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. 

 

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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. 

Joe and Jamie

You wait your whole life for the gay mafia to take over, wondering where the revolution will finally begin, and here it is: in the pages of the Guardian’s Weekend magazine. This is the sixth – pardon the pun – straight column to feature a same-sex couple on a date, and of the last nine, the eighth.

Six glorious weeks without two clean-shirts from the home counties pretending their life has been anything other than a very straightforward march through the pastries aisle in Waitrose. That’s not to say the same-sex couples have been more interesting, mind you – many of them have been wonderful poster children for activists who like to insist we’re “just like straight people”. I’m all for normalising what we do, who we do it with, and how we act in public, but, well, the word “queer” doesn’t exist for nothing – let’s not fully assimilate just yet, eh?

Anyway, here and Joe, 33, an assistant sales manager (why would you mention the “assistant” here?) and 31-year-old screenwriter Jamie, the latest guys to fly what must now be a very tattered rainbow flag. Did they get on? Click the pic to find out, and then we’ll get busy with the fizzy.

Isn’t it funny how quickly we would rather present ourselves as borderline alcoholics than admit we have hopes, dreams or aspirations – that we are humans, capable of disappointment and self-doubt? This means, “I was hoping he’d turn up, because to be left sitting all by myself in a restaurant, and then have to report back that he didn’t show, would have been mortifying. I was also hoping for wine and sex.”

I know they’re joking – they have to be joking, right? – but the self-esteem levels here are Victorian-hemline low.

Height! Height is a loaded subject, isn’t it? Among men, especially. In my vast experience of going on dates with strangers, I can safely say 75% of the men I met lied about their height. The giants would shave an inch for two off, and the grasshoppers would add a couple. Even the Mr Averages would fudge it and add on an extra centimetre or just plump for “six foot” in the hope I had gone mad or blind by the time we met. It was crazy, genuinely, because, you know, then I would actually turn up on the dates and, knowing how tall I actually was – 5’9 and a half if you’re interested, which I imagine you are, because most people are – I would be able to see the blatant lie. Honestly, you’d think most men in the world had nipped off to the loo the day they did height in mathematics.

Just to be clear: no, you are not six feet tall. Unless you actually are.

Uuuuugh this date happened the week they called the election. Oh God, no, I couldn’t. I’d have had to cancel. The last thing I want to do anytime, with anyone, is talk about the haunted castle in human form that is Theresa May – let alone discussing her over a slightly too-fancy set menu that doesn’t live up to its promise in a restaurant on the south bank. Oh good heavens, no. I can’t come, sorry, there’s too much election.

I know politics has to happen and is important and everything but there has been so much of it, like, for the last forever. I kind of miss mindless celebrity news and old-fashioned sex scandals. I feel guilty sometimes writing about the kind of nothing-y things I do because everyone else is buckling down and analysing the state of the country and the contents of everybody’s heads but GOD can I just not get back to listicalising the type of people you meet at barbecues?

Brenda from Bristol is the woman who, on the day our zombie thicko PM made her announcement, spoke for all of us when she looked like she’d rather walk under a train than hear anything more about the election. Slay them, my viral queen.

Accent mimicking is right up there with “waking up next to the dead body of a stranger” for things I really don’t like. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve said where I’m from only for the other person (usually a southerner) to say it back to me in a broad, comedy northern accent, like someone given a speaking part at the last minute in a Victoria Wood sketch. I’m a big fan of sociolinguistic convergence (thank you Twitter), but out-and-out pisstaking – especially if you don’t know someone very well – is a no-no. And yet it is kind of irresistible sometimes, isn’t it? Especially with a whiny American voice because it’s so extra, and kind of endearing and horrifying at the same time. But still, no, bad Joe.

My only exception to accent mockery is listening to my Scottish boyfriend trying to get Siri to understand him. I swear I got Men’s Health-cover rock-hard abs from laughing at that. Annoyingly, it has now learned his voice and the pair of them are no doubt plotting my death. Plus, I lost the abs in a poker game.

Exes. Oh, don’t do it.

