All posts by The Guyliner

The definitive, yet disastrous, gay dating blogger.

Ben and Samantha

Sometimes, when a date is going really badly, you have to stare right into the soul of it to get through. You have to think – as you sit there, or back away from them, or feel their clammy fingers inch up the back of your crop top – this is definitely going to get worse and the only way you can cope is to realise how much fun it will be in, say, an hour, when it’s over, and you’re on the bus home, clawing at your own skin and dreaming of the swarfega shower you’re going to have as soon as you get there.

That said, you can’t let them get away with it. You can’t just allow a bad date to happen to you. You have to make them see it too. The best ways: awkward silences; an exaggerated removal of their hand  from yours; eye-rolling at an imaginary audience like you’re both in a farce in community theatre; the invention of a non-existent deadline, or dog to walk, or ailing mother. In extreme circumstances, a confession you have syphilis.  Obviously you don’t want someone to feel like shit if they’re merely just a bit boring and you’re not into it, but if someone is actively giving you the worst night of your life, almost wilfully, you can’t let them go home in ignorance.

Unless you’re in the Guardian Blind Date column. That’s exactly what you have to do, because this person who was once, blissfully, a stranger, will soon be scoring you like you’re a ploughman’s lunch in a country pub and they’re on TripAdvisor.

Awarding each other three stars for hygiene and two for ambience this week are Ben, 26, an advertising product manager (no idea, let’s never find out) and 21-year-old actor Samantha. Advertising. Acting. In their 20s. I think it’s safe to say we have two people who are very probably slightly too loud at family gatherings and would, if necessary, throw themselves down a short, wide flight of stairs for attention at your wedding reception. Click on the pic for the full date.

OK, my knives are sharp and the turkeys look ready, let’s go.

Have you considered trying the first week of the Edinburgh Fringe? Cheap tickets and the comedians may let you throw fruit at them if you ask.

I didn’t have time to check my watch – that’s how speedy that friendzoning, damage limitation and movement of expectations was. As one guy told me on a date when I said I was on Guardian Soulmates to look for new mates: “I’m not here to make fucking FRIENDS. Join a running club if you want to make friends. I’m here to…” Anyway, you get the idea.

Samantha is allowing us to stare right into the eye of this dating tornado here, she has spoilered us right off the jump, and yet we feel compelled to carry on because we want to see just how catastrophic it all gets.

Haha, why do people say this? “Ooh I like your nose ring.” I had my nose pierced in my 20s – which caused a sensation when I lived in Belgium for a year but that’s a story for another time – and I used to get the odd person leaning in to investigate. Their eyes would widen like they were trying to decide which Quality Street to pick out of the tin, and then they’d tell me how they love “piercings”, like I was absolutely covered in them and not just a dreary cleanshirt trying to look exciting. “Wow a nose ring” is usually the nascent stirrings of kinkiness in the very square. In 20 years’ time it may well develop into an interest in bondage or swinging, but will more than likely plateau with leaving one sock on while they get sucked off in a twin room of a Premier Inn while at a work conference.

Sweet. The emotional fire extinguisher aimed at many a smouldering heart. It’s always a marker for something else. Sweet is like the nicest compliment you can dig out for someone that can’t possibly give them any idea you are sexually interested in them. Any compliment that could equally apply to a baby, a grandparent or a gentle comedy on Radio 4 can never be misconstrued as a come-on.

Imagine sitting behind this conversation on the bus. What do you think would leave you soonest? Your sense of humour? Your dignity? Your will to live?

Yes. You see? How many time have I said this over the years? How many times have I implored you to keep it light – even talk about boxsets and where you get your towels if you have to. The thing is that talking about politics doesn’t just risk betraying your bad opinions – you’re in danger of revealing you don’t think anything. The depressing truth about 2017 is that even your mum’s dog is politicised (Corbyn supporter, but very annoyed with who he chooses to be friends with) and you’re more likely than ever to get into a political argument with your barista while you’re ordering your flat white (because you are forever “super cool in 2003” in your heart). We are living in inescapably political times.

It’s OK to be not sure someone is right, it’s OK to feel you “don’t know enough about it to make an informed decision”, perhaps it’s even OK to believe that Melania Trump is “fabuleux and serving Anna Nicole realness” or whatever (it isn’t) but now, in the age of Teen Vogue as political agitator, it is not OK not to care. Even when you’re 26. Especially, some might say.

Ah, shuddup, the pair of you, let’s get back to the meat on this bone.

I think it’s fine to still feel sad for Ben at this point. You know, he’s probably hypnotised by Samantha’s nose ring or whatever, so can’t quite see how badly this is going – and don’t forget he’s actually on the date and so hasn’t read to the end yet. And maybe Samantha is one of those experts at putting a brave face on it. She is an actor after all. Maybe she should have a night off.  I used to do this. And then I’d get home from a garbage fire of a three-hour date to a text saying “can’t wait to do it again!!!” and I’d be, like, shit.

I mean. Ouch. Well. It’s a funny answer but also, ouuuuuuuuch. He liked her “chat”, while she chartered a plane to travel to the farthest place she could get from giving him a meaningful compliment.

Actors. OK. I have to be careful here because one of my very close friends is an actor and I love them dearly and they are amazing. But when you get a bunch of actors together – oh my God. I must stress here I am not talking about ANY incidents with my own friend but I can tell you: Ben wouldn’t have loads in common with Samantha’s friends because they would make fucking SURE of it.

Like waiters, politicians and estate agents, many groups of actors pride themselves on being utterly impenetrable. I dated an actor briefly back in the day and bloody hell his close coterie of board-treaders did the absolute MOST to make sure I fit in the least. They were pretty, and funny, and friendly, and either marvellously messed-up or incredibly dull and disciplined, but you can never be  any of those things, or one of them, and you will never understand them. A good thing to do is tell them that you acted a bit at school and watch any tiny scrap of fondness they had for you totally disintegrate.

CHATTY, like a child who has just seen the word “sex” written down for the first time.
FUNNY, how some feelings you just can’t deny
And you can’t move on even though you try
Ain’t it strange when you’re feeling things
You shouldn’t feel
Oh, I wish this could be real.

CREATIVE, like an actor, because he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

FUNNY, like that lyric-based J-Lo joke up there.
SWEET, like candy floss bought from a stall at the Friend Zone’s annual fun day.
SMART, like a cheap suit from a distance.

Look, I know it’s all relative and it isn’t a competition and we’re all entitled to our own feelings, but when a 26-year-old is trying to position himself as some kind of geriatric somehow still tuned into popular culture because he deigned to go on a date with someone a full five years his junior, I just want to smash stuff up. Like, all the stuff. And then when I’m done smashing it up, I want to collect all the shards, smithereens and splinters and I want to pour them into that person’s margarita.

This immediate assumption that ageing is a one-way trip to irrelevance – that we are all complicit in, we knew our killer – is so boring and it is massively untrue. Advancing in years is neither an excuse for tuning out and nor is it compulsory to do so.

