went on a date and on going to the loo decided to multitask and and answer a text from a friend about how it was going. “Not too badly, I guess,” I began to type, as I urinated down the entire left leg of my jeans, before slowly deleting the text and instead typing, “I just pissed all down my leg. Cheers.”

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He had his bike with him, Marco. You may as well have not turned up.

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But otherwise no.

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GAY PRIDE!

Aw, this is a nice thing to say. Is Marco actually Italian? I hope his friends are like those proper Italians you get in London who wear huge puffa jackets all year round and sit outside cafes smoking in all weathers and drinking the tiniest cup of coffee they can find. Dating non-Brits who live in London always gives you a fresh perspective on the place, both positive and negative. People who say that Londoners never talk to strangers need to sit at the next table to a bunch of Spanish/Italian/Moroccan/Indian/American/Brazilian/anywhere friends for half an hour. Never French, though.

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SOPHISTICATED like the ambassador who is really spoiling us with this Ferrero Rocher.
SMILEY like I don’t fancy him.
CHATTY like I don’t fancy him at all.

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POSITIVE like a pregnancy test in a soap opera inexplicably left where anyone can find it, usually before a big event like a wedding or a plane crash or both.
SMART like a guy who I’m assuming was not wearing that T-shirt on the actual date.
NOMADIC like someone who’s just bored you to the point of coma about their various travels.

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Didn’t mention it once, David. Perhaps try leaving the Eight-Hour Cream on for nine?

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This isn’t really a lasting impression I’d be doing my utmost to leave but it’s good to aim low occasionally.

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I’m really starting to feel quite strongly about how much I hate this bike.

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I’ve been reading this over for an hour and half or so and I’ve certainly had enough of you both. I can’t begin to imagine how I’d feel after four hours and only caramelised aubergine to sate me.

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😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷

God, this sodding, fucking, useless bike. See what I mean? Go on a date with a guy who’s got a bike outside and you are on the date with the pair of them. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Not only do you have his metal mistress waiting for him, gently rusting in glee at the thought only she’ll be getting a ride off him tonight, you also have to deal with everything that comes with it.

Newsflash to people who cycle to dates: you smell the very opposite of great when you arrive. You’re kind of sweating and there’s a sour cloud around you as you peel off your lycra and unclip your helmet. Then you leave your cycling leggings on and slowly braise in the suffocating warmth of  heat-trapping fibres until finally your date asks if you’re OK and need some water, before lightly sniffing up and asking what that pong is.

Oh, and don’t forget David actually pissed himself in the toilet too, so those leggings will be feeling F R E S H. Bloody hell.

Cycling leggings? You may as well have worn a chastity belt, David.

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You’d never have got past all that Lycra, Marco.

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A 9 but no kiss because you “didn’t get that vibe”? Then why a 9? A 9 at least has potential for a kiss. You can’t give a 9 to someone you’re not interested in; fucking hell you’d never survive as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, David.

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I’m going to be honest with you, I totally forgot Marco was on this date. What has he even said? I feel like my eyes have been wallpapered over with woodchip and painted apple blossom white. David may have brought that bloody bike, but at least it’s given us something to talk about. Marco, bless him, has been mere scenery.

Gay guys, if you’re going on a Guardian Blind Date, get drunk, get hard and never go home. We’re relying on you to keep it real when the lights go out.

I would say I’m intrigued by the notion they might meet again but all I can picture is two pre-packed sandwiches sitting on a park bench.

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DO YOU HAVE A BIKE, DAVID? YOU SHOULD’VE SAID.

Boys with bikes do love everyone they date to be on bikes too, so they try to convert you. The two-wheeled cult is eternally looking for new members to whiz through traffic lights with or unexpectedly mount pavements alongside.

Here’s a pro-tip or a life-hack from somebody who’s been on dates with cyclists: the non-cyclist of the two is only saying they’d be interested in buying a bike because they’re hoping to bone you. They do not want to buy a bike – they want to ride you like one.

