All posts by The Guyliner

The definitive, yet disastrous, gay dating blogger.

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.

emma-and-eddie-full

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.

emma-first

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.

emma-talk

eddie-talk

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.

emma-table

ab-fab-patsy

emma-best

eddie-best

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.

emma-meet

wiggo-bike-throw-o

eddie-meet

ipyiycb2lzkzbjhkzx

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.

Aaron and Alice

2016, we barely we knew you. And what we did know, we weren’t all that keen on. Whether you’re going to spend tonight banging shots, or swaying alone in a brightly lit kitchen, crying, to Dina Carroll’s version of The Perfect Year, I hope you have as good a time as you’re prepared to allow in 2016’s honour.

But before we hand the year its marching orders, there’s one more Guardian Blind Date to squeeze in. Will Aaron, 30 and 31-year-old Alice be in keeping with 2016’s general air of face-clutching horror and disbelief and be a couple of egotistical nightmares? Or will they set a new positive tone for 2017?

Well, I don’t want to worry you, but they’re both project managers – that well-known, knockabout, LOL-central profession – so don’t get your hopes up. Read what happened on the date before I let off my assigned party popper precisely 3 seconds too early and ruin New Year for everyone. I’ll be brisk – I’ve got vol au vents in the oven.

aaron-hoping

Zest was the name of a really quite unpleasant soap that my nana used to insist on buying in the ’80s. It smelled, unsurprisingly, of lemons, but not the kind of lemons you actually find in your local friendly organic greengrocer, but synthetic, weapons-grade, government issue lemons. “Lemon-shaped foodstuff with lemony-flavoured taste.”

Anyway, I guess a zest for life is better than someone who sits opposite you smelling of old blankets, stirring a warm margarita with a chewed straw and telling you they can’t go on.

alice-hope

Why are people so afraid of silence? We get so little of it. There is good silence and bad silence of course. Good: sitting on a veranda in the countryside staring out into the lush green next to someone at least three handsomeness levels above you; the peace and quiet 25 minutes after a toddler has given in to sleep; comfortable silence people-watching with a strong gin and tonic and the knowledge you’ll be at it like rabbits within 10 minutes of getting home. Bad: he just told you his style icon was Nigel Farage and you don’t know what to say; you just broke a priceless heirloom in a museum; you’re stuck in a lift with IBS and three dour cast members of a recently axed ITV comedy.

alice-first

“Can you please describe the man who took your purse, madam?”

aaron-first

This is good. Nobody wants to arrive at a date to find a miserable old leg of lamb sitting there scowling into the abyss. I went on a lot of dates with a lot of different men back in the day when I wasn’t quite so arthritic, and you’d be amazed how many of them thought that “mean and moody” was an actual thing that suited anyone other than the supermodels from George Michael’s Freedom ’90 video. It may well be that they were horrified at the sight of me and this affected their demeanour, of course. But seriously: smile. Nobody is that desperate.

aaron-talk

alice-talk

patsy1

I always give travelling a very bad rap when it comes up as a conversation topic but thank GOD two travel nuts have found each other, because it means they can’t ruin anyone else’s dates.

alice-awks

aaron-awks

image1

Ooh, really? Pictures of the food? Hmmm. I mean, I know people do this – I’m a huge fan of endless pictures of hearts drawn in the froth of a cappuccino, for example – but on a date? Naturally, I couldn’t wait to see just how fancy this nosh actually was to warrant having its portrait done on a first date, so nipped over to the restaurant website to see what they served. Here you go:

octopus

Tapas. On a bit of slate.

Groundbreaking.

aaron-table

alice-table

That final twist of the Kitchen Devil in your colon: one last “impeccable” for 2016.

Beryl Reid Blankety Blank

aaron-best

ENERGY? Alice. By day, project manager. By night, lightbulb, or convection heater.

alice-best

I get very nervous friendzoning vibes when someone mentions a “nice smile”. It’s more a ruffle of a choirboy’s bowl haircut than a “come hither” sweep of the fringe out of the eyes, isn’t it?