It’s like all those gay men on messageboards who can’t understand why Madonna still makes dance music or wants to collaborate with young or popular artists and producers. They assume it is Madge up to her usual vampiric tricks, appropriating everything in reach of her supposedly arthritic, glove-clad fingers, desperate to cling onto youth and stay cool, and be admired by teenagers. They never think for a minute that perhaps she might genuinely still be interested in new music, that these genres and artists excite her, that she still wants to feel a thudding bass pound to the very core of her soul. We have an unhealthy obsession with the idea that everything that is new, and different, and exciting, should only be for the young, that, after a while, older people should pick an era and stick to it and never open their mind and heart to anything new. Staying true to yourself as you age is hard enough; I massively reject the expectation of any generation – below me or above – that I should be acting a certain way or stop living in the here and now merely because it suits them.

Acting your age is just that: acting. Why not just be yourself and not a number? Seriously, free yourself from that sodding birth certificate.

God, Samantha wants to avoid these questions so badly. I wonder how long it took her to get back to the Guardian – they email you the next day, you know. I bet she made them wait a week and deleted some real juicy ones before sending this version.

No.

It is tricky on a date knowing when to go in for the kiss because there’s always the awkwardness, the positioning, the fact they might be shy, or may not want to snog in a public place. There is all of that. But before there is all of that, there is the mutual understanding that a kiss is going to take place. There are the glances from eye to mouth, they move in closer, they pretend to need to hear what you’re saying so badly that they must lean right in and put their ear near your mouth, they will start becoming more tactile. If there is none of that, you need to tastefully withdraw and accept it is not going to be happening that night.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ask at al, but usually circumstance will lead you into the kiss, not a formal request. I have asked a couple of times, but only in situations where it has nearly happened so many times that only our mutual propriety or shyness were keeping us apart, or the signals were so strong that the only thing we could logically do next was kiss. And only when I was absolutely sure they their yes would be sincere. But if both of you are up for it and in possession of at least a little confidence, you shouldn’t need to ask. It puts the other person in a horrible position if they’re not interested – once asked, they usually they want to say no. More often than not, they don’t. Nobody wants to be in either situation then, surely. Signals can be easy to misread, yes, but often the best way – especially on a first date – is to ignore them entirely and wait for a follow-up date to confirm them for you.

It is very difficult to get it right, and everybody has their own boundaries, but you are better off missing your chance entirely and going home wanting than taking things to a level that makes you get it absolutely wrong.

Because…

She didn’t want to do it. She should’ve said no, but we live in a world where men have to be pandered to, or “let down gently” rather than told a flat no, because otherwise they’ll create a scene – a phenomenon that suddenly becomes the fault of the person saying no. I am not suggesting for a moment that Ben is one of those men, but experience has probably shown Samantha that most men are, so she may have thought it was easier to just go along with it.

I don’t like this world.

You definitely didn’t, Ben. It’s all too easy to turn a party into a circus.

That Ben scored Samantha an 8, even after a kiss, suggests he knew she wasn’t into it. Then, mate, why are you kissing her? It’s not like actual magic – she isn’t Princess Aurora.

Samantha’s 7 is a 1.

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

Note: Impeccable will be back in September. The first edition of my mailout, The Truth About Everything*, has already gone out, but if you’d like the next one, you can sign up here. It’s just a bit of my writing that you won’t find anywhere else, every now and again. No news or tastemaker stuff – lots of other people do that much better than I would.

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy.  Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. But don’t kiss people who aren’t into you. It’s not cool. And if someone asks, say no. Let’s make that normal behaviour.

 

Frankie and Bruce

“Oh goodness, they’re older,” I thought this morning as I scanned  the Guardian Blind Date to make sure it was worth getting up for. I said this as if I forgot the angsty hour I spent in the barber’s chair on Thursday glaring into what I had assumed was a mirror but was in fact a strange Instagram filter that ages you into your forties. One of them is younger than me. I forget I too am older, another box down on the survey. I know a few longer words, but my tiny brain is still the dizzying mess of contradictions and questions it was in my twenties.

And I am sure that Frankie, 47, an education consultant and Bruce, a 40-year-old company director (that should sting a little because I am 41 and not one of these but I guess I could be a company director if I registered myself as one) are exactly the same.

Read what happened and we’ll get busy with the fizzy.

I wish we could do something about this, the tall thing. Why isn’t it OK for a man to be shorter than a woman? In my former life as a heterosexual (hahahahahaha *pause* hahahahahahahahaha) my last ever girlfriend was taller than me to start with, and wore huge heels. Why not? The trouble is both men and women are complicit in this awkwardness. Women aren’t supposed to be interested in short men and men aren’t particularly in being one. And we all go along with it. In the gay world, there is actually a market for shorter gay guys (you may scoff at my saying “a market” but please do open an app and tell me it’s not like a butcher’s window) with some even calling themselves “pocket rockets”. I know. But even that is rare.

Anyway, this ridiculous idea men have to be  taller than any woman in a five-mile radius needs to be dropped. Men go to some ludicrous lengths to conceal their height on dating profiles, and are prone to lying about it. This has always baffled me, because you turn up on the date to discover the “six-footer” you were chatting to (always 6′, don’t ask me why) only comes up to your chest.

(I am 5’9 and a half. I used to say 5’10 on my dating profile.)

Hey Frankie. What a great name Frankie is. Frankie is the kind of name scriptwriters in the ’80s and ’90s used to use for glamorous divorcees or spiky single ladies who wore jumpsuits and big jackets. Frankie. of course, is also that Jason Colby used to call Francesca, American sister of his English wife Sable. Women with troubled pasts, big hair, complicated love lives and an inexhaustible supply of lippy striding into rooms on Howard’s Way – they will always be Frankie to me.

This is the only first impression I ever want to make. Full marks to Bruce here.

Frankie, are you sure he was far away or… well. Bruce says it himself up there, he’s “not the tallest”.

I am wary of “nice smile” or “big smile” because it’s usually printed on the back of a one-way to ticket to the Friend Zone, but I feel Frankie is being sincere here.

What is an actual geek now? I am fascinated by the resurgence of geekdom and how almost everyone is falling over themselves to rebrand as a “geek”. It used to be massively uncool to be a geek, unless you had come out the other side and were now hugely gorgeous and popular. It’s what stunningly attractive supermodels or Hollywood heartthrobs used to say in interviews to make them sound like real people – “Oh I was just an ugly geek” – and you would roll your eyes and go “surrrrrre you were”.

But now being a geek seems to have changed into something else. it is no longer the refuge of the ugly, the friendless, the socially awkward, the bullied and the fanatical. No. Thank GOODNESS, eh, that good-looking people can say with confidence “Hey I’m a geek too; we’re not all lonely weirdos” after being out in the cold for so long. Like there weren’t enough opportunities in literally every other walk of life for the beautiful to dominate absolutely everything. Now you get perfectly toned cuties grabbing a comic, slamming on a pair of Clark Kent specs – £350 Tom Ford ones, though, lol because being a sexy geek costs ££££ – and a T-shirt that says “NERD”, the letters starring against their chest, and claiming geekdom all for themselves.