“We come from slightly different worlds” – Italy vs the UK? Gryffindor vs Hufflepuff? Different echelons of Doctor Who Fandom? Who can say?!

You’re two white gay guys who look almost EXACTLY like each other – how different can these worlds be?

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Bikes, I’m guessing. Oh, Marco. He’s got you. We’ve lost you to them now.

Enough.

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Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

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. I do this live on a Saturday morning. Look, I like cycling and cyclists just fine, but I have been stung too many times by these Lycra-clad wasps – first dates have to be bike-free. Insist upon it. 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. 

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Joe and Astrid

It’s becoming harder to get out of bed, sometimes, to be a part of our brave new world. Life isn’t as much fun when you find yourself on the losing side, over and over again. “I don’t want to wake up in the morning, but I’ve got to face the day,” as the Vaccines once so wisely sang. It is scant comfort that someone, somewhere is enjoying this chaos and disorder, is invigorated by it – these are not my people.

Hoping to find someone on their wavelength and free of garbage opinions this week are 24-year-old economist Joe, and Astrid, 25, an estate manager. Are they reason enough for us to swing our legs out from under the duvet this week, or will they have us praying that climate-change armageddon speeds up and obliterates us all?

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Read what happened on the date, before I blunder in on a hover board and ruin the whole evening.

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Reaching for the sky, as ever. Next.

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Right. As regular readers will know, I am very big on punctuality. Huge. I insist upon it for myself, hope for it in others and judge those whom it eludes. I’m sorry, I do. I get furious when other people make me late, because I have very, very often been the one standing there waiting for others to arrive. Oh, how I’d laugh and shrug it off when they eventually turned up 10–15 minutes after we were supposed to meet, a flurry of air kisses and half-hearted apologies and little white lies like “I’m not sure what time we said” or “I couldn’t get on the first Tube” or “It took me ages to get here; I came out of the wrong exit”. I’d tell them it didn’t matter, even though I knew they were late because they’d stopped off at a shop on the way – the carrier bag usually gives it away, friends – or had decided to have another piece of toast before leaving the house, or, as the slightly puffy eyes would tell me, had plumped for an extra half-hour in bed. Their time, you see, is precious, but yours is not, because it doesn’t belong to them and they feel no need to  consider it.

We very rarely say to people “Don’t be late” unless it’s something serious like a meeting, or a funeral, or the Oscars, because it makes us sound overbearing, like we’re ordering people about. We are accused of being controlling – “what does a few minutes matter, bloody hell” – but we need to say to people not to be late because your time is precious and it is finite and there is not enough of it to waste waiting outside the Argyll Street exit of Oxford Circus (the one next to the stir fry takeaway) for someone who was always going to be late, whatever time you said. Don’t wait. 10 minutes, if you’re feeling generous, then a text telling them you had to go.

That said, Joe sounds like he’s talking about a train here. And he does sound a bit controlling, actually. It does feel like we’re reading from a faded computer printout of a machine that was invented by accident in a lab and is capable of taking over the world. “She was dressed very smartly and we arrived at the same time” – you wouldn’t want it as a review quote on the cover of your romantic novel, would you?

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They never do, Astrid. Before  you go on a date, remember to Google Ted Bundy, or perhaps search for some American Psycho GIFs. They don’t all look like Fred West or the Yorkshire Ripper, you know.

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24 and 25, apparently. I like to imagine they were just pretending to be grownups, like they were in a Wendy house or eating Monster Munch off a plastic plate from an A La Carte Kitchen set, and being all la-di-da before collapsing into heaps of giggles. Board games and patterned clothing are conversations 60-year-olds would have while barrelling round the Edinburgh Woollen Mill sale.