Mind you, a man once leant over to me on a date and said I had lovely teeth, and after three more glasses of wine I told him they tasted even better than they looked and asked him if he’d like to try and, reader, he did.

aaron-friends

886fe860-3eb6-0133-8e83-0e17bac22e39

Oooooh I think Aaron really likes her, never mind these friends he can’t wait to introduce her to. Amazing.

alice-friends

chrissy teigen hold head 2

I know Alice is probably joking – this would definitely get all the team creased up laughing in the morning stand-up around the Post-It-laden project board – but whenever people say this I do wonder why people surround themselves with friends you wouldn’t actually want anyone to meet. I always imagine a terrifying gang of chardonnay-swilling, unlucky in love onesie-wearers, “setting the world to rights” in the All Bar One in Kettering, or a group of bantz-lads in stonewash  jeans, flannel shirts and shoes the colour of suicide, talking about tits and gaming, in Revolution in Clapham.

Get better friends in 2017. You deserve it.

aaron-three

Fun like 2016 has not been in any way whatsoever.
Outgoing like that guy in Accounts who shocked everyone with his beat-perfect rendition of the Macarena at the office Christmas party.
Enthusiastic like my mouth around a glass of “fizz” at midnight.

alice-three

Friendly like a dog you meet in the street that’s slightly lame and a bit smelly but gives you its paw and responds when you rub its belly.
Interesting like a three-hour conversation about backpacking and all the places you’ve had food poisoning could never be.
Intelligent like a self-checkout machine that KNOWS you’ve got three croissants, not the two you claimed when you typed in the amount.

aaron-made

hyacinth-smaller

This is lovely that she told him this on the date (I assume). I am pleased. However, “snappy dresser” – I didn’t think anyone under 70 actually said that out loud. Is that Alice’s quote or is Aaron just being ironic? I can’t tell. Like, I like these two but I kind of feel like I’m watching two robots in a simulation – and some rogue coding by a retiring professor has brought “snappy dresser” back out of the air raid shelter and into our modern world.

alice-made

anne hathwaway look

OK.

aaron-go-on

Feels-reaction-gif

Come on, guys, this is kind of sweet. He REALLY likes her. I am sure we’re all praying for Aaron that she likes him back. Alice has held back a bit on her answers so far. It’s the dying days of 2016 – we need this, Alice. We need this.

alice-kiss

Cat hits toddler

Alice. Alice. Don’t let us down, Alice. Please.

alice-change

harry air punch 2

YES. Alice came through. YES. Interesting how Alice saved up her enthusiasm until the end, while Aaron has been slowly hinting at it all the way through. Alice is very PRINCE2 and Aaron is much more Agile (niche project manager joke, sorry).

aaron-score

This is a 10. I know a shy 10 when I see one. This is one. T E N.

alice-ascore

Ooh.

Um.

Perhaps this is caution. Look, you need to forgive Alice for this one. 2016 has been a tough year. She’s seen hopes dashed and the enthusiasm drain away like cheap soup through a slotted spoon the whole year through. So she’s saying 7 because even though everything went well and she liked him, she’s half expecting to go home, Google him, and discover he’s actually a murderer, or a Ukip supporter, or Piers Morgan.

This 7 is a 7 that’s seen the world for what it is in 2016 and knows that the only thing you can count on for certain is disappointment – and the likelihood of someone telling you how great the coffee is at Monmouth in Borough Market before the day is out.

Will we break that curse, and do it again in 2017? Just to see?

alice-meet

aaron-meet

You bet your arse we will.

giphy

Happy New Year.

Photograph: Sarah Lee; Christian Sinibaldi, 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 and my attention keeps wandering because I can’t believe how lovely my Christmas tree is. 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.

Note 2: Thank you so much for reading and commenting and sharing and tweeting about this weird blog throughout 2016. I couldn’t do it without you and I wouldn’t. I cannot promise a post every week in 2017 but I *will* be carrying on. Thank you again. x

David and James

It was my birthday yesterday. 41. Christ. Because my sado-masochism knows no bounds, I drank for the first time in six weeks. This was a mistake. I feel like I’ve been coughed up by an asthmatic stegosaurus. With that in mind, here’s a review of this week’s Guardian Blind Date.

Come on. It’s gays. It’s Christmas. I couldn’t not.

I think we know how this is going to go, thanks to our eyes and mildly curdled life experience, but let’s play along.