That’s true equality.

I had to read this bit over a few times. The Guardian hasn’t seen fit to explain what the hell they were doing on a catwalk, and I can’t be bothered Googling but I would say this is an awkward moment, yes.

Can we talk about prosecco?

Like, what is this “drinking proscecco is an adequate replacement for having a personality” trend?

While I find allegiance to a particular alcoholic drink at least more understandable than caring about 11 strange men you’ll never meet kicking a football round a field – booze gets you pissed after all, which is fun – I have never been able to fathom why drinks like gin and prosecco are supposed to tell us anything about you other than the fact you may well be a nasty drunk prone to arguing in kebab shops.

I mean, FFS, prosecco is just WINE. It’s cava with a conservatory and an ensuite. With a bidet. Asti Spumante, but with silver salad tongs instead of wooden. And it’s not even champagne. “Oh I prefer it to champagne,” you hear people say sometimes, before they go on to list some nonsense reason why they prefer a bottle of enamel-eroding, bladder-burning, fizzy migraine to champagne. It is never, strangely, the same answer as mine, i.e. the real one, which would be “I can’t afford it, so £4.99 fizz gives me almost the same buzz and sipping it from a flute allows me to pretend to be Joan Collins”.

“Even during the soup.”

That smile again. Lots of smiling. I have a theory that men say this because it’s the one physical compliment they can give without coming across as  an objectifying, perverted sex dinosaur. In fact, I may just set my phone to autocorrect “nice smile” to “bodacious rack” and see what happens.

I take this answer paired with Bruce’s assertion that Frankie would “blush” at a compliment to mean that Frankie is shy. However, they met on the middle of a catwalk at a festival or something so perhaps she’s not a wallflower all the time. Anyway, Bruce is ballsy enough for the both of them by the sound of it – his very name alone exudes “I will barge past you to get to the bar” – and he’s director of his own company at the age of 40 so he must be doing something right.

ATTRACTIVE, like a fairground attraction, a fatal attraction, or a vase.
FUN, like the idea of going to Alton Towers, rather than the reality.
INTERESTING, like your face when you discover a blond hair on your husband’s sports jacket – yet you are bald.

SMILEY, like fucking hell can’t they think of anything else to say about each other it’s like two people trying to find a way to avoid saying “your teeth are too big”.
CONFIDENT, like the rollerskating woman in the Bodyform adverts years ago.
FUN, like doing half a pill in the queue to get in a LeAnn Rimes concert.

Amazing. This is how you do it.

Oh stop pretending you’re not LOVING it, Bruce.

What? If a person is a 10, score them a 10. Of course someone can score 10 on a first date – why not? There are tonnes of 10s out there – well, tens of 10s, tbh – don’t withhold your top score just because of some weird rule that you just made up that nobody can be absolutely perfect the first time you meet them. In fact, if anything, it’s as perfect as most people are going to get, that all-important first time, when you can see only the good and the exciting – before reality, bad jokes and a habit of leaving towels on the bathroom floor kick in and makes everybody a 5. Call a 10 a 10.

Ha. Touché, Frankie.

So we’ve come to the end, but will brassy Bruce and beaming Frankie meet up again to see how they get on when we’re not looking?

Don’t be SHY, Frankie – YOU could ask. I worry sometimes we spend so long waiting for other people to do something, to approach us, or be there for us, or help us, or enable us, that we waste a lot of time we could’ve spent moving things forward ourselves. Come on, let’s GO.

Don’t think it, Bruce, make it happen. Before someone other than you and her dentist spots how great Frankie’s smile is…

Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy.  Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. Say cheese!

 

Daniel and Cecily

We all need our comforts in times of trouble. Some of us reach for chocolate bars, our credit card, or even a bottle of vodka. In an uncertain world, when our mother’s knee is not as readily available as it used to be, we grab what we can to make us feel better. My therapy is perhaps one of the strangest of all, kinkier even than getting an Uber to a flat in Fulham and paying £150 to get thrashed with a cat o’ nine tails by a disinterested millennial who stands texting with their other hand. I take an innocent magazine column and dissect it, right here, with only a keyboard, a blank screen and an increasingly dwindling flair for eye-rolling. So here we go again.

Behold Daniel and Cecily, both 23 and far too young to be navigating the desperado tundra that is the Blind date column but that attention won’t grab itself, will it? Read what happened on the date before I dunk my biscuit one time too many and watch as most of it slides off into my Earl Grey.

I’m not being funny, but usually I’d be hoping any date I went on would not be suitable material for the family – if you know what I mean. (Sex.)

I can never decide whether the places the Guardian sends them are vital to the plot of the date or are a distraction. You put two 23-year-olds in a snooty restaurant and surely it can’t do anything but overwhelm them. I realise there’s sponsorship involved, and that’s how the meals are paid for, but I can’t help but think we’d get better results if we started sending daters for a bucket of chicken somewhere and then off to the park to down a bottle of Thunderbird before the gates shut.

Daniel – can I call you Dan, Daniel? Oh, OK, sorry – is clearly a regular reader of the Blind Date column, but why would he be surprised? It’s not as if week after week there’s a lineup of desperate horse-frighteners. Nobody who doesn’t like getting their photo taken has ever applied for this column.

I go out with a guy from just outside Glasgow and one of my favourite things to do is pull up a chair, snacks etc and watch him try to get Siri do something for him. From setting a timer to searching for a TV show on Netflix, it is never less than entertaining. As soon as I hear “Hey Siri”, I know that my abs are going to get a workout from intense belly laughing. That said, Siri is a robot/computer/whatever – you are a person, Cecily. The Glaswegian accent isn’t that hard to understand – it’s just the same words as us with “by the way” inexplicably tacked on to the end of every sentence and “aye” liberally dashed here and there. Oh, and the impenetrable slang, of course. Most of my friends are Scottish and my life is all the richer for it. Seriously, though, try harder – it’s a gorgeous vernacular that you should be bitterly envious you’re not fluent in.

It should be a law that if you’re Glaswegian and an English person asks you about deep-fried Mars bars, you’re allowed to douse them in Irn-Bru until they drown. Honestly. Is that the best you can do?

Cream teas. 23. I have literally never been less excited to scroll down as I have now. I think I’d rather open an envelope saying: “TEST RESULTS: PLEASE TAKE A SEAT BEFORE OPENING” than carry on, but it’s Saturday morning and this is what we do.

“Adulting.”

I’m not sure how I feel about menial tasks like cleaning the toilet, paying a bill or buying groceries being given this handy buzzword – which sounds like it came from a McDonald’s advert – to kind of jazz them up a bit or suggest they are achievements instead of things you simply have to do. But whatever.

