Tag Archives: guardian blind date

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.

Pádraic and Josh

We know this already, I’m sure, but when we go on dates we ask the wrong questions. To which we get well-rehearsed, beige answers. So it’s our own fault when relationships ultimately fall into the sea like precarious coastline hotels.

“Where are you from?” “What TV shows do you like?” “What do you think of Brexit?” All perfectly functional and occasionally revelatory, but dull. Where is the real meat? If you are going on a date tonight, or soon, slip another one into your repertoire, just for me: “When did you last leave a comment underneath an article on a newspaper or news website?” There’s a right or wrong answer, isn’t there?

I say this because on last week’s Guardian Blind Date, the comments were open (thank you to the person who mentioned this blog; that was not of my doing). Sometimes they leave them open; I have always assumed it’s simply a mistake as usually the articles are closed off from the prying keyboards of Stressed of Sidcup,and their grammarian, nitpicking, vainglorious army. It’s a pointless exercise, anyway – most of the comments were from people screaming they couldn’t believe comments were open, like toddlers who managed to wake up before everyone on Christmas Day, sneak downstairs and open all the presents of their sweeter, more lovable sibling. But some comments were complaints that the daters featured that week were gay. Yeah, the Guardian’s readers thought Blind Date was getting too gay. The call really is coming from inside the house, isn’t it?

Anyway, this means I am DELIGHTED to