Jonny and Kit

The trouble with a first date is that while it can be the beginning of something, it’s also very definitely the end of something exciting.

It brings a close to the anticipation, the build-up obliterated by a simple handshake. As any yule-o-phile will tell you, the best part of Christmas is the preamble – so October, November and December to us hardcore Christmas fans – and while the day itself is a joy, it can never live up to the suspense that comes before it.

A date is a mini-Christmas, then. You’ve had texts or WhatsApps, you’ve seen carefully chosen snapshots, they wooed you and charmed you with jokes and stories. But now the big reveal – the face to the name, a voice to the words, a close-up of that skin, and those eyes, and that hair. And the wrinkles. Will anything ever be the same again? Will you ever get that rush you had in the last 25 minuets before you met them, before you knew, before the secret was out once and for all? No. You won’t. That first feeling is gone. Toothpaste never goes back in the tube.

Saying goodbye to their hopes and dreams today are 26-year-old graphic designer Jonny, and programme manager Kit, also 26, who have swapped their day job working somewhere with stripped floorboards where 6 Music blares out on the office stereo all day (in east London I imagine) for a restaurant in W1, and the pages of the Guardian Blind Date.

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Read what happened on the date – and marvel at this restaurant because good heavens – before I arrive on set with some really big script changes that I’m sure everyone’s just gonna love.

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The good thing about life in the 21st century is even if you have a terrible time somewhere, or with someone, it can be a good story. It’s nicer if you get a story out of having a great time, of course, but not compulsory. We have audiences everywhere taking an interest in our lives like never before, on our social media networks.

Whereas before your incredibantz about a bad date you went on would take years to trickle down to everyone you knew or met, now it can be published as content and, for a brief moment, you’re a big news story among the 400 or so people poring over your Facebook feed. People might say this is a bad thing and that we’re all becoming narcissists and as soon as I’ve taken this selfie I will rebut that argument very strongly. Oh, that’s not right. Let me take another.

jonny-hope

Small talk. So boring. Rent, where do you go out, what do you do, any brothers or sisters, music that you’re into, been to any gigs, favourite restaurant, prefer east or west, wow isn’t the Tube awful, I don’t really watch TV, boxsets, last film I saw, where I went to uni, yeah wasn’t 2016 the worst.

Mind you, with big talk being so terrifying these days, perhaps there’s something comforting about regressing to insipid niceties while Trump and May get handsy for the cameras.

jonny-1st

“Pretty girl” on its own would’ve been enough, I reckon. Not sure why you’d want to dull its shine with two qualifiers that sound like apologies or excuses. “Down to earth”, I know, is supposed to be a compliment, but it depends who’s saying it. Usually, when middle-class people are wheeling it out amid chat about house prices, it means “common, but not so bad that you couldn’t sit her next to grandmother at dinner”.

kit-1st

Like a… dog that just woke up?

jonny-talk

kit-talk

A total lack of a match on conversation topics would usually have alarm bells ringing, but here it seems quite charming. Cute, even.

I, too, am sickened by the “PDA going on at table six” – which is a very nice Victoria Wood-level of detail there – but the restaurant looks like the kind of anything goes, “credit card debt dressed up as wild hedonism” place that people who love PDAs would really like to go.

We’ll brush dry January aside because nobody cares nobody cares nobody cares and move on to the winking. I like it. I like to give  a cheeky wink, and sometimes make a clicking sound with my tongue as I do it. I used to wink at my boyfriend a lot in the early days. It’s not necessarily always salacious, but reassuring, a bonding thing. My dad used to wink at me a lot when I was a child – and still does very occasionally if we catch each other’s eye out in public. “I’m here,” it says, “I get it”, or “We’re not like the others”.

So if you can’t wink, you must learn immediately. It is code.

jonny-awks

That’s not awkward – that’s what you’re supposed to do. Better that than chewing on and on until you start to gag.

kit-awks

Hmmm. Cigarette? Phone call? A deep breath to stave off a panic attack? Who knows. Maybe he’s like the guy I knew a long long time ago who, if a night was going well, would excuse himself to go to the loo and put a condom on there and then. Maybe he was doing that. But outside.

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kate-winslet

I’m not sure if it’s the same for anyone else who lived through the 1990s, but I’m quite amazed at the contempt levelled at vegetarianism now. It’s labelled a weakness, as a massively inferior lifestyle. For all the hand-wringing about #eatclean and everything being gluten-free, you can’t move in London now for restaurants that fetishise and celebrate meat, that advertise great big hog-roasts and bring huge hunks of animal to your table. Burgers, once the scourge of nutrition, are now back and bigger than ever, dripping in cheese and bacon and sauces and onion rings and another level of cheese and welded to a brioche bun.