David (beard) is a 24-year-old journalist and is in pink, while James, a 29-year-old PR (hand on chin, for some bizarre reason) is in blue.

david-hope

hey
how r u
love ur profile
any more pics
no not face
tho they r nice
like full body ones
nice
hehe
hehehe
nice

james-hope

Chatty. Only two queens could see “chatty” as a plus, and actively encourage it. Yearn for it, even. Thank God for gays. We’re not just good with colours, hair and crying at Bette Midler concerts, you know.

david-first

Charming and warm. Candles are charming and warm, David. Watch yourself.

james-first

little girl runs over brother 2 power wheel

That “super” at the beginning is the velvet glove around a fist of pure iron.

david-talk

What’s worse? A date who has read all the Harry Potter books – they bought the ones with the “adult” cover, though, so they wouldn’t look stupid on the Tube – or a date who purses their lips. carefully puts their G&T down on the table, and proudly tells you they’ve never read anything JK Rowling has done? (It’s the second one.)

Plans for the future. Wow. I don’t know what I’m doing in the next two hours (I do, I’m getting dressed and going to the Jupiter-sized Tesco on Canal Road) let alone “the future”. How far into the future are they talking? Were they showing each other retirement villages?

james-talk

I’m sorry but every time I read James’s answers, I imagine him saying it with his hand on his chin.

HOBBIES. Literally nobody has hobbies anymore. It is 2016. Just.

david-awks

Oh my goodness. Coffee people. Are you one? Do you know one? They are the worst. The actual worst. Worse than murderers or people who wait until they’re at the barrier in the Tube station to get their Oyster card out.

Years ago, I wrote this about dating a coffee enthusiast:

“It’s hard to say exactly when coffee became a fetish. It seems like only yesterday it was perfectly acceptable to drink endless cups of watery slop made from claggy granules, topped up with hip-expanding white sugar. Since the arrival of big coffee chains, of course, we have turned to lattes and espressos and are asking for types of coffee by name. Moldovan Wheelbarrow Roast? Why, certainly. And that’s fine; it gives us something to think about while we queue patiently behind the man ordering a very specialised frappuccino. But for some men this isn’t enough – for them coffee isn’t just a means of keeping your eyes open and your belly warm, it’s a way of life. They caress their espresso machine with the fervour of a closeted teenager finding Zac Efron’s wang in their hands. They tell you about the beans. You find yourself nipping to Starbucks in secret, because the mere sight of that mermaid on your paper cup sends the Coffee Snob into paroxysms of horror. “How can you drink that stuff?” he’ll wince. “That’s not proper coffee!” The more he bangs on and on about how special this latest blend of coffee is, and how he’s going to get up really early to enjoy an authentic cortado at the farmer’s market, the more you crave the ordinary. You find yourself sweating like a junkie in your local supermarket aisle, grabbing jars of instant own-brand coffee called things like ‘Whoops Mum! Super Value Coffee-Flavoured Powder”’. The word ‘artisan’ starts to make you nervous. You come to dread the pong of freshly brewed coffee, holding your nose like you’re driving by a field full of cow dung in a convertible.”

So you like coffee. Great. Not much use if you can’t fuck like a train, though. Just saying.

james-awks

YES JAMES WE GET THE PICTURE THANKS.

kylie-voice-blanked

david-table

james-table

hara-kara-cute-i-see-you-gif-4

david-best

DAMN that man never shut the hell up.

james-best

You have your hand on your chin. Explain.

david-friends

I love that David has certain social echelons he feels he could introduce James to. Presumably he has an entire sect of cohorts who would be totally fine with talking to someone who agreed to be photographed with their hand on their chin, like they were in a Russian wedding photo. Others, however, would frown on this. James couldn’t meet them.

james-friends

batman-chin-rub

david-3

Erudite like a word you never, ever say out loud, but often write. (Although you do know how to pronounce it, you are worried that someone not quite as, oh shall we say erudite, as you won’t know what it means and ask you to explain.)
Pleasant like the most boring day in your life where it didn’t rain.
Groomed like a man with his hand on his chin.

james-three

Intelligent like a man you don’t fancy, who you would perhaps describe as erudite had you ever heard the word in your life.
Polite like, guys, I honestly don’t fancy him and I want to make that absolutely crystal.
Friendly like a DOG you might come across tied up outside an off-licence. Christ.

david-made

helena

james-made

That is not an answer to this question. It just isn’t. “What did he think of you?” “Oh we had a lot of common and he liked that.” I mean, they’d ask you to qualify if this was a normal conversation.