Your surroundings influence your chat on a date, however. If you’re in a “buzzy” bar in east London, I dare say your love for Monopoly and penchant for golfing jumpers won’t get a look-in. These two were eating in the restaurant of that mortifying court-themed hotel on Great Marlborough Street, the one with the bar that has actual police cells in it. The restaurant still has all its original features and is laid out like a courthouse with tables cleverly added where they can fit them. I don’t know what I’d have done on finding myself eating here, on a blind date, aged 24, but I do hope I could’ve pulled some better conversation topics out of my then very-limited “bag”. The funny thing about this restaurant is that if it were in, say, Essex, it would be tacky af, but somehow it gets a free pass because it’s in London and cocktails are a million pounds.

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fascinating

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I’ve said this before, but one of the easiest ways to unnerve someone, or communicate you don’t like them, or that they’re irrelevant to you, is to pretend to forget their name, or ask it more than once. Sometimes, often even, it is genuine, and you can usually tell those moments from the fake. I have quite a bad memory for names, but never ask for it more than once. People tend not to remember my name, or they get it wrong; it’s just one of those things. It can be a hard fact to swallow, that you’re not particularly memorable, and while I don’t care that much any more, as it helps to slip under the radar sometimes,  it teaches you that it really does bother some, that it’s very important to them you remember their name. And once they’ve revealed that, you can have lots of fun with it. Seriously, get someone’s name wrong more than once at a gathering and watch them simmer.

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The Oxford English Dictionary press office – the thirstiest in the game – may want to contact Astrid with an up-to-date definition of “overlook”, because she appears to be misusing it.

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Oh, Joe. Go on, tell us, what is it about your friends, your clutch of bros and lads and maaaaates, that would puzzle Astrid? Are they too boisterous for her? Maybe fond of telling a few “off-colour” jokes and doing a bit of swearing? Astrid is an estate manager in Windsor – she very likely meets about 100 dickheads a day, at all levels of age, class, wit and intelligence. I doubt very much that your bunch of righteous, black-sock wearing, graduate scheme dudes – no doubt all imperially terrible at ironing, cleaning up, handling their beer, eating anything other than pizza, paying bills on time and, crucially, talking to women – would faze her in the slightest.

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QUIRKY like a patterned jumper.
FUNNY like that time your bodacious best bud got drunk on, like, a pint of wine and did that super middle-class amazing rite of passage thing that I wouldn’t understand.
PUNCTUAL like Mussolini’s breakfast.

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EASYGOING like nobody who ever said that word ever was, ever.
INTELLIGENT like a self-checkout machine that refuses to acknowledge you’ve put the chewing gum into the bagging area.
CHATTY like a child in the queue at the Post Office asking you why the man in front doesn’t have any hair and “smells funny”.

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I don’t know, but with his punctuality obsession, mortification over wearing the wrong shirt and then spilling food down it, and now his interrogation, Joe is starting to sound about as joyful and “easygoing” as Herr Flick from ‘Allo ‘Allo.

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Astrid has no time for Snapchat or Twitter, and yes, her phone screen – a Nokia 3210 – is cracked because she’s too busy to get it fixed because of all the horses and stags and lawns and stuff to worry about in her job. I’m always amazed, impressed or envious even, when I meet someone who is so off-grid, and that they don’t care about it. I can’t think of anything worse, but then if everybody was on social media, there’d be no room for all our terrific opinions, would there?

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Ah, the train. That train. I know that train. I have boarded it and felt relief, I’ve got on it and felt regret, I have accidentally missed it, I have purposely missed it, I have pretended it doesn’t exist. If there is true chemistry, a train won’t hold you back. What are timetables, and quiet carriages, and freezing cold ticket halls, when it comes to that tingle of passion and excitement you feel when you know you won’t be going home tonight? The train is an excuse, your get-out clause. Sometimes, like on this date I’m thinking, we really need that train.