I don’t know what a chocolate scientist is, but as someone whose working life has been plagued by people calling themselves brand guardians, content wizards and social media gurus, pardon me if I don’t have to cover my lap with a cushion in excitement.

Cream teas. This comes up on social media a lot. Like a scary amount.   People really care about this. Except they don’t. Not most of them anyway. In times of intense globalisation, where most of us shop at the same stores, eat the same food, listen to the same music and have very similar Instagram accounts – oh look a funny sign! – we have to grab every chance we can to find our niche, carve out on identity for ourselves. It’s like supporting a football team but requires much less effort. So we pretend to care about which order the – I don’t know what would you call them? Toppings?! I don’t care – are added to a scone. A scone in itself is a pretty contentious baked good, as nobody can quite agree on how to pronounce it (rhymes with “gone”, don’t @ me) but it reaches new level of pointless mutual trolling when a cream tea is brought into the mix. Stop pretending you care about this. I bet most people willing to die on this hill fashioned from jam and cream have eaten a maximum of three cream teas in the life. Honestly, just get a piercing if you want to express yourself.

“I can only imagine the chat after I got out.” I mean, I’ve only read halfway and I can pretty much guess.

I mean unless he was chucked onto the train tracks, this is a story that could use a bit more vim, you know? But I guess if this is awkward as it gets, it can’t be all bad.

Pro tip: if you eat like Donald Trump claiming a discount at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, just prattle on about cream teas – your date will be too spellbound by your stellar chat to notice.

I’m joking, they are SWEET.

I am usually fairly wary of “great smile” because it tends to be a nicer, diplomatic say of avoiding talking about something else. Children who pick their noses and eat them in wedding photos are deemed to have a “nice smile” by horrified aunties. When you’re trying to tell a friend that you don’t fancy the funny, amiable Nosferatu they’ve set you up with, “nice smile” usually gets doled out. Here, however, I feel Daniel is being genuine.

What would clinch it for you in the realm of free stuff? People love it, don’t they? I’ve never been that bothered, because the thing with things that come for free – unless they are given with love – are that they’re usually of inferior quality, someone else doesn’t want them or, more often than not, you’ll have to pay in some other way.

I am not that keen on that chocolate except at Easter so access to free “choccywoo” would leave me cold, I’m afraid. A man who could connect me to free, lifetime supply of T-shirts, salami Milano, moisturiser and haircuts, however, and I would very probably be lapping it up.

CHATTY, comme un chat français.
FUN, like a party always is about three seconds before I arrive.
FRIENDLY, like that French cat a couple of lines up, especially if you offered it some, oh I don’t know, baguette, or an onion.

SCOTTISH, like Ruth Davidson.
POLITE, like Erica Davidson.
RESERVED, like the table across the restaurant, that’s better than yours, farther away from the toilets and, will not be filled the entire time you sit there, staring at it resentfully.

Sorry, what?

How much is too much? Daniel says she was “so easy to talk to” as the best thing about her earlier in the column, but then goes on to describe her as “chatty” in his three words. What’s the magic balance of talking *just* enough not to be seen as awkward but not too much that you’re taking over. It’s a minefield, isn’t it? And women seem to worry about it more than most – you almost never see a man saying this here.

Cecily. Oh. This feels low at first, but then if you read back, Cecily doesn’t say much about Daniel at all other than the fact he’s Scottish and how inexplicably mind-blowing she finds it. Daniel’s 9 looks all the lonelier, curving round at the bottom in that hopeful smile.

Sorry, pal, looks like yer tea’s oot. Unless it all comes together in the final question…

Photographs: 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 the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. Know what I mean, hen? Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. 

Katherine and Ella

We all have our own ways of dealing with terrible events, and when they happen closer to home, yet don’t affect us directly, it can be difficult to know how to act for the best.

When bad things happen in the world, we talk of wounds, and healing, and scars. In order to understand it better, we make the Earth flesh, imagine it as a part of us. Instead of bedrest and medicines, we speak of cures as carrying on, and laughter, and being with the people you love. I am not, as regular readers may know, a huge fan of keeping calm and carrying on – I sometimes feel it’s disingenuous and overbearing, and insult to grief, and ignorant of what some might perceive as human fragility. Time is a great healer, they say, but nobody ever seems to know what to do with that time – fill it with stuff and trivia, or take it out, and wait?

There is a tall wound reaching up into the sky not far from my flat – I can see it in the distance, from the window of my living room, and it’s not even close to scarring. It is open and raw. One of my favourite routes if I take a Boris bike anywhere is to cycle round the small quiet streets surrounding Grenfell Tower. Just the odd car, the healthy comforting din of children playing nearby, teenagers screaming in delight at God-knows-what on their smartphones. I could do it with my eyes closed after a while, sweeping left into Treadgold Street like I’d always done it, my nerves of being on the road finally leaving me, knowing I was somewhere familiar, not too far from Shepherd’s Bush – nearly home and pedalling all the faster in anticipation.  I have to confess, I knew the tower was there but hardly ever looked up. We tend not to unless we need to do, do we? It’s one of those buildings which, despite its size and dominance of the skyline, kind of hides from you when you’re on the ground nearby. I must’ve looked out of my window a million times and across the rooftops and, so used to seeing it, merely stared right through its summit for the past two years.  Now, however, it’s all I can see. I don’t think anyone of us will forget what happened there, and the scale and the sight of it, and despite what “keep calm and carry on” enthusiasts might tell you, remembering it for ever – and why it happened, and who let it happen – is exactly the right decision. We owe them that much at least.

That’s just something I wanted to say.

And after careful thought, I decided I would offer up my own pathetic sticking plaster and do a Guardian Blind Date review today. Meet property developer Katherine, 58 and 55-year-old neurological physiotherapist Ella. Click on the pic to see what happened and then we can get forensic.

Well, we could all do with a laugh. You do hope dates will be funny above all else, don’t you? I mean, attractiveness always a big big one, obviously, and kindness, I guess, is a plus, too. But humour, we crave it from others. It’s no wonder stand-up comedians are continually shagging around – it certainly isn’t their looks, is it?

Why does “relaxed” sound like it’s stepping in for “mildly and comfortably boring” here? Relaxing – oh I dunno. I don’t do it often. For something that is supposed to chill you out, it can be rather time-consuming and stressful. Relaxing always feels like it should be spontaneous, rather than the diarised downtime it so often is for people permanently on the go.

As for “the one”, well. There is no “one”. There is just “someone willing to put up with you right now who may well continue to do so in the future but if they decide not to it’s OK – someone else will be along soon enough”. Like, seriously. Stop living in a MOVIE.

Well, there goes “the one”.

I’m sure Ella is very easygoing, and that sounds delightful, but I always laugh myself hoarse when other people describe themselves as easygoing because, you know, 8 times out of 10, they are nothing of the sort. They almost tell you it like it’s a threat, and usually followed by an example of why they are anything but. “Look, I am a very easygoing person but if my STAPLER is not returned to me forthwith, I will drive a TANK through the office until I find it”.