What James really wanted to say is that he knew David thought he was “easy on the eye” – #NotAllEyes – but it wasn’t reciprocated.

james-hand-on-chin

david-go-on

harry-styles-1

Dessert in this case does not, I assume, mean a quick beej in the loos.  Gay men in 2016, eh? What’s even the point of them?

david-kiss

Oh, David. Perhaps that hand that perma-rests on James’s chin got in the way.

david-change

Other things that are solid: rock; gold; opinions; impacted faeces.

james-change

carriebradshawesfp

david-score

jame-score

monkey puppet omg shock gif

6. Six. SIX.

A “pretty solid night” that elicited only a six from each of them? Just goes to show: gay men – even cuddly avuncular ones with beards and coffee addictions in lieu of any bite – are brutal bitches unless they get to see the D.

james-meet

Oh, whatever. Your hand is on your chin. Talk me through this.

david-meet

bow_down1

OOH. This kitty’s got CLAWS. I bet David also looks forward to picking apart the typos in those press releases, rolling his eyes at the sad clichés and marvelling at how PRs always sign off with “best”, when the material preceding it is anything but. And then deleting them.

See you in 2017.

Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi 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 and today I feel delicate to say the least. 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. 

Jen and Jeremy

December. A month of too-soon nostalgia, everybody winding down, sore throats, and retail panic only made more bearable because there are pretty lights everywhere and there’s at least one roast dinner guaranteed near the end of it if we’re lucky.

The trouble with being surrounded by year-end reviews and people staring misty-eyed into Christmas trees while they sip thoughtfully on eggnog is you start to look back upon your own year and what you’ve done, especially if you’re single. That guy I kissed and then walked away from in July, hoping he’d follow – did I try too hard to be mysterious? The woman who texted me keenly three times during the Olympics but I was too busy to reply – was she the one? December brings it all: gold, frankincense, myrrh, and regret. Don’t be fooled by memories and should’ve-beens scented with cinnamon and pine needles, however – you were probably right first time.

Nervously looking at each other over a polystyrene cup of mulled cider in a woeful popup in Southwark this week are 26-year-old lawyer Jen and Jeremy, 29, a chartered surveyor. Well.

jeremy-jen-full

Jeremy does not appear to be looking into the lens of the camera which I always take to be a very bad omen, but perhaps he muddles through. Read the date and find out, before I lean in to inspect a bauble and somehow “accidentally” bring the whole tree crashing down.

jer-jem-key

jen-hope

I was talking about this the other day, how important it is to be with someone who make you laugh. I totally agree, but it depends how they’re doing it. If they’re the kind of person who can’t take anything seriously, ever, then no thank you – it would be like dating Mr Blobby. Similarly, if all their laughs come from waspish humour and pithy putdowns, this can get old very quickly – just ask my boyfriend. No, if you’re going to hang on to someone, your comedy routine has to be varied, the perfect mix of highs and lows, pathos and bathos, sleaze and wit, gallows and end-of-the-pier ready. No pressure.

jem-hope

Outgoing. You don’t hear this much anymore, do you? I suppose it can be interpreted as a bit of a diss these days – nobody likes a show-off. Well, not the old-fashioned kind of show-off anyway. It’s perfectly OK to photograph yourself on an hourly basis (clothing optional) and document every single moment of your life on social media, but be a bit outré in polite company for more than five minutes and your companions will be drawing their fingers across their throats and dragging you on WhatsApp the next morning.

So I’m pleased to see “outgoing” make a comeback, right at the fag-end of 2016. Let’s be a bit more of that for the rest of the year, in whichever way you like; we’ve earned it.

jen-first

elijah

jen-talk

“His course on how to cook Christmas dinner on a barbecue” – can anyone else smell that? No, it’s not the faint aroma of burning turkey or the distinct whiff of pigs in blankets rolling off a fatty grill into powdery ash, never to be seen again. It’s… well, let’s look at the evidence. A Christmas dinner on a “BBQ” – where would you do such a thing? Yes, that slightly malodorous pong assaulting your nostrils is the hot air of someone chatting about their gap year Down Under, isn’t it? Just hold your nose until it passes.