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THIS is what you’d change? Your food? Your shirt? This is all you’d alter, at the age of 24 and 25, about the entire evening? You’d keep the rest? An insipid meeting of minds in an overpriced fun-pub with nibbles, chatting amiably, yet dully, about the Yorkshire sodding Moors and Scrabble? You’d hang on to the total lack of rapport or, dare I say it, spark (!) and the utterly tang-free end to the evening, where each of you trundled off, before 11pm I bet, back to your boltholes to sigh and shrug at your flatmates that it was “OK” before firing up Netflix and watching two episodes back-to-back of benumbing borefest The Crown, before settling into bed? You wouldn’t change that? No?

You wouldn’t fancy swapping them out for a girl in violently applied lipstick with a dirty laugh who said she had a bit of coke in her bra and tickets for a club in a converted sewer, or a bestubbled charmer in trousers one size too small who had a magnum of champagne stitched to the inside of his lapel and tickets for the same club, but in a VIP area high above the bubonic crowd below? No? Definitely not? Horses for courses, I guess.

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Ugh. That point-five. “I don’t want to score her a 7 because that is a gentleman’s 1, but I don’t want her to get the impression I’m interested in her, so an 8 is out of the question. Yeah, 7.5.”

It’s still a 7, Joe. I didn’t just fall out of a sodding tree.

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Astrid’s rule of thumb is never to give a score that you wouldn’t happily write on a rosette and pin to a horse, or a cake, or the jacket of a minor royal, so she has very kindly gone for an 8, despite the evening showing as much sexual promise as a bale of towels tumbling off the top shelf in Debenhams.

Last and, by the look if it, very very much the least, we discover whether our star-crossed lovers will ever meet again. Perhaps they could have a second date in another themed restaurant – is TGI Friday’s ironically cool yet?

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“Logistically”, like he’s talking about building the pyramids instead of, you know, getting on a train. However, he’s right, you know, east London is too far for any self-respecting person to ever want to go, unless it was Jake Gyllenhaal waiting for them at the other end. (Sorry Joe.)

If you really want to be with someone, you’d make it work. Just SAY you can’t be arsed, FFS – we’re not here for long. Or perhaps Astrid is from Windsor on the South Island of New Zealand, and has thus far kept this under wraps.

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Bullet dodged, perhaps, Astrid.

Photograph: Graeme Robertson; Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian

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. I do this live on a Saturday morning. Astrid, and Joe, even though you are wasting your 20s with relish, you seem nice – live a little, though, eh? For me. 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. 

Abolade and Sam

Hasn’t it been the longest week of what feels like the very worst year? I am always very reluctant to say things like “I can’t wait for 2016 to be over”, as if it’s the digits making up the year that are the problem, because it gives us false hope that things will magically change once the last firework on New Year’s Eve has dive-bombed pathetically to the ground. Maybe things aren’t terrible because it’s 2016 – perhaps this is just the way things are now.

But has the rain ever felt so hard? Has it really been as cold as this before? Was your milk ever so sour as it was in 2016? Has the news really been so relentless and depressing before – how some of us must long for a slow news day. In 2016, if a cat were to get stuck up a tree, it would likely have a suicide vest strapped to it and reveal it voted for Trump, before falling on its owner’s head and killing them. 2016. I’m not saying it’s all your fault, but at least have a day or two off in your final weeks.

The last thing we need now, then, is two doughnuts whinging about school nights, too many glasses of wine and dying for a “lovely chat and a tasty meal”. Hope arrives in the form of 31-year-old lawyer Abolade and Sam, 30, a senior merchandiser.

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Yes, that’s right – we have escaped the media bubble, which means we get a break this week from the usual tryhard Olympics. Read what happened on the date before I walk in and say “2016” over and over again until someone starts crying.

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TOPICAL.

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Fun? A night out? What, no “good food and good company”? Did we… wish hard enough? Have your dreams come true? Will this week’s couple actually NOT be two bores who were looking for the Made in Chelsea auditions but got into the wrong lift? Hold on.

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No, you’re not seeing double – they really did say exactly the same things as each other. A complete match.