When I was younger, being a veggie was the ultimate lifestyle choice. Everyone was doing it. You were mocked by your parents, sure, but revered by your peers. Apart from a brief flirtation with Linda McCartney’s veggie lasagne during my teenage years, I have always eaten meat. But I have noticed a definite shift from going veggie being something people either admired about you or let you get on with, to a thing people actively take the piss out of you for, and obsess over, like it’s a character flaw. No wonder we’re all turning ourselves inside out with worry about our diets and our bodies – nobody can mind their own sodding business about our dinner.

kit-table

What, he got up and served you? Or did me mansplain the positioning of the knives and forks to you? The hours must’ve zoomed by.

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kit-friends

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I see.

kit-three

FUNNY like a comedian, that you fancy.
CHEERFUL like an avuncular postman, who you also fancy.
HANDSOME like Jonny, who you fancy.

Being called handsome never stops being a buzz. And if it does, and you think you’ve heard the word too often, how dare you – take the compliment and realise how lucky you are to hear it. Some people, like Plug from the Bash Street Kids, or Eric Trump, or Ken Dodd, or the guy out of Simply Red (#TeamMartine) have probably never heard that word in the direction in their lives. Can you imagine?

jonny-three

A like A dickhead who doesn’t do this right so I can’t do my “three words like” thing that I always do.
GOOD like it would’ve been for Jonny to actually say three distinct words rather than a statement, especially when you consider the fact that “A” isn’t really a word, as such, I mean it is, but taken out of context, it is meaningless. Anyway, thanks for this Jonny.
LAUGH like I’m sure we all will, about this, one day.

I’m not sure how I feel about Jonny saying Kit was “a good laugh” while he got a “handsome”. It smacks of playing it cool or, more worryingly, feeling rather cool and playing it exactly as it should be. I think we could’ve done with the “pretty” down here rather than all the way up there if we’re going to be taking this to an 8+ today.

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jonny-made

Hard to tell. Hard to tell. We waste a lot of time by being hard to read, I think. So many things left unsaid. We are worried, perhaps, about getting hurt if we reveal too much of ourselves. We don’t trust others not to use it to their own advantage. And there’s something irritating about those who wear their hearts on their sleeves, isn’t there?

But if there’s one time you need to show your hand and let the Botox crack, it’s on a first date. Whether it’s bad news and you’re never going to see them again, or a small spark with inferno potential, don’t leave each other wondering. Don’t consign each other to days of staring expectantly at the phone, agonising over whether to make the first move. Yes, it’s part of the thrill, or the chase, if you like, but really it’s a waste of time. And we don’t have too much of that – especially if Tiny Hands finds that big red button.

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See? Cards so close to her chest, the print from the Jack of Diamonds has rubbed off on her bra.

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Good sign. Very good sign. A pub next door, for a conspiratorial chat about the date, in more relaxed surroundings, maybe jostling a little for space among the other dry January deniers. Things happen when you go on to other pubs. If you get past the first venue, you’ve pretty much made it beyond a story to tell your friends.

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kit-kiss

Attagirl. You’ve got to be direct. You have to steer things toward the result you want. You have to try. On dates, if I felt something between me and the guy, I’d be pretty upfront about this kind of thing. I’d either press them to get on with it – as my boyfriend will testify – or run my intention to get on with it myself by them. If they don’t want to do it, they can say no. Nothing ventured and all that, so long as you take your rejection gracefully.

Not that anyone has ever said no to kissing me, but I have read it’s a thing that can genuinely happen to others.

jonny-score

madonna-awks

“Not my type.” “Down to earth.” “A good laugh.” “I did as I was told.” And now a 7. You could argue that all the evidence points to Jonny not really fancying Kit and you may well be right, but I instead choose to believe that this is a shy 8 from Jonny, because the most telling answer of all, ironically, is Jonny’s “hard to tell” when asked what he thinks she made of him. Jonny doesn’t want to gush in case Kit wasn’t interested, nor does he want to be too harsh on her or humiliate her in a magazine. So he keeps his answers cool but complimentary.

Nobody really cares, I know, but it can be very hard to be a man in tis column and not say the wrong thing. And I should know, because I jump on them often enough. Too keen, too standoffish, too cool, too aggressive, too bitchy, too dismissive, too much. Jonny’s answers here get it right on nearly every single one. Except this one. This should be an 8. And he knows it. I hope Kit does too.

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And it’s equally hard to be a woman in this column because you get so accustomed to the men behaving like absolute arseholes that you worry anything you say might make you look like a tragic heroine of a terrible romcom.

You’re not just flattering his ego, Kit, you’re boosting your own. You deserve the freedom to give a man an 8 if you think he deserves it. Also: this is a 9. I didn’t come down in the last shower, you know.