Posh. Ella not into posh birds then. Likes a bit of rough, maybe? or someone real. I feel a but sorry for posh people. When I was young, growing up on a council estate with my mum, I assumed that being posh was the DREAM. People would treat you deferentially wherever you went, I thought, because you spoke nice and had money. What must it be like not to have to queue for a token for your free school lunch, separate from everyone else? How did it feel not to lie about your address? I assumed that having a dining room, nice vowels and a car was the answer to everything. Anyway, I never did manage to get posh and now I’m quite glad because, well, yes, you have the money but very little else that anyone wants, it seems. And yet you rule the world. Go figure.

Always a sign things are going well if the sound of the riotous, joyous laughter of others is getting on your nerves. I am quite sensitive to loud noises, especially in places with terrible acoustics because they’re decorated like a post-apocalyptic branch of Habitat, but laughter? Oh, really? Was it distracting you from the fun-fest happening at your own table?

Well, Ella, I hope you managed to mask “OH MY GOD I THOUGHT YOU WERE OLDER” way better in person than you did in this awkward answer.

This is so icy. Basically, Ella has checked out of this date so hard by this point, Katherine could’ve got on the table and recited the lyrics to “I Love The Nightlife” and then pulled two tickets to Honolulu out of her bra and Ella wouldn’t have noticed.

“Just boring enough.”

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Imagine your best quality being your career. And one you don’t actually do any more. Ella is a savage, a silent assassin. It’s what she doesn’t say that kills you. I mean, I have had quite a few jobs in my time, and if someone said to me that the best thing about me was that I used to work on a cigarette kiosk in a supermarket and do announcements over the PA, I think I would have to look deep into myself and wonder whether it was time to take up an evening class. (Although it is my favourite job I’ve ever had.)

I am honestly quite surprised Ella could be bothered answering the rest of the questions. She’s giving them the due attention you would if you also had a risotto on the stove that stuck to the bottom of the pan last time so you really need to keep watching. Katherine’s optimism in the face of what seems to be slightly disdainful indifference is admirable. I guess she’s been on a few dates starting out in the hope of “the one” and realised quickly that “this one” will probably do until Christmas.

WARM like tea spilled in your lap.
RESPONSIVE like… a website being viewed on a smartphone?
EASYGOING like someone who couldn’t give two shits for a very good reason – they’re not interested.

PLEASANT like a Wednesday in April with only light rain in the morning then sunny internals for the rest of the day and a manageable pollen count.
COMPASSIONATE like an orderly in a hospital drama who is usually killed off in a stunt episode when ratings start looking a bit anaemic.
CULTURED like a 4-pack of Activia.

Thanks for coming, Ella. This is the voice of someone who daren’t say anything in case they actually say the TRUTH.

‘She said “Kitty, do you like fun?”
I said no I don’t.
I had enough of that in 1957 when I got trapped in a lift with a hula hoop salesman.’

I don’t even know what this means. But here’s a lovely gif.

You should have joined the other table, Ella! It sounded like a riot compared to your deluxe boxset of watching paint dry.

Katherine’s 8 feels awarded out of politeness and in appreciation of getting out of the house rather than any actual appreciation of the joyless awkward fiesta she just sat through.

Ella’s 6 is, as all regular Impeccable readers know, a face-saving zero. You don’t give anybody you’ve enjoyed spending time with a 6.

I wonder what made her come to that decision? Perhaps the way Ella disappeared for dessert, wore a false beard all the way to the Tube station and changed her mobile number before she even got back in the house?

Ouch.

Photographs: James Drew Turner for the Guardian

Note: There are lot of people here today who will not be around tomorrow, as that’s the way the world works, but everybody who lived in Grenfell Tower *should* be with us today. If you have enjoyed this blog even once over the last three years, please donate anything you can to one of the relief funds currently operating to help those who survived and the families of those who didn’t. This one launched by the Evening Standard (I know, but let’s hold our nose on that for a moment) has already raised over £1m – that might be a good place to start.

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. Not my fault you didn’t laugh once. Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. 

 

Martin and Almaz

What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot actually. As you may know, my name is Justin and, believe me, that got me some tough crowds growing up in Yorkshire. Im the ’80s, it was “unusual”; it’s the kind of name that should be posh, but I wasn’t; and in many TV shows – even now, when there are loads of famous Justins out there – it was a name given to just about any peripheral gay character. Because it sounds gay. Which was great, because so did I. Oh, it does. I bet even Justin Theroux would admit to that.

Anyway, somehow I survived that – and being referred to as “Jason” by mistake at least three times a day – and learned to live with it. I wonder how life has played out for today’s pairing, Martin, 36 and an energy consultant and 28-year-old Almaz – which was the name of a really famous song (in the ’80s again, what a decade that was, eh?) by Randy Crawford. I wonder how many times she had to endure “Almaz, you lucky, lucky thing” over the years – perhaps everyone had forgotten the song by the time she came along. Almaz, from one “unusually” named person to another, you have my sympathies.

Anyway, here they are, click the pic to read the Guardian’s version before I submit my remix.

A whist drive at a church hall?

What people actually go on a date for. If this feels like an ominous chapter of a choose your own adventure novel, or the first hit in a one-two punch, well… it is.

I think it’s safe to say we lose Almaz from the whole romantic process right about here. It can get like this, especially if you go on a lot of dates. It’s like walking into a hotel and seeing the guy behind reception scratch his armpit with a room key and knowing, just knowing, you’ll hate your room and the ensuite will be tiny and one of the taps won’t work. You go through the motions and allow yourself to be shown up to it, knowing in 15 minutes you’ll be placing a hysterical phone call to that very same receptionist and demanding a change.

The room you’re moved to will be worse, that’s how it is. Almaz probably knows this so has decided to sit tight for now.

A natural brightness and an upbeat aura. A lot of light and stimulation going on when Almaz walks into a room. Is she a Christmas tree? Elegant is a man’s way of saying a woman is tall and slim without wanting to sound like a judge on Miss World, in case you were wondering.

“The cut-throat London dating scene” – God how often did I used to sit and listen to that spiel from some witless drongo who assumed turning up, pouring a bit of wine into your glass, and holding in his farts until the taxi home constituted being a good date and couldn’t understand why he never got a second one. Cut-throat? Cut mine.

The interesting thing about these answers is how keen each of them are to flag up the differences between them. And they both dragged in some parentheses to prove their point. Martin’s sidenote about parties may seem innocuous, but he’s being very clear – “I’m just a simple guy, small group of friends, don’t like to be centre of attention, but Almaz is hugely showy and likes to ‘host’ (that word is dripping with intent) great big parties that would make me feel uncomfortable”.