Smiling. I don’t do it often. I don’t have a natural smile. Smiling makes my face look rounder, and I have dimples, so I kind of look like a Shar Pei – and that’s before you even get to the other lines and wrinkles and potholes I acquired at a knockdown price throughout my advancing years.

It’s one of the very few times I feel for Victoria Beckham, when she tries to smile. She looks like she just killed somebody, hid them under the floorboards and is trying to “act natural”.

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While it’s a bit meta, I too have often wondered how they put people together for the Blind Date column. Is it an age thing? Do they match by job, or background? Do you get to say the type of person you’re after? Who can say?

They do tend to throw the media wanks together in this column – and we get a load of those, don’t we? If Narcissus were up and about in 2016, he’d own a start-up that didn’t pay its interns and would be applying for Blind Date. Oh yes.

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Really? Nothing for us? Awkward-free. Cool. I mean, I am glad, I know I should be glad. It’s not like I’m sitting here, shivering under a fleecy throw while my central heating plays its usual mind games, waiting for you to say something  I can latch upon. You had an evening totally devoid of awkwardness, which, for you, is perfect. I am glad. Good.

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What’s it got to do with you? If he wants to order lamb then… let him? Unless… no. Oh, no. Were you going to share? On reading this I dashed over to the website of the restaurant they ate in pursued the menu. The prices for “plates” – nobody says “mains” any more because it doesn’t sound like it can afford a second car and a dishwasher – seem to be quite cheap (for Soho, anyway; I have lived here 14 years and am ridiculously assimilated) so I’ll assume they were getting “a few things to share”. And this is what happens when you have to share. It causes potential conflict in a night that so far has been so uneventful, it makes after-school detention sound like the last days of Studio 54.

A Post-it note with “let’s share a starter” written on it could start a fight in an empty room – it is food-sharing that will bring down civilisation, I’m sure of it.

Don’t like the look of the lamb, Sam? The entire meal is free; push the fucking boat out, get a “plate” all to yourself. Christ.

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It’s been one of those weeks where you could quite easily have expected the Blind Date column to end with one of the daters running over the other, so perhaps we should be grateful that this week we have two perfectly nice people enjoying an evening that’s neither awkward or dogged by terrible table manners. “Impeccable”, even!

Perhaps we should spend the rest of the column politely tittering at everything they say, like workers in a community centre would do should Princess Anne come to visit. How odd it must be for the Royals – everywhere they go, all they have to do is say anything, literally anything, and even if it has the faintest whiff of being amusing, everyone around them will collapse into paroxysms of mirth. Slapping their thigh and clutching their chest in hysteria, just because Princess Michael of Kent said “sausage” in a chemotherapy ward.

Let’s struggle on.

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BANTER. Here we go. Banter means so many things to so many different people, and in the process, it’s kind of lost all meaning. The main strand of banter seems to be the ability to both hurl and take light insults in a joking manner, without going too far or being too weak. Quite what the sweet spot is for the perfect level of banter, I have no idea.

Whenever I think of banter, I think of men wearing white sport socks, in a locker room, over spraying with Lynx or vigorously towelling their balls and pointing into the air with every syllable. Del Boy, but on protein shakes.

I don’t like banter. I hate it in fact. Banter is the tarpaulin you throw over words; nobody says what they means. It’s even worse than repression, and saying nothing at all, because banter demands to be heard, even though you know it’s empty, and shallow. Banter is what we do when we’re too frightened to say who we really are. Show yourself.

“It’s just banter.” OK.

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I love it when people get on and have a good time, but I tell you what I don’t like – I’m not talking about Abolade and Sam in particular, here, btw – and that’s someone three tables away from me in a Soho restaurant screaming laughing at each other while I can’t hear a word my boyfriend is saying. I don’t know how people do it, or why they want to be so obnoxious. Why MUST the world hear you?

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Not exactly dripping with enthusiasm, but I’ll take it this is meant sincerely.

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FUN like this has not been to write.
ADVENTUROUS like literally zero answers in this column.
OPEN like the fire I want to throw myself into.