It’s kind of beautiful this awkward little dance of a possible romance, isn’t it? If this were the 19th century, I bet their diaries would fizz with excited prose about the evening. Sadly, it’s 2017 and this is all we’ve got.

So here we are with our shy 8 and a timid 9 in fancy dress, but will they get the chance to upgrade to 10s? Heeeeeeere’s the big one.

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kit-meet

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Oh, we will.

More: No blog next week.

Photograph: Sarah Lee, Alicia Canter; both for the Guardian

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers  Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. Anyone participating in the date should be made aware of this editing process before taking part. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally. It’s about what you say, not who you are. If you want to give your side of the story,  or send in your original answers, just get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.

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Emma and Eddie

“It’s just like riding a bike,” people say, don’t they? Often. Annoyingly. “You never forget.” But as anyone who’s ever seen me trying to clamber onto a Boris bike will tell you, you can forget even the simplest of things, sometimes within an hour of last doing it. How to ride a bike, how to be polite, how to behave on a date. Let’s hope I can remember how to do this.

Gamely stepping forward with a huge target on their T-shirts this week are 29-year-old festival booker Emma – just imagining the amount of band T-shirts strewn across her floordrobe is making me heave a little – and Eddie, also 29, who is a plumber. A plumber is one of those professions that always makes slightly older female relatives purse their lips in approval and say things like “Well, that’s a good trade; you’ll never be short of money with a plumber in the family”. The date takes place in Manchester this week, which is very exciting for it not be in London. It’s like when someone from my hometown would phone in to the Gary Davies show on Radio 1. How odd it used to feel to hear a famous person say it out loud.

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Read what happened on the date (spoiler: nothing except a vague movement of air in the room) before I deconstruct almost everything they’ve said, out of sheer spite,  like your mother-in-law undoubtedly will on your wedding day.

key

emma-hope

I know this is a JOKE but I doubt very much any court would convict Emma if she were to lose her mind temporarily and tip a bowl of custard over her dad’s head. I know there is this thing about biological clocks etc but “nearly 30” is quite depressing here.

Getting married looks and sounds very boring indeed – it’s just government-approved arguing that starts with a huge party and descends hellward at breakneck speed. Why waste your 30s on that? Wait until you’re, oh I don’t know, 47 and too old to row.

eddie-hope

I know what you’re thinking: this is a good answer. But if I wanted to learn something new, I’d take up an evening class at a former polytechnic or read a thesaurus cover to cover. I would not go on a date with a stranger and appear in a magazine.

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bridget-1

I know this is Emma’s personal 1997 rom-com and we’re all merely living in it, but making the first impression question all about you says at least one of the following:
– It was a bad first impression.
– I have forgotten what I thought at this moment.
– I think the camera’s on me during that line isn’t it? Yes? Good.

eddie-first

I tried to find a gif of Shanice doing I Love Your Smile but to no avail so let’s just imagine it here.

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OK, so you may be rolling your eyes very far in the back of your head re the conversation topics, but at least they seem to match up, so they were listening to each other. And they got to talk about their jobs, which people really seem to like.

I can’t go to festivals. I’ve been to day festivals, and I believe I have slept in a tent at least three times in my life, but I would never stay over at a weekend festival. Oh, I’m not afraid of the cold or the rain, and I wouldn’t be one of those people who claims they can’t go anywhere without a plug socket for my straighteners, or wifi. No, the main reason I don’t want to go to a festival is because many of my friends have, and they’ve all come back irreparably scarred in some way. One friend still talks in haunted tones, her eyes planet-sized in horror at the memory, about a Glastonbury she went to about eight years ago.

Also, I hear that once you start going to festivals you become addicted, and you also begin another obsession, which is talking about them all the time. I’m sure they’re a great experience and perhaps I’m low-key envious that I don’t have it in me, but they seem like a really weird way to shed £500 and do lots of standing up. Near Muse.

emma-awks

of-human-bondage-bette-davis-1-2

Sharing food. Some people see this as a bonding exercise, while I think it’s only fated to set you apart for ever. It’s almost worth doing, because you really get the measure of what a person is like when you watch how they behave around a food sharing scenario.

I met a friend at a very nice restaurant the other day and it was one of those ones where the waiting staff repeatedly tell you that their dishes are “to share” even though you have no intention of doing so. In the end I had to say I was an only child and wouldn’t be sharing and they immediately understood.

eddie-awks

buffy-vomit

Hahahahahahaha. Nooooooooooooooooooooooo.