“My friends are running out of interest.”

how-do-i-turn-it-off

They were never, ever interested. Unless we have some kind of blood or emotional connection to the infant, or are longing for a child ourselves, or are casting an am-dram production of Bugsy Malone, you may as well show us pictures of teapots, or drawer knobs, or dead senators. We don’t care.

jem-talk

New on BuzzFeed: Five Conversation Topics You Didn’t Know Were the Perfect Catalyst For Finally Getting Round to Doing Yourself In.

jen-awks

jem-awks

Cecelia Ahern couldn’t have written it any better.

But, seriously, how does this happen? Table booked under a certain name, you arrive at restaurant, give name, are seated at table by waiter who takes an instant dislike to you for no reason, you wait, other person turns up and gives the name and is seated opposite by said same miserable waiter. How hard can it be?

“I arrived first” is hanging in the air like a champagne glass about to shatter, isn’t it? Jen is not happy about arriving first.

jen-table

jem-table

kevin-spacey-2

jen-best-thing

jem-best-thing

The best thing. Did you ever imagine a world where a pair humans  could say the best thing about each other was “New Zealand”? Nothing else, no other flutter of the heart, except the palpitations brought on by the mere mention of New Zealand?

This, of course, is an answer given when there is nothing else to say, or don’t want to give anything away. If there is nothing to say about someone, and you don’t want to throw your head back in fury and start typing about the stupefying conversations, the basic anecdotes and dreary attempts at quirkiness, then FINE. Whatever. But if you’re playing your cards close to your chest, you’re in the wrong place. The chaste PG double-feature is in the auditorium next door – we’re here for the blood and gore, and my popcorn is getting cold.

Being from or living in New Zealand the best thing about someone?  The very best? The zenith? The summit of excellence? Don’t be ridiculous. You’ll be telling me you connected with your soulmate over a shared interest in the big Nando’s in Centenary Square, Bradford, next. Get out.

jen-intro

cruel-intentions

jeremy-intro

Why not? Why. Not. “Sure.”

I think I could be in a room with Jeremy where the temperature was 55°C and I still wouldn’t undo the top button of my blouse.

You can’t go through your life shrugging your way into social situations, Jeremy – it’s bad for your posture.

jen-three

Kind, like a relative who brings grapes to your hospital bedside and doesn’t spit the stalks back into the bag.
Funny, like that smell.
Enthusiastic, like the person who finished last in a sack race but is still wildly excited to be offered a funsize Mars bar as consolation.

jem-three

Smart, like a lovely two-piece (mauve) in the window at C&A in Leicester in 1983. (If there was no C&A in Leicester in 1983, please do not write in; I don’t give a fuck. But I think that’s where Adrian Mole got his school trousers so there very probably was, thank you.)
Funny, again. I don’t have another simile for this one, sorry.
Attractive, like oh so you’re not actually dead in the crotch area, Jeremy – I was beginning to wonder.

jen-made

Confident, great, yes I imagine you could say Jeremy’s “smart” alluded to confidence, but here we are again with the “scatty”. I don’t have a photographic recall of all the Blind Dates but I am almost positive that the guy on the date NEVER says he thought the woman was scatty, or a chatterbox, or a bit mad. And yet here it is, week after week.

Men never have to check their behaviour. I mean, see Jeremy’s answer below. “Who knows?” He doesn’t give a fuck. And why should he? He’s never been taught that he must. Women, however, there isn’t one thing they do that isn’t scrutinised and pulled apart and fretted over by everyone male and female – whether it’s how they behave in public, what they wear, who they have sex with and how often, their cooking skills, their fertility, their marital status, their hair, everything. Everything.

And this is why, almost every single week, when the woman on the date is asked to stop reviewing the other person and consider instead how she came across, she instantly looks for the negative. Even if it is nonsense, she will hunt it out. There is absolutely nothing about Jen’s answers that could be considered remotely scatty; she is from New Zealand FFS, and most of those women do not take ANY shit.