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HOT like a burn, which I’ve been unable to produce this week.
HILARIOUS like nothing on this page.
SOPHISTICATED like a cat that chews with its mouth closed.

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Here it is. Regular as clockwork. Tale as old as time. It’s the weekly “woman assumes anything other than perfect poise or borderline mute behaviour will mean a guy thinks she’s too talkative or insane”.

To Abolade’s credit, he doesn’t appear to sign up to bullshit, remarking on Sam’s laugh and how fun she was, but even then Sam still worries she hasn’t come across well. I don’t know where the change in mindset is going to come from; it seem to be so ingrained. We all stress from time to time about whether people think we’re awful or not. Despite what some people tell you, it doesn’t simply evaporate with old age; you can still be comfortable in your own skin and yet be concerned someone thought you were a douche. In fact, if you don’t have the occasional wobble about your own behaviour, you’re probably a sociopath. But that this idea is so widely shared, especially among women, makes me feel really sad.

I’m going to assume that Sam’s “worried” here is just a mild cringe she’s laughing off and not something that’s keeping her awake at night, although I know, for a lot of people, it does exactly that. I’d never say that it doesn’t matter what people think of you, because it does, of course, but sometimes that opinion is out of your hands and, most of the time, down to their own petty prejudices. It doesn’t mean you have to change your behaviour. Let them adapt to you; there is always room for manoeuvre in the right person.

We are all a little mad at times. I pity those who aren’t – how awful for them to be so utterly composed and restrained 24/7. Cereal boxes carry a warning to avoid people being disappointed when they open them: “Contents may settle during transit”. Feel sad for the cereal box people. My contents never settle, even when I’m standing still. They shake. Who wants to be a cereal box? Let’s never stop shaking.

(Edit: to be clear, I don’t want people to think I’m genuinely mystified why the women in the column say this kind of thing. I’m not; I’m just exasperated. There are some good comments below from women readers about this. Go take a look.)

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Yes, Abolade! Thursday, for the uninitiated, is the “risk it all” night for dating. Anything can happen on a Thursday. It’s so tantalisingly close to the weekend, but without all the pressure of a date on a Friday or Saturday. Friday and Saturday dates mean business, sure, but they’re pretty blatant – you’ve nowhere to be the next day except on top of one another. Thursdays have promise, but they also have doubt. Thursday dates are exciting because you might just end up with that second shot of Patrón and think “fuck it, let’s go to a club” because tomorrow is Friday and you can always sit crying at your desk with a bacon sandwich to get through it.

Thursdays, yes. Perfect. Sundays too. Days that are DTF but don’t like to tell the world about it.

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A BIT FUCKING LATE NOW, SAM.

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A shy 10.

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Eight. Hmmm. He was “hot” three questions ago, Sam. Unless that “hot” was the sexless kind of hot my straight female friends say to me when I try on a new pair of jeans or a top that “really sets off my eyes”.

Either this is a cautious 9, or Sam didn’t think Abolade was hot at all. But why would she say it? Cautious 9, then.

It’s been nice to have another couple get on really well. After the last few weeks, it’s nice to know there are still come civil people in the world, who don’t go in for showboating or trying to dig up drama just to make themselves look cool or arrogant in a magazine. While the date has been a little dry, hasn’t it been rather refreshing to have two people meet and be genuine? We earned this one, everybody. This was the antidote to 2016’s supposed poison.

But will that 9 and that 8 translate to a second date?

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Photograph: Alicia Canter; Graeme Robertson, both for the Guardian

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. I do this live on a Saturday morning. 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. 

Thanks to @olenskae for the “beige high heels” tip,

Patrick and Giuseppe

Thirst. How did we get it? When did it arrive? Have we always had it, but kept quiet? Did the advent of social media and the ability to express ourselves at every opportunity awaken a huge beast within us?