Almaz has read this column many times before, I think. And she’s always read the “What did you talk about?” question and realised that unless someone is very clear, you can’t tell who talked about what, which subject belonged to who. Guessing that Martin will say something lame – because SPOILER she seems about as keen on him as you would be a spider in the bath or Piers Morgan sitting at the end of you bed reading aloud to you – like “the Royal Family” she has attributed ownership of the conversation topics she can remember, to avoid looking like a dullard.

I can’t decide whether it comes off as a bit mean or just extremely vigilant management of her personal brand. To be honest, they would BOTH bore me to death.

I don’t know if I can look at the next one.

You don’t hear that very often anymore, do you? Not from someone under 50, anyway. Cliff was everywhere in the ’80s – God what a horrible decade that was; the ’90s were MUCH more fun. You couldn’t turn on Saturday night TV, at your nana’s eating one carefully sliced piece of Mars bar every half-hour, without seeing his face. I’m not really sure what there is to be a fan of. Cliff does have at least two good songs, Wired for Sound and Devil Woman, but sadly he also has everything else that makes him Cliff. Just… no. We all have weird stuff we’re into, that few would understand, so it’s actually brave of Martin to come out with this on the first date, unless he was doing it to shock her, which is very whatever. It seems shallow for this to be a dealbreaker, and it would depend on how intense the fandom was, but I don’t think I would be the right support for a man who liked Cliff Richard. They would need someone stronger than me.

Anyway, that noise you can hear is Almaz’s taxi waiting outside. She called it before Martin had even got to the second syllable of “Richard”.

Right.

Oh my goodness. They shared. Well, I say “shared”. They ate from the same plate but this was not sharing. Not equally, anyway. I bet poor Martin was starving on the way home. The thing is, even if you do eat more than your “fair share” – which is open to interpretation from the very off – then your date isn’t going to call you out on it, unless he is determined to a) have a bad night and b) get a drubbing off you in a magazine column. And of course he let you, he’s a Cliff Richard fan, for heaven’s sake. This man’s tolerance must know no bounds.

Is that it?

Important. You may think this is a bit of a copout for Martin’s best quality but it’s 2017 – have you seen the state of people’s opinions out there? Everyone is chucking everyone else under the bus so often and so fast we have run out of buses. We’ll be under scooters by autumn.

Martin uses up his three words a bit early there.

Its been a while since we had this answer. Welcome back! Why oh why oh why are the daters always so keen to tell the world what a bunch of cliquey, menacing arseholes their friends are? I just don’t understand it. I don’t have a huge amount of friends – I mean, you read the blog, you’ve seen the tweets, this shouldn’t be a huge surprise – but the ones I do have are very different people, from all kinds of backgrounds and with all sorts of outlooks on life. I don’t think any of them are Cliff Richard fans but I feel pretty sure that if I took Martin along to a gathering – or perhaps invited him to one of the huge parties I have never hosted in my life – they would be open, friendly, welcoming. They would make conversation, find out more about him, look for common ground and, if none, celebrate the differences. Look, I have some weird friends who hate everybody too but that’s life. Sometimes that is who you need to be. That’s why we have different friends for different occasions.

If my friend were in the Blind Date column and gave this answer, I’d want to know why he or she thought I couldn’t be trusted with a stranger’s heart. And I’d wonder if I maybe needed to do something to change that opinion of me. Or get a better friend.

Plus, take it from me, who’s endured many a lions’ den of so-called impenetrable social cliques and stood in rooms filled with people who would much rather I wasn’t there: your friends are nowhere near as funny, exciting and intimidating as you think and they hope.

BRIGHT, like a lightbulb.
ELEGANT, like a standard lamp, which contains afore-mentioend lightbulb.
ENGAGING, like the penultimate slide on a presentation. Lit by the lamp.

MILD-MANNERED, like Cliff Richard.
GOOD-NATURED, like… Cliff Richard?
CONVENTIONAL, like Cliff Richard’s oven.

What do you think gave it away, Martin?

Yes, I am absolutely POSITIVE the only thing holding you back from a wild night on a pub crawl through some of the capital’s low joints with Martin was the fact it was a Sunday night. You’re 28!

OK, before Almaz gets dragged by you lot for this one… I have to confess. I have done this. I have sat on a date – with a man I really did not like or find attractive, because he was not a nice person – and have played “look-away chicken” and engaged in some serious eye-riding with the waiter. Thankfully my date, an actor, was so wrapped up in himself he didn’t notice, and I was subtle. Or so I hoped. Anyway, the date ended mercifully quickly and we paid the bill – it was itemised and my date insisted we each pay our exact amount which was extremely sexy – and the waiter and I exchanged one more flirtatious look, and then once he’d taken the silver tray and the small tip away, the looks ceased almost immediately because… drumroll… WAITERS DO THIS TO GET A BIGGER TIP. THEY LITERALLY NEVER ASK CUSTOMERS OUT. I have fallen into this trap a few times over the years and have managed to bang precisely zero  waiters – OK, well actually one, once, but that was different.

Anyway, I’m sure Martin enjoyed reading this this morning and hopefully the waiter is also reading this and can get in touch with Almaz so we can go away from this at least partly satisfied.

Scores:

Martin is too pure for this world. Either that or absolutely oblivious. 10. That’s very sweet. I often give the straight guys in this date a really hard time for the way they talk to and about their dates so while it’s nice to see Martin being respectful – for maybe a bit dull, I’m sure Almaz can fill us in – I do think that on *this* occasion, there might have been a little more to it than Martin is letting on. Or maybe Almaz has an excellent poker face.

Anyway, Almaz doesn’t want to get his hopes up and she’s got that waiter to keep an eye out for so she delivers a 6 which, as we all know because we are not new to this, is a ZERO. I’m not sure what Martin did to warrant such a lowly score so this is either Almaz’s revenge for untold Christmases enduring Mistletoe & Wine or she wants to leave no room for doubt – she did not enjoy this date.

Thankfully she has one more question to really hammer this home.

Left: Almaz. Right: Martin.

Yep, thanks for clearing that one up, Almaz.

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

Note: Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy.  And Cliff Richard probably is a dealbreaker – but wow. Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. 

 

Lizzie and Tomas

Returning to the light after a period of darkness isn’t as easy as you’d think. Your body knows it too – think of that brief pain as your eyes adjust when you enter a much lighter room, or take off your sunglasses in the blazing sun. It’s the shortest of pains, it’s a warning. “Are you sure you want this?” it says. “You’ll be able to see everything here. Nothing can hide.” But at the same time it is also a wonderful pain, forgotten almost as soon as it arrives, because you are too transfixed by how bright and beautiful everything is. Any light at all is preferable to the gloom. Perhaps we should remember that more often.

So prepare for that familiar sting as we gingerly step out of the shadows that have encroached us for too long and into brilliant, beaming sunshine. Let’s bathe in it.

Lizzie, 31, is an illustrator and Tomas is 28 and a book editor. Click on the pic to read what happened on the date before I raise my lorgnette and paint another picture altogether.

Lizzie is clearly not a regular reader of the Blind Date column.