However.

Isn’t there something so glamorous and exciting and American about being able to say you have an “ex-husband”?  Forget the waste-of-money wedding, three miserable years of sexless endurance, trips to the DIY store and harrowing divorce, once all that’s done, you have an ex-husband. It worked for Joan.

Whatever language this is, I didn’t take it at school. What the hell is a Jenga salad? (Do not write in, I am happy never to know.)

CUTE, like a baby three seconds before they vomit on you.
CHATTY, like that one person you’re stuck with in a lift who talks their way out of anxiety attacks – and you into one.
FUNNY, like the baby I just mentioned up there puking on someone else, three seconds after you hand them over.


CUTE, again, like someone would say if they were weighing up whether to shag their date.
KIND, like a saint, or an angel, or the lady in the Red Cross shop, or Princess Diana.
ERUDITE, like nobody ever says out loud ever.

Jamie, you’re not supposed to say this until the END.

Joe’s answer is better than Jamie’s, but I wish they would just. answer, the. sodding. question. I mean, I have read to the end, and you SNOGGED, so either you got him so drunk he thought he was eating a Peperami or, more likely, you know exactly what he made of you because he decided to TASTE you. Honestly, you’re in your 30s – when are you finally going to say what you mean? When they’re wheeling you into the games room at Shady Pines?

See?

I’m rubbish at reading signals too – or I used to pretend I was, until the moment it became more convenient to suddenly become an expert switchman – so I sympathise in a way. But, seriously, just lock lips and see what happens. You’re gay. It’s what we do. Leave the rest to fate; get another ex-husband under your belt. Go full Liz Taylor. Why not?

This is sweet. But stop. Stop blaming the day. Thursday is practically Friday, anyway. In the Noughties, people called it “the new Friday”, even. Thursday is Friday with an extra button to pop open, it wears its trousers a cut tighter, its aftershave is slightly sweeter, and less oppressive. It has imperfections, it hasn’t made an effort, its smile is a bit wonky – but it is there. Waiting. Thursday is whatever you want it to be. Sex with a stranger on a Thursday is all the better because it’s Friday the next day, and you get to hit your weekend glow a day early. How could anyone not want to walk into work on a Friday morning reeking of the smug fragrance of “I got some last night”? Seriously.

Shy nines, the pair of them.

So we already know they’ve kissed AND swapped numbers – either this is going to be the most sadistic twist since it turned out Madonna marrying Guy Ritchie was not a piece of highly satirical street-theatre, or we have a definite “would bonk” situation here. Fingers crossed.

“I don’t see why not.”
“I think so.”

Boys, seriously. Shy bairns get nowt. Grab it. With both hands. Before it wilts.

Photograph: Sophia Evans, for the Guardian.

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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. 

Ben and Joe

Easter. Selfish Christmas. Instead of family get-togethers and card-writing, or agonising over which gifts to buy, Easter gives you overpriced city breaks “just the two of us”, a desire for peace and quiet, gorging on chocolate and definitely not sharing, being out all weekend, getting so drunk you can’t remember whether the key in your hand opens your door or the back of your head.

To celebrate Easter’s status as one of the biggest “screw you all, this is my time” of all the bank holidays, there are two gay men in the Guardian Blind Date this week. Let’s be brisk – I have an Easter egg calling out to me suggestively from the fridge and hot cross buns going stale on the worktop.

Today we have Ben, a 27-year-old communications manager and Joe, 28, a textiles postgraduate. Here they are, looking like two time travellers from a Children’s BBC drama in 1976:

Click the pic to see what happened on the date. Spoiler: nothing.

As someone who’s spent my entire life being told to “cheer up” or asked “what’s wrong” or told “you look really bored/pissed off/miserable/annoyed” can I JUST say that some of us – many of us – have resting bored face. Because we don’t carry a mirror with us all the time and apparently taking selfies is narcissistic or whatever, we can’t keep constant check on our expression so when it slips into this natural state of repose and we don’t look like a gurning, ecstatic clown, we are unaware. Why do you care, anyway? Sort your own grill out.