Like putting  toothpaste into the tube, it’s hard to recant once you’ve shown the world just how thirsty you are for its gaze. Shirtless selfies on Instagram, long missives on Facebook, tweeting every breath or, even, writing a blog just like this one (self awareness klaxon) – most of us like to know someone’s watching. Pretending we don’t like the attention always seems a hollow complaint, like Mel C (for example) when she says she hates being famous. What did you think being in the Spice Girls would bring you? A job on the Clarins counter in Debenhams?

Warren Beatty, chastising Madonna in her Truth or Dare documentary, seemed a ridiculous and prudish dinosaur when he said, “She doesn’t want to live off-camera, much less talk… What point is there of existing off-camera?” but most people agreed he had a point. Times have changed. Warren would now be decried as a share-shamer. Maybe we all need a Warren in our lives to tell us how ridiculous we are. We’d ignore him anyway, adding another filter to our couples selfie in Five Guys, but at least we’d know he was there.

Queueing up for a great big vat of water and hoping it’ll quench that thirst for good today are Patrick, a 24-year-old PR assistant (wow what are the chances, eh?) and Giuseppe, 30, a graphic designer. I long for the day we have someone who works in Saxone and another who dresses as a chicken and hands out flyers for KFC on the high street. Prick the media bubble.

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Read what happened on the date before I wade in with a final demand for council tax and ruin everything.

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You see? You see this, homophobes? This is why you need a gay man or two on your life. No hoping for ” a tasty meal and lovely chatter” for these two, like all the other greige throw-my-jumper-over-my-shoulder-and-hang-loose heterosexuals – although Patrick nearly chucks it away with the “good conversation”. They want to get DRUNK with someone HOT and they don’t want to be MURDERED. Now, we’re cooking.

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“Definitely lives in Hackney.” I wonder what gave it away. Perhaps Giuseppe arrived on a fixie, or walked in waving his library card.

I have an irrational dislike for the phrase “easy on the eye”. I mean, I am vainer than Jeffrey Archer staring into the webcam during a Skype call with [REDACTED] but if there’s one compliment I can’t stand, it’s “easy on the eye”. Maybe it’s the “easy” part. It’s all so passive, so nonchalant. I don’t want to be easy on your eye; I want to make your eye work for it. Take me in, focus on me, drink absolutely all of it in until you want to poke your eyes out to give yourself some respite. Easy on the eye? You wish.

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We’ll let “he seems nice” slip away into the pneumonic coma it deserves and instead move on to the “he’s almost as blond as me”. I have literally zero times in my life arrived on a date and marvelled at a date’s hair colour and its similarity, or lack thereof, to mine. And this is back even when my hair wasn’t greyer than a badger’s arsehole. But blond people, well, they hate to be outblonded. I started writing something about Tiger Tiger here but thought better of it and deleted. I will leave it to your imagination.

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Whatever, whatever, Negronis. Negronis. They’re back, unexpectedly, out of context, like Cannon and Ball doing a winter season at Bridlington.

I refuse to believe anyone enjoys negronis. I have sat in bars and restaurants opposite good friends, people I thought I really knew, and watched them chuck back a negroni like it was A-lister jizz or whatever elixir Cher drinks. “How can you not like them?” the negroni lover will say, as if it’s unreasonable of you to be reluctant to drink a cocktail that tastes like a coffin.

I sometimes think negronis are God’s way of telling you that the person who orders and drinks one should never, ever be fucked. If you’ve already fucked one, try to unfuck them as quickly as possible.

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Even my dog, which I am yet to actually buy, yawned at this one.  Anyway. This is Xavier Dolan:

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He’s kind of like James Franco, but 10 years younger and with full access to a nail brush.

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Oh look someone just walked in as you started watching Broadchurch for the first time, told you who the killer was, and walked out again.

I wonder where they kissed. The restaurant, maybe?

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Kissing in a bar is fine, to be encouraged, even, but I could never accept canoodling over dirty dinner plates. We didn’t amble out of the cave and invent the wheel just so you could maul each other over a half-eaten chateaubriand, darling.