The date would’ve been over for me right there. First of all, what kind of absolute try-hard irono-nightmare of a restaurant is serving you a fried egg, and secondly, why would you try to split it? I am perhaps one of a small majority who thinks the “best” part of an egg – which in itself is a bit of a reach – is the white. I hate yolks. They cause me a lot of problems in restaurants because I have to ask for the eggs “not runny” – I am a waiter’s ideal customer – solely because I don’t want to accidentally “interrupt” one while I’m eating my eggs benedict or whatever. I can just about cope with boiled eggs but the window for the yolk to go from disgusting to acceptable and back to disgusting again is a very tiny porthole indeed.

I would rather cut my own head in half and ask for “two spoons please” than share a fried egg, let alone one with a runny yolk. I’d have to burn the restaurant down. I feel ill. No. Nooooo.

eddie-table

Haha. I wonder how impressive your table manners have to be to get a “top drawer”? I mean, this implies a skill set, something to admire. Was she doing magic tricks as she twirled a rubbery fried egg, split crudely in two, around her fork? Oh well, at least he didn’t say… oh, lookit.

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I think this is great that they find each other so interesting, and I’m sure they had a lot to talk about, because music people always tend to, but if you think the best thing about someone is their job, then you’re fucked romantically.

To me, someone calling out my job, the way I make my money – be it something I do just to pay the bills or a true vocation – would make me feel my personality was failing. Sure, it might make my chat more interesting (mine doesn’t btw) and I may get to do loads of cool stuff, but one you’re not at work, which most of us aren’t a lot of the time, then what. I’d always thought the phrase “married to the job” applied to the person doing the job only – to attract a partner based on it is another thing entirely.

My interesting stories, my taste in clothes, my filthy language, the shape of my shoulders, the glint in my eye,  my attitude to life, my HAIR – love me for anything, anything other than what I do for a living.

That said, someone who is genuinely passionate about what they do and makes you love it too is quite attractive, so ignore everything I said before. I’d delete it but it’s written now, isn’t it?

emma-three

Genuine, like I don’t really fancy him, to be perfectly candid.
Honest, like no, not even a little bit, although he’s a nice guy I’ll just say things like this until the question’s over and done with.
Open, like no seriously that’s all I’m saying and I think I’ve got away with it.

eddie-three

Fun, like a FESTIVAL I would like free tickets for (VIP bit with full showers and actual seating only, hit me up)
Hot, like a fried egg is for only about 13 seconds after it comes out of the pan, before congealing into a woeful play-doh memorial to good taste.
Sharp, like an Ariana Grande high-note.

(I am actually a VERY big fan of Eddie’s use of “sharp” here – what a great thing to be described as. I would love that. Sharp. You bet your fucking arse I am. Bring bandages.)

emma-made

liam-gallagher

Yes, PROBABLY.

Actually, here’s a hot tip for you: northerners don’t think southerners are soft and poncey, because we literally never think about you at all.

eddie-made

Some people actively crave lunatics, don’t they? They like a bit of spice, and say things like “it keeps me on my toes” – yeah, well, so does the floor being on fire.

emma-go-on

big-bike-throw

Oh, she brought a bike. Bikes on dates. Boner death. Sex destroyers. Mood killers. Mojo suppressants. Passion assassins.

Whenever I’d turn up on a date and see the guy had brought a bike, I would hear a heavy, metallic clunk and look down at both our crotches to see that huge padlocks had suddenly appeared from nowhere, over each. There are no keys.

eddie-kiss

CHEEKY BOTH LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY, IN THAT TOTALLY HORRENDOUS BANT-BANT-BANTISSIMO COINAGE WE’RE ALL PRETENDING WE LIKE.

emma-change

Using this question to talk about food is a very, very boring old tactic and a waste of an answer, but it is also handy code for a nuclear-strength friendzoning, with the wind power of your breath after 10 packs of Trebor Extra Strong, so hang on to your hat. Although  these will not be wedding hats, more like festival flower-crowns that you stop to adjust in between snogs with some guy from Fulham (Toby, Dan, Tom, Felix, whoever) during Coldplay’s set.

eddie-change

Same.

emma-score

Seven. A 7 is a 1 with a backstage pass and a cool-box full of beer. But the beer is Miller Lite.

eddie-score

I always wonder what people mean when they say a score is “solid” – it’s going in a magazine, you’re not holding it up on a paddle like a Strictly judge. It is already solid, printed, right there, look.

Anyway, 8 – a hopeful, realistic 9 I imagine. An off-chance 9. A 9 who’s just come off shift and doesn’t stop to get milk on the way home because there’s bound to be some in the fridge. There isn’t any.

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Photograph: Christopher Thomond; Christian Sinibaldi, both for the Guardian

Note: I am away next weekend, so no blog – but there will be something else instead. 

Note 2: 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. Imagine that. 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.