Don’t mistake someone who looks – or sounds, for that matter – a bit grumpy for someone who is actually miserable. I happen to find continual smiling really unsettling anyway. Believe me, you can’t afford the wrinkles – find your inner misery as soon as you can, before it’s too late.

I’m sorry but setting expectations this low shouldn’t allowed. Imagine Joe at family gatherings as a teenager, being grilled by relatives as they pressed a greasy fiver into his hand.
“And what about your exams, Joe? How are you hoping they’ll go?”

“Well, Auntie, I’m hoping to queue up outside a large room – perhaps in a civic hall – and make my way to an individual table and be given an exam paper, whereupon I’m hoping my pen and brain will come together and write some words, and after that I will wait for, say, two months or so and then go to school and open an envelope and find some grades inside.”

Do people look closely at nails? I don’t. There’s a reason I don’t: I bite my own. I’m not one of the those fanatical biters who shreds them down  to the quick so their fingers all look like thumbs, but I’ve always thought casting a critical eye over other people’s nails would be hypocritical. I make an exception for dirt under them. I’m not a savage. I can’t take my eyes off that when I see it.

We don’t hear “sparky” very often unless “spark” is being wheeled out as en excuse for why they didn’t get on.

These are like Mastermind specialist subjects for people who wear baseball caps back to front.

Mind you, if you are not down to shag someone, it’s probably best to let them know as soon as possible by doing exactly as Ben did here.

Obviously usually this would have me running for the hills, but sometimes the food calls for it and, I have to say, looking at the menu, on this occasion:

Sharing is still not a thing, though. I don’t care where you are. I was an only child for the first two decades of my existence and, let me tell you, nobody ever wanted to share my stuff for anything other than vindictive reasons. I write books now, and all those people who said I needed teaching to share when I was younger had better be very fucking afraid when I get round to writing that tell-all exposé about  the absolute garbage that an only child has to listen to. Oh, I’ll certainly know how to share on that occasion, believe me.

*polite laughter rings off the high ceilings of the Algonquin*

OPEN like the door of your rabbit’s hutch, while a fox sits nearby with Rennie on hand.
AUTHENTIC like a Bjork album that you probably haven’t heard of, and it’s Björk, actually, you forgot the umlaut, but I guess you’re not a real fan.
CREATIVE like any liar under 11 years of age.

BRIGHT like a lightbulb.
ENERGETIC like another lightbulb.
WITTY like a Victoria Wood sketch about screwing in a lightbulb featuring mashed swede, an architrave and a travel agent called Pam.

Funnily enough, a few years ago, when he first became big,  a couple of people told me I looked like Eddie Redmayne. I don’t, at ALL by the way; I just go very freckly in the summer. But some people have the breadth of imagination of a dead lizard – what are you going to do, eh?

I absolutely detest being told I look like celebrities. Why do people do it? It’s not remotely interesting. A few weeks ago I was at a party, minding my own business, when a man slumped down in the seat opposite me. He was very drunk and this was an afternoon event so I automatically checked my watch to see whether that level of inebriation was appropriate for that time of day – like Margo Leadbetter would do watching Jerry pour a second cheery before twilight – and waited. I waited, as I knew he was going to say something because even though he had thrown himself onto the seat with all the grace of a jumbo jet trying to land on top of a cupcake, this man had purpose.

After lifting his Estrella to his wet mouth once more, he waggled a finger at me and said “You look like [insert name of celebrity I do not want to resemble in any way]”. On seeing my face, he then tried to qualify this with “Not the jaw, like from the jaw up”. This celebrity has a distinctive jaw and not much else, so this was either a lie or a man in the process of setting up a very niche lookalike agency. Then, pronouncement made, and getting nothing but a polite “oh right, erm, OK” from me, he said, “I don’t know what to say now”. GREAT CHAT, GLAD WE HAD IT.

Telling someone they look like someone else puts them in a very weird position, They either hear it all the time, because people who tend to say this kind of thing share a hive mind of mediocre banter, or, it’s a totally preposterous comparison. And then, when you have the information, what do you do with it? Start impersonating them to see if you can get a slightly better table at Byron? There’s nothing you can do with it, except cultivate mild anxiety over whether this means you are hot or ugly or, worst of all, neither.