I know, I know. OK, let’s stay with this one.

There are two ways to answer this question. Actually, there are three, but one of them is wrong, like when somebody gives the OVERALL impression of the person rather than the very first one that came into their mind. OK, so of the proper ways to answer this question, you can either be factual or emotional.

Lizzie here has been very factual. Were it not for the “warm smile” you would think she was working on reception at a model agency and reporting Tomas missing. Tomas however had a more emotional response. “She looks extremely cool” seems like it’s about her appearance, but it isn’t at all – it’s about Tomas. It’s about him thinking she is someone he would find cool. It is, basically, a way of saying “I fancied her” two questions into the column without coming across like someone who bought a top hat in 2011 just in case they got married someday.

I don’t know what it is, but I have this feeling that when Tomas proposes to Lizzie – next autumn, at a place that really meant something to her as a child, using the engagement ring of a relative or an antique bought with a legacy from a favourite godmother – he’s going to hide the ring inside a pudding or a pebble or something. Please don’t do that, Tomas.

Urinal etiquette is not the kind of thing you would expect to be brought up on a heterosexual date, and I bet the content varies considerably between gay people talking about it and straight people.

Urinal etiquette: never talk to anyone ever. If someone talks to you, look up BRIEFLY, keep your eyes HIGH, smile awkwardly and then return to your “business”. I know there are lots of people who like to peek at the meat when at urinals but seriously have a think about what you’re trying to get a look at: a floppy, boneless, pudgy, dangly finger with piss gushing out of it. Niche.

I would’ve said “like someone hearing some killer gossip at a party in Dangerous Liaisons“, but that’s because I haven’t read much Dickens. I have read Dangerous Liaisons in French, though, so I’m not intellectually barren.

Anyway, I don’t think she was fanning herself because of the temperature in the restaurant, do you readers?

I eat super-fast. Like it’s going to be taken away from me at any moment. I don’t know why. I never starved and as an only child, I didn’t have to compete with other grasping hands for the last round of bread in the middle of the table. I mean, I still have good table manners – or at  least I would have, were that in any way a thing in 2017 – but I eat quickly. To sit and take my time over a meal makes me slightly nervous. What if it goes cold? I hate eating lukewarm food. The more its slightly scorches the back of my throat as it slides down it, the better.

“No shovelling” – I dread to think of the men Lizzie has had to endure on previous dates.

DID you? Mistakes? Like what? They went to a really, really posh restaurant – the kind of place that, in a Victoria Wood sketch, would end up with an earthy waitress pouring spaghetti sauce into the crotches of two arrogant businessmen – so I imagine there was lots of silverware on the table or something.

I’m not sure it’s possible to make too many mistakes at a table in a restaurant, is it? Mouth open while chewing. Opening mouth to eat more food without fully clearing the loading bay of previous forkfuls. Using the wrong knife and fork – seriously never, ever, ever fuck anyone who gives a shit about cutlery or the order you use it in. Anyway, I assume Tomas says he “kept a keen out for mistakes” as an excuse for not being able to take his eyes off Lizzie during the meal. I didn’t just fall out of a tree, you know. Next.

Are you, like me, afraid to look up at the sky in case there are clouds gathering? Don’t be. Look up. Up! It’s nothing but blue.

INTELLIGENT, like a super-computer about to destroy Earth but don’t worry it won’t because James Bond will be along in a minute to sort it all out.
KIND, like a little old lady who gives you some brandy just after you’ve been run over. What a shame you’re only 13 and still lying in the middle of the road. But at least the thought was there. (This is a true story.)
FUNNY, like someone whose jokes hit all the right spots, who know just when to ease off the mockery and the sarcasm, who changes gear effortlessly between sardonic and sentimental. Like Tomas, perhaps.

WARM, like a fruit crumble that you pour too much cream onto and pretend  you’re just trying to cool it down when in fact you just want to eat all the cream.
CREATIVE, like the lies on my CV in the Nineties.
INTERESTING, like a laughter line caught in candlelight, or a look in their eye that says something.

When was the last time we saw this? Have we ever seen this? Two people sweeping the nonsense off the desk and clambering onto it to press their chests together? How many times have we read someone say “I haven’t the faintest idea” or “I’m not sure” or some overly toxic self-deprecating crap here? How often have we watched two grown adults – complex creatures with an ocean of insecurities in every pocket of their jeans or their handbag – do themselves a massive disservice and not say what we should ALL say when asked this question? 

Finally saying what you mean, grabbing a moment with both hands, leaving nothing to chance.  How often do we do that? Too much slips through our fingers, too many things left unsaid when it’s too late, when the moment is gone. No more of this. There isn’t time. 

The only answer better than these two truthful declarations on intent – and I’m sure I don’t have to draw a diagram to tell you what that intention is – would be “I don’t give a bronze fuck what they made of me”. But it’s sunny and it’s spring and we need our vitamin D  – and so do they – so let’s enjoy this positive moment. A fleck of gold in an absolute great steaming turd of a week.

TOO briefly, Lizzie, am I right? Right.

Well, we are delighted to read it. All together now, everyone:

“IT’S ABOUT FUCKING TIME.”

Any other week we’d be rolling our eyes, flicking our ash into the champagne glass and texting our ex to say we’d given them herpes. But this week, today, now, we need this one more than ever.

Scores:

Not just two tens but an unexpected – and totally against the rules – 11! Eleven! Lizzie’s 10 is also, if we really think about it, an eleven – it’s just a shy one. It couldn’t be anything else, could it? If you’ve read this far, you’ll know it too. Two 11s. We are in a 22-point date situation.

Let’s get wasted.

OK, so this almost feels pointless now. Do we need to ask the last one? Must we spoil it – just in case? No, we must know. 22 points or not. Let’s turn this double-11 into a 100.

I don’t ever want to sit next to them in a restaurant while they make smoochy noises and get off with each other, but I would LOVE to cause havoc at their wedding. Like I said, Lizzie, watch out next autumn – it’s in the pudding or the pebble.

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

Note: Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy.  Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. 

This one’s for Manchester.

Rory and Elizabeth

Every rainbow must have its end, and after week upon week of glittering gay couples fizzing off the screen (👀) and testing even the most liberal Guardian readers’ tolerance, we’re back to marvellous monochrome this week, with a straight pairing on the Blind Date column. Fabulousness cannot last, it’s not sustainable. It is mascara, your keys, your underwear – it never ends the night where it started. So all those who worried that gay people were being overrepresented in the column can now breathe easy; we’re now back to your default. Just as it should be.

Thankfully they look like nice people who would probably get off with each other in the right light if something by, oh I don’t know, Elkie Brooks or Bruce Springsteen was playing in the background. Meet Rory, a 31-year-old nutrition student, and Elizabeth, 26, a music PR. Click on the image to read the actual date before I pull up a chair and repeat the last syllable of everything they say to each other, like a child tormenting his babysitter.

I zoomed over to the restaurant’s website. It’s in Belgravia.