The worst thing about this use of “scatty” is that it immediately follows a “confident”, something women hardly EVER say in this column, and you’re like YAY and unfurling the ticker tape – before you see the door isn’t actually closed and there’s someone else coming in. Oh, look, it’s good old “scatty”.

img_6651

Anyway, we need to stop making women think that they’re in some way awful or annoying, or have to invent ridiculous characteristics for themselves just so men won’t think they’re too big for their boots. It is bullshit. It hurts us all.

jemremy-made-of-you

See? Maybe he doesn’t even want to guess. Why would he?

jremy-go-on

woman-throat-action

Imagine being in your 20s and even having any concept of “late”. You have plenty of time to be in bed by midnight when you have no other option. Stay out, have another drink, sweep your fringe out of your eyes, flirt with a barman. (Full disclosure: I left a Christmas party at 6:30 pm the other day.)

jen-change

Why? It sounds like the most exhilarating thing to have happened to you all evening.

jem-change

cbb_gemmaa

Regular readers will know I am not fond of using food as deflection. At least Jen was honest; the chat about cows made her want to dress in a turkey costume and go dancing at Bernard Matthews’ largest abattoir. If the evening was a fucking dud, then say so. Don’t blame your bad menu choices.

jen-score

cher-clueless

Fackin’ ‘ell. Six point five. There’s brusque Kiwi, and there’s Kiwi who won’t just be not taking your calls, she’ll be setting fire to her mobile phone to make sure she doesn’t answer by mistake.

jem-scores

chrissy teigen hold head 2

Oh just get out. Enough enough enough. What a waste of all our time.

Will you meet again? God, I couldn’t care less but we’re here now. I’m guessing Jen is already in witness protection and Jeremy’s going to let us know his true feelings in a couple of hundred years, just as soon as he’s cleared his threat and found the camera lens.

jen-meet

Empire wine throw punch Cookie

jeremy-meet

isak-reeling

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Note 1: 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. My dad went to New Zealand and said it was marvellous. 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. 

Note 2: The Impeccable blog is now taking a break.

 

 

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.

marco-david

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

david-marco-key

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

david-hope

marco-hope

Liberté! Egalité! Inanité!

david-first

“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.

marco-first

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”.

david-talk

“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.

marco-talk

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

david-awks

sana-skam-2

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.”

marco-awks

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

david-table

bruno-mic

marco-table

eye-roll-queen

david-friends

But otherwise no.

marco-friends

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.

david-three

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.

marco-three

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.

david-made

1-a-dyn-evans-1

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

marco-made-o

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

david-do-on

od57bw6uqdckzz2goxdq_kick-bike

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

marco-go-on

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.

david-change

hate-this-bike

😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷😷

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.

marco-change

sexy-look

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

david-marks

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.

marco-score

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.

david-meet

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?

marco-meet

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

Enough.

to-hell-with-men

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. 

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?

joe-astrid-full

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

joe-ast-key

joe-hope

ast-hope

Reaching for the sky, as ever. Next.

joe-first

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?

astrid-first

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.

joe-talk

astrid-talk

joker-serious

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.

joe-awks

fascinating

ast-awks

disrespectful

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.

joe-table

ast-table

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.

joe-friends

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.

joe-three

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.

ast-three

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”.

joe-made

tumblr_n94ey9gbdy1sj0kyoo2_250

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.

astrid-made

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?

astrid-go-on

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.

joe-change

ast-change

madonna-dick-bigger

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.

joe-score

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.

astrid-score

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?

joe-meet

blake-roll-eyes

“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.

ast-meet

dominique-alexis-2

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.

abolade-sam-full

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.

abo-sam-key

abo-hope

queen

TOPICAL.

sam-hope

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.

abo-first

sam-first

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”.

abo-talk

sam-talk

neighbours_a

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.

abo-awks

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.

chewbacca-2

sam-awks

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.

abo-table

sam-table

beige-high-heels

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.

abo-best

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.

she-ra-1

sam-best

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?

abo-friends

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

abo-three

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.

sam-three

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.

large

sam-made-of-you

hm-911

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.)

abo-change

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.

sam-change

ashton

A BIT FUCKING LATE NOW, SAM.

abo-score

A shy 10.

sam-score

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?

abo-meey

ezgif-com-gif-maker

sam-meet

love-your-balls

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,