Anyway, you’ve got two eyes and hair and a nose and look like you might stamp your foot if the queue at the bar of the Duke of Wellington was too long so, yes, you are a bit Eddie Redmayne, I’m sure.

Gay men in 2017. When you read the next hysterical headline about chemsex, or Grindr, or how horrible gay men are, remember that most of them – most of us – are actually like Ben and Joe. Being mildly boring and not getting off with each other on a high street near you. This is both a good thing and a bad thing I guess.

But seriously, gay men who appear in this column:

It’s getting ridiculous now.

Just eat the prawn, Ben. Eat the prawn.

A little bit tight of Joe here but maybe he really didn’t like Eddie Redmayne’s last movie.

The passion is simply sizzling off the screen, isn’t it? “Sure.”
Do you want a drink? Sure.
Mind if I just squeeze by? Sure.
Want to see this person again and embark on a journey of everlasting love? Sure.

What a dull bruise of a response “sure” is. It means “well, if I had to” or, in this case, because that is an 8 up there, “if he wants to but I’m not sure he will tbh”. Sure.

Photograph: Katherine Rose; David Levene, 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.  Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. You’ve a look of Eva Braun – did you know? 

Dan and Jack

Imagine being left on the shelf at 21. How awful it must be to be all out of romantic options before the shine has even dulled on your magic “key of the door”. These 21-year-olds must sit, miserably swiping right to anything – mass murderers, bin bags, former Big Brother contestants, any old garbage – in the hope of finding a date, lamenting all their lost opportunities and failed loves, while a tropical house version of Yesterday When I Was Young pipes out of their Bluetooth speakers. “I’ve tried everything,” they tell their friends over a gluten-free bottomless brunch at a popup in London Fields. “Speed dating, singles’ nights, Tinder, pretending to have been roofied at house parties for attention, and nothing, not a bean, not a sausage.” The last stop for these washed-up old maids, then, who have exhausted every other avenue in the search for love and didn’t get through the auditions for Dinner Date or the First Dates restaurant, is the Guardian Blind Date column.

Click on the picture of Dan, 21, a freelance journalist and fellow 21-year-old Jack, a fashion stylist, to see what happened on the date. I’ll be there right after, the usual table.

Do you, Dan, in retrospect, and having read ahead, wish you’d pressed the ejector seat button earlier?

Could you not have just emailed Ivan Massow directly rather than take up valuable space in Weekend magazine?

An early winner here, from Dan, for saying “different from”. Do you know how many times I’ve corrected “different to” in all my years as a writer and editor? It’s a lot. A lot. I had almost given up, assumed there was no fight left in me, that I would have to admit “different to” had become the norm, like “I was stood”. But here’s DAN, to say, hey, don’t give up, we’re still here, the non-garbage people. Different from, different from, different from. Unless he kills Jack halfway through the main course, Dan has won this for me.

A 21-year-old looking young. I’ll alert the media.

The trouble with the Guardian Blind Date is that it isn’t eHarmony, or the “Luv Connexions” dating agency from a Victoria Wood sketch. There’s no chemistry, no science, nothing is fed into a computer or puzzled over by “romance boffins”. They have a column to fill, they look at sexual orientation, job, and age and go “right, book the restaurant, we’ve got a pair” and that is it. I imagine any questions they ask you about your personal preferences are out of politeness and merely to check you’re not a huge racist or similar.

I mean, how did you think this was going to work? If you were looking for a daddy with a taste for culture and a decent job, as you suggest you might be above, you should have shelled out the £15 a month and shimmied over to Guardian Soulmates – absolutely teeming with the world-weary, work-frazzled human equivalent of yesterday’s newspapers over there.

How early do you think you have to get up to catch me out? Especially on a Saturday, on April 1, when I’ve got the beginnings of a migraine? Spoiler: it’s very probably at least half an hour earlier than you’d planned on waking.