Not very informal. Sorry Rory (try saying that after a double gin and tonic and with a mouthful of Haribo).

I LOVE how they watermark their photography though – do you think there actually *is* a chair with this written on the back? I want to sit in it.

Readers may not be aware of the shocking scandal behind each Guardian Blind Date column – the newspaper’s staff have been so desperate to fill their pages they’ve been sending TODDLERS and adolescents on the blind dates, but none of them have made it to print.

We may mock, but Elizabeth is single, 26, living in London and a woman. That “an adult man” isn’t a throwaway attempt at humour, it’s a motto carved upon her arm to remind her just how many arseholes she’s met off Tinder so far.

My radio’s not tuned to the right station so someone who fancies women will have to fill in the gaps for me – is this a compliment? I mean, I guess it is, because he’s saying it in a national newspaper, but Victoria seems to be quite a divisive figure. You either like her personality or you don’t – both directions in the extreme.

Glasses. Some people really go ga-ga for them, don’t they? I wear glasses sometimes – usually when I want to scare people in a meeting, because I have a naturally stern demeanour anyway, which transforms into full-on vengeful android whenever I put my specs on, sadly – and the comments I get on them are quite remarkable. I went to SpecSavers a few months ago for an eye test – opticians, please chew gum, thank you – and the woman behind the counter was marvelling at my wonky old Giorgio Armanis like the man himself had sashayed into the room to show off his new collection. “Ooh I LOVE those,” she trilled, just as a screw from one of the dilapidated arms went pinging to the floor, “I bet you didn’t get them from here, did you?”

Anyway, as I discovered during my years of being pressed up against the doorbell by A N Other from Guardian Soulmates, you either fancy people in glasses or you don’t. And if you don’t, you should – when they take them off it’s like fucking Clark Kent and Superman. No wonder Lois Lane looked so smug once she twigged.

Hang on there, Hyacinth. Don’t tell me you haven’t missed this. Look, it’s better than “our past dating horrors” or “London life” or “BREXZZZZIT”. Actual conversation topics. I never want to talk to anybody about mineral mining, not even if it was the only way of reanimating Princess Diana, but all the others I will gladly, for the cost of a meal for two somewhere, have an opinion on. Try me.

Know what I mean?

Rory’s hopes of an “informal atmosphere” look to have been killed off with the expert precision of a zookeeper gutting a recently culled giraffe in front of a visiting group of horrified  but fascinated schoolchildren. I find it very difficult to believe Elizabeth hasn’t seen Pretty Woman, or any of the other Hollywood blockbusters from the ’90s which taught us everything we know about supposed etiquette, but there you go.

He mustn’t have ordered pasta, then. I’m just looking at the menu. I bet he got the steak. You can’t go wrong, can you, really? It’s not going to be a chewy old boot in a gaff like this, is it? Or sea bream, maybe. I’d have gone for the casserole. Just so you know.

There’s so much to say about this that I don’t know if I actually should. Because, you know, I get what he means, but why does he have to say it like that? Why do we naturally start looking for poisonous weeds amid the lush grass that is confidence? It’s ironic, isn’t it – or perhaps it isn’t, I’m sure a wordsmith will be along to correct me in a moment – that one thing we’re not very confident talking about is confidence itself? How much is too much? Who is allowed to have it? How many qualifiers and explainers do we need alongside it to signal that it’s the right kind of confidence, not the wrong kind? And who decides that? Confidence is such a controversial, lethal, wilfully bamboozling concept that I find it’s best to avoid talking about it altogether.

My dating profile, years ago, said I was looking for a man who was confident, among other things. I wonder why. What’s the big prize about being confident? Is it really so attractive? What does this say about the meek? Are they better or worse off? So maybe confidence should be left be,  added to the list of things were better off not mentioning: the fragility of human existence; why men dyeing their greying hair doesn’t quite look right; Top Gear.

Even I knew that. Is this rare? Also: the best thing. The best?
The B E S T?

I know coming from somewhere unusual and having someone know it can be quite the bonding experience – even though you don’t want to live there anymore yourself, funnily enough – but he hasn’t even been there! There is zero common ground other than he once listened in a geography lesson! I bet he hasn’t even heard of Shoprite!

I think Rory might think he’s a little wilder than he actually is.

CREATIVE, like a lie told by a child in serious trouble.
MULTIFACETED, like a town-hall clock.
UNPRETENTIOUS, like going to the shop in your slippers, totally unironically.

OPEN, like Patsy Kensit’s life in the first verse of I’m Not Scared.
INTELLIGENT, like a computer virus.
THOUGHTFUL, like a passive-aggressive note to a friend to remind them they still haven’t paid their share of the petrol money for that trip to Kirkcudbright in 1984.

Readers, a confession: Rory is getting on my tits a bit. Is it just me?

Elizabeth is in danger of joining him, to be honest. Right here goes:

I know we are all different and if we acted the same it would be a very dull world but being 31 and 26 and acting like a pair of ANTIQUE ARMOIRES in a deleted scene from DOWNTON SODDING ABBEY I mean I can’t take it anymore.

They seem like lovely people, but they’re too pure to be pink. Either that or they are pure filth and feel they should behave like this because their mothers are watching. I can relate. But let’s not hide behind words.

Something about the way this is phrased makes me feel profoundly sad. Especially when…

…it could’ve been so different.

Because, you see, you SEE, this feels like it could’ve been something else entirely if only they’d drank a little more wine, maybe, had a bit longer to get to know one another, to chill out. The date feels like it was conducted while both of them were still wearing their winter coats. With the hangers still inside.

Well this is a very gentlemanly thing to say – but Rory knows, like I do, that you arrive second if you want to make an impression. And that works across the board.

Elizabeth. Libby. (I’m guessing – she doesn’t look like a Liz, does she?) This is a shy 9. I love a shy 9. An 8 with a caveat. An 8 that looks back over its shoulder a second longer than it should, before turning away quickly. An 8 that says its hotel room number a little too loudly at reception so their date can hear it from the bar. An 8 that gets your number so they can “send you the link to that thing we talked about”.

Rory’s 8 doesn’t look very shy. It looks like a firm 8. This is no bad thing, ordinarily. But like all the scores in the Blind Date column, they take on their true value once the last question has been asked. Rory’s firm 8 looks like it’s eyeing up a new life as a 7, actually, doesn’t it? Let’s see.

YES Elizabeth. Let’s turn that Downton Abbey into an Uptown Funk.

Have another go, abandon the nerves, sod the shyness, meet somewhere with spit, blood and Carlsberg on the carpet.

Rory?

Oh for fuck’s sake, Rory, she really liked you. Stop acting like a superannuated Holden Caulfield and chill the hell out. You’re 31. 41 looks and feels very different, believe me. Enjoy this moment. You are young.

Bloody hell.

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Sophia Evans, both for the Guardian

Note: Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy.  I’m not judging anybody. Much. Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story.