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Oh, Patrick is a sex gay. You get those on dates, sometimes. I have been that gay on dates sometimes. Good for him. We’re funny things, aren’t we? One date I could be shyer than a parlourmaid being shown an aubergine for the first time, other dates I’d make Casanova blush.

Who we are, and whether we get our sex out, depends on the person we’re on a date with. If a guy starts asking you about sex –something I really can’t stand talking about on a date because I would rather show than describe – then it means he fancies you. How you respond to that is rather up to you.

Let’s take a peek inside Giuseppe’s brain:

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Ah. Looking good for Patrick, then.

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One of my huge secrets is that I absolutely destroy every tablecloth I ever sit at. I don’t know how; I don’t behave like a messy eater. But somehow I manage to get at least £4.50 worth of each course all over whichever over-starched square of cotton happens to be draped over my poor unfortunate table.

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Haha, if ordering tagliatelle on a date isn’t code for “come meet me in the toilets for a quick nosh” then I don’t know what is. FILTH. I love it.

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More important than dick size or being kind to animals.

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Ever since it was pointed out to me that the “sure” in answer to this question sounds like it was said with gritted teeth, with all the sincerity of a doctor’s receptionist wishing you a merry Christmas, I can’t get it out of my head.

“Sure I will. If I ever see him again. Which I won’t. But sure.”

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AFFECTIONATE like a cat that wants you to get off your arse and empty its litter tray.
SARCASTIC like no other gay man ever.
SEDUCTIVE like a mixtape by Leslie Phillips.

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FUNNY like the gay best friend in a ’90s romcom who dies halfway through to teach the much less entertaining straight main character a valuable lesson about life, love, and loss.
EASY-GOING like a person who can’t be arsed to make a decision ever.
SMILEY like a fucking emoji. Smiley. Jesus.

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Is today’s Guardian Blind Date sponsored by a joke shop? Have you ever known “funny” to make such a dominating appearance? I’m not auditioning for a Fringe show, so it’s never really concerned me whether people think I’m funny or not; I just don’t want them to think I’m unfunny. There’s a difference.

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Finally, some sexual activity on a date. You can always rely on the queens to bring that trophy home.

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I’m just joking. No such thing as whores where dating is concerned. I should know. I am pro-this. Pro-kissing, pro-action, pro humans behaving like humans should do when they’ve had too much to drink. Better this, an inebriated fumble in the world’s most exciting city, than trudging home with your Fitness First gym bag to make a risotto and have an early night because you’re getting up first thing to stand in a room full of “don’t know, don’t care” clean-shirts and read out a series of PowerPoint slides.

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Look, I’m as “drop sex into absolutely every conversation” as the next man – as long as the next man is Norris from Coronation Street – but, seriously, is Patrick typing this with his hard-on?

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A bottle less? Wh–why? Hangover the next day or… could it be that you woke up the next day with a little more than a monumental wineover, in the shape of, ooh I dunno let me hazard a guess here, a Patrick?

Don’t regret the wine. Never regret the wine. Learn from the wine. Appreciate the wine. Get down on your knees and thank the wine. Because even if the wine was responsible for you slutdropping up against the local vicar, or confessing to your mother you did coke off a rent boy’s belly, or, well, letting Patrick ride you like the slippiest car on the waltzers, it also made you who you are today.

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“He swallowed!”

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“He spat.”

Aw, is it over already? We’ve come all this way with Patrick and Giuseppe, watched them eat like two Tasmanian devils let loose in Burger King, gaped as they bagged off in front of two pensioners and marvelled at their capacity for alcohol. Will we get the happy finish we deserve? Will they see each other again?

Boyz?

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Oh.

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Photograph: Linda Nylind; Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian

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. Thank you to these two guys for feeding the monster – not to mention the beast with two backs. 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: Happy birthday, Dad. xx 🎂