I remember a date once where a guy talked about all the previous bad dates he’d been on. And he spent the entire evening asking me if I’d been on any terrible dates, and where had I been, and what were they like – he was, like, super insistent. Because I was anonymous or whatever, I used to pretend with almost every guy that he was one of the first I’d met off Guardian Soulmates, or wherever, so I didn’t give the game away. Plus, nobody wants to go out with a serial dater – who’s going to invest in you if they know you’re already logging back on to check your messages before the bus has even pulled away from their lonely, slightly tumescent self? Anyway, this guy kept on and on. “Oh you must have some stories to tell,” he said. “Am I better or worse than your most awful date?” And it dawned on me, much slower than it should have done to be honest, but I was younger and greener, that my date was a reader of my blog, and had figured out who I was. I never said anything at the time, and we had a perfectly fine evening, after which I went home alone, despite his mild protests. But perhaps now is a good time to say that I was onto you, Michael. I’ve even changed your name here to spare your blushes, but I know if you are reading this you will know it was you.

When trying anyone out for size, and thinking you have one over on them, it’s always best to keep in mind that they are basically you, plus a vitamin shot, and very little time for your shit.

We can see what you’re tying to do here, Jack, and it’s… well, I’d like to think it’s beneath you. I certainly hope it is.

These are both really nice things to say. I’d be happy to hear a vicar to cough these out at a friend’s memorial. But that is exactly it. They are fine plaudits if you’re filling out an appraisal for the member of staff who is useless but tries hard and is good for morale. They are wonderful words if you’re trying to sell someone a friendly dog that also happens to be incontinent. But they are not the kind of thing you want to hear about yourself on a date. Are they? Really?

Not even one sly wink to say they wouldn’t mind giving you one? At 21? It’s been a while since my 21st, but all we did back then was dream of getting sucked off and do everything in our power to make it happen legally. Have we waded out of those shallow waters now? Decided we’re above all that? Of course we haven’t. Despite all the clean-living airbrushed gay couples in mortgage brochures, we still like bonking, as far as I know.

If the best thing about you is that you’re polite then fantastic – ring your grandma and tell her. But this car has no brakes and is about to plough into the Friend Zone. There will be no survivors.

Oh honey. I mean, your youth is yours to waste I guess. But I can’t think of anything less sexy than being in tune with someone else’s Netflix tastes.

God, Netflix. That licence to be a boring old drongo who never goes out that couch potatoes have been waiting for all their lives. The “acceptable face” of telly. The TV that tells itself it’s different from all those people who sit goggle-eyed in front of Saturday Night Takeaway and Big Brother because it’s, like “quality” TV and you can “binge” on your favourite shows. Isn’t it strange how it’s OK to sit in a vegetative state in front of the TV all day as long you’re glued to Riverdale or Stranger Things or something else that costs $8 million per episode, but spend a good four hours catching up with Jeremy Kyle on ITV2 or an entire day wired into the Kardashians and suddenly you’re trash. Netflix is the dirty burger of the TV experience. All that plot and filler that takes an entire day to get through, just to catch up with where your friends are on each season? I’d (genuinely) rather sit in front of Strictly for a couple of hours and truly relax. Netflix, boxsets, series stacking and anxiety over your TiVo groaning with shows unwatched all sound too stressful to me. Which is the very opposite of what vegging out in front of the TV is supposed to be.

WITTY like a character killed off before the end of season one.
DRIVEN like Joan Collins to The Wolseley, every other morning.
ATTENTIVE like a doctor returning to work after a malpractice hearing.

PLEASANT like something not unpleasant.
POLITICAL like a think-piece about Jeremy Corbyn.
YOUNG-SPIRITED like a 21-year-old.

Spoiler. It’s somewhere between:

and

Lucky you.

21. There’s no such thing “work the next day”, not if you really want to stay out. There aren’t hangovers when you’re 21; they’re just mild obstacles that can be overcome with a bacon sandwich and an hour or two laughing at memes. Tiredness at 21 is like a full battery  to a 30-year-old. They dream of being able to say they’re knackered at that level of energy. Just wait until you hit 40, when even the sight of a vodka and tonic across a crowded room can give you 24 hours of panicky sweats, an upset tummy and the feeling that you knocked back every optic of the bar in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, getting cornholed by every single barman as you drank.

Take it from me, who gets a hangover from drinking more than three Diet Cokes on a night out, that at 21 you are basically as invincible as it’s possible to be and your job probably doesn’t matter that much. Look, almost everybody expects 21-year-olds to be disappointing fuck-ups – don’t die trying to prove them wrong. Just live up to your hype. Be that entitled young person old journalists are always moaning about. You might as well. And then, when you’re 45 or whatever, you too can whinge about the generation below being a bunch of boring old sacks who acted like they always came seventh in a pub quiz.

I am all for honesty, and living your truth and speaking your mind and all that guff. Yes, let’s be that generation of Big Brother contestants who think that somehow “If I’ve got anything to say about you, I’ll say it to your face” makes them a better person, and not an ill-mannered, confrontational sociopath who treats other people’s feelings like the wrapper off a Pret sandwich. In a world of fake news, we cling to the truth like it’s the last lifeboat on the Titanic, but sometimes, it is simply better to let the truth float away, frozen to death, forever mute, than haul it back out of the water to live another day and ruin everything.

If you didn’t fancy him, you didn’t fancy him. Fine. I’m just not sure you needed to use up all those words to say it here, though. He’s reading it, you know? We all are.

You know, in Europe, they put, like, a bar though a seven in case it’s mistaken for a 1? I do it myself actually – an affectation from primary school that I refused to give up despite many warnings from my teachers.

Anyway, today I am French and this looks like a 1 to me – I think it is a very generous score.

Don’t think I don’t see this for what it is. I don’t want to be too hard on Jack because he’s only 21 and all that – but unless your date was a total piece of shit and made you cry, there’s no excuse for a 4 here. If you’re stuck on a date with an arsehole, just score him 7 – Dan managed it.. If it’s a true 4, then spill the details. Otherwise, this happens.

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Graeme Robertson, 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. But seriously. Whatever. Get in touch if you want to pretend I’ve misrepresented you in any way, and I’ll bring the popcorn. 

Bex and Henry

I can’t sit staring at a blank screen any more than you can, so let’s cut straight to the chase and wheel on today’s contestants.

This is Bex, who is a 30-year-old fashion PR and reminds me of Drew Barrymore during that period when she was getting divorced a lot, and Henry, 28, a civil servant. Can love blossom between the two secondary characters of a BBC2 sitcom who are hardly ever in scenes together? Click on the pic below to find out, and afterward, I’ll discuss their contract renewal for the second series, which we’ve decided should be relocated to an abattoir.

What is an average date? How do yours normally go? Two to three hours shouting over Big Audio Dynamite in a pub you thought was the White Horse farther down the road but is in fact the White Hart and awful? Or ordering food you’ve never heard of in staccato whisper in a sober, silent, boring restaurant with vaulted ceilings that amplify you to Wembley Stadium-levels every time you cough? Or is it three double Tia Maria and Appletisers downed in 30 minutes, groping on the 176 and unabated rutting on a mattress on the floor of a sublet studio in Penge?

There is no such thing as an average date – just a distinctly average person to go on a date with.

How different may Peter Andre’s life, and career, have been I wonder, if he too had been seeking not just a Mysterious Girl, but a mysterious riot grrrl, like Henry here claims to be after himself? Are riot grrrls (this autocorrects to “grill” on my MacBook and is taking up quite a lot of my morning already) usually that mysterious? Don’t they tend to be in-your-face, unapologetic, rabble-rousers? Or maybe Henry means he was looking for a nice girl who wouldn’t grab him by the throat every time he called her “babe”, but had pink hair or maybe rips in the knees of her jeans, for a bit of “edge”.

Oh no. Late. Oh.

Don’t be late, because it’s all they’ll remember. As you say hello (late), and you take your seat (late), as you order (late), while you tell your first of many butt-clenchingly dull anecdotes (late), while you chew (late, mouth open), as you pour the wine (late, pouring unequally), as you signal to the waiter for the bill (late, kind of lordly), and as you get into a taxi home, by yourself (late late late).

The only exception, I have found, is if you are exceedingly good-looking. However, these are not trains or buses I can afford to miss. I have to run while I look at my watch, not walk. Remember, you’re either nowhere near as ugly as you think you are, or far, far more repulsive. Don’t risk finding out for sure – arrive on time.

Spoiler: this is a Suede reference. Although she is “in” fashion. But unless she was wearing a badge saying so (she may well have been, you know what fashion people are like), then Henry couldn’t have known that.

It was easier in the ’90s when most people who worked in fashion dressed like they’d been tipped out of half an hour of blood-curdling screams on the waltzers and into the dressing-up box of a Steiner school, but nowadays you can hardly tell, because almost everyone looks like a sentient jumble sale.

Bret Easton Ellis isn’t exactly a thundering example of the zeitgeist either tbh, Henry. American Psycho and Glamorama were a very long time ago and he hasn’t even said anything that controversial for about five years. Did you Google famous Bretts/Brets while Bex was at the toilet? Did you decide against Brett Stark from ’90s Neighbours? Not fancy risking a Britt Ekland reference here instead? Maybe pretend you misheard altogether? No?

HE WAS LATE.

I watched the (very clever) Simon Amstell mockumentary Carnage the other night. It’s possibly not for the faint-hearted, but straight after I vowed to change my meat-eating habits and found myself retching in the dairy aisle of Tesco the next day. And then I had steak two days running, so I guess  I still have some work to do. But I do have almond milk in the fridge. Baby steps.

Being called polite is nice, I like to have good manners, and I do actually think politeness can be sexy. Men who are nice to waiters, men who say thank you, men who give you just the right amount of compliment (so long as you deserve it, save me the fake platitudes that hope to loosen my pyjama buttons, thank you) and are, in general, not awful, bombastic sociopaths. But something about the way “which my mum would approve of” is added in here means that perhaps Bex herself didn’t find Henry’s shtick quite as impressive.

A second bottle. WHOA. Any closer to the edge and these two would be Thelma and Louise-ing it right down to the very bottom of that ravine. If you’re on a first date and someone else is paying, the first bottle of wine should have been drained before you even reached the double T of “bavette” when you were ordering your food.

It’s a shame the best thing Bex could think of about Henry involved criticising herself but, as has been pointed out to me before by a reader, sometimes a woman being self-deprecating isn’t always about giving way to a man or worrying about what he thinks. Often, and perhaps this is the case here, it’s about saying “look, this is how I am, and I’m fairly self-aware and whatever but it’s unlikely I’m going to change overnight so if you can get through it on this first date then HATS OFF, let’s be civil,  and maybe I’ll see you again and we can discuss what we’d like to change about each other then, by the way I don’t like your tie and your jokes are lame but you’re fit, so… y’know”.

I’m just going to ignore the Suede joke because we’ve all got homes to go to but what I would like to say is I WISH indifference would be cool again. Bring back the mindless shrug of apathy rather than the always-on, rolling-news, talking-head culture of 2017 where you absolutely HAVE to feel one way or another about something, and always in the most extreme fashion possible.

Sometimes I miss the power of indifference, ambivalence, apathy, a vague lack of enthusiasm, mild disinterest, partial disengagement. It was quite freeing. Now it’s “you’re either with us or against us” or “if you think this you’re en elite cappuccino drinker who wants to have sex with terrorists and if you think that you are a real ale lunatic who wants to go back to the 1950s”.

But of course in a way this decisiveness is good, because it exposes those who might otherwise have hidden some very bad opinions in among their more palatable ones. Nailing your colours to the mast tends to do that – but there’ll still be some stealthy horrors in there somewhere. But nowadays the only true shades of grey are in that execrable book and film, where sexuality and kink conjure up all the excitement of flicking to the underwear section of a Freemans catalogue in 1982 and drooling at the Sloggi-clad midriffs of men too ugly to be photographed in full.

CREATIVE like a whole set of Microwave Cooking Know How, collected in 280 weekly instalments.
INTERESTING like a payday loan.
POLITE like a notice in the kitchen of an office asking you to please NOT brush your teeth in the sink.

Was this a prank, maybe? Or does Henry have an extreme sugar addiction? Not sure.

Pranks. You either love them or you don’t. It tends to be those who don’t who fall victim to them more often, doesn’t it? Sarcasm is often denigrated as the lowest form of wit but surely pranking ranks as one of the very worst. Pranking is sarcasm for overbearing  wilful thickos, who feel intimated by words, or emotions, and instead go for a much less subtle humiliation. Thanks to shows like Punk’d and Beadle’s About (vintage reference) there’s always been an appetite for them. The person being pranked is under enormous pressure to find it funny, whereas sarcastic meanies rarely care whether their joke has landed or not. Pranking is for the wider audience, about making the person doing the pranking look impressive. For the one being pranked, it can be hugely stressful, being wound up to 99 before, once it’s revealed to be a prank and who the perpetrator was, having to come down from the ceiling and laugh along, so you look like a “good sport”. I could go on about this for days – it may not surprise you that as a skinny, awkward child who just wanted to be left alone, I was number 1 priority for pranksters in need of a confidence or popularity boost – but in short: pranks are not funny, and please fuck off.

It really, really is just a number. I realise this the more my own numbers advance. It’s about your emotional intelligence and experience, not how many candles you’re blowing out. I mean, if you’re into silver foxes or gawky teens then I guess, yes, age matters – and please have a word with your fetishes because both of these can be pretty demoralising for the objects of your affection – but otherwise, it’s just a front.

Age is one of those security keypads you see beside locked doors. You are immediately daunted by it and assume you won’t be able to open it, that it is meant to keep you out. You don’t realise, just like the parental controls on your TiVo, that the code is 0000 or 1234 and you can walk in and out any time you like – it’s just there to test you, to see if you can look beyond it, to make sure you’re not shallow or lack bravery.

Be brave. Tear up the birth certificates (once you’re over 16 and have checked they are too), do away with the candles. Live in your mind, not the calendar.

I wonder if he means he wishes he’d interrupted the conversation a bit more. I worry sometimes that the brash, annoying, forceful, boorish men are ruining it for the rest of us. We’re so frightened of looking like them, with their “well actually” and “I think you’ll find” and “look, love, here’s the thing” that we shrink into ourselves. But this is how the patriarchy works, isn’t it? The loud arseholes don’t care and get louder, and the more considered guys get quieter and quieter. It favours the dickish. Eventually, the quiet guys either get sick of being subservient and join the loud ones in being utter arseholes – but this time with an added “hey I am NOT like the others, actually” thrown in, so great – or they GET A BLOG.

What the hell is STRONG about a 7? A 7 is a pre-spinach Popeye, it’s every character called “Eugene”in an American high-school movie, it’s a glass of cordial poured for you by someone very unfamiliar with your personal preferences.

A strong 7 is not a thing.

I don’t trust a man who takes half a sugar in his tea, let alone adds a half-mark to a 7 – which is just an entitled 1 who queues half an hour for a free coffee in Waitrose – so Henry is, I’m afraid, officially cancelled.

I’m not sure what he means by unavailable. Already with someone? Did she join the date over FaceTime? Was she looking at some kind of mythical spot three inches to the right of his head the entire time?

What? A lowly 7 and you want to see him again? Why? Does he have a window cleaning round or something? If you want to see him again we want eights. NINES.

But, you know, a yes is a yes. Henry?

Photograph: Linda Nylind 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 – Lord knows they need it sometimes. Anyone participating in the date would usually be made aware of this editing process before taking part. If you are the couple in this date, please don’t take this personally.  It’s about what you say, not who you are. If you want to give your side of the story,  or send in your original answers, just get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.

A weekly roast of the splendid, stupid or sexless things said by participants in the Guardian Blind Date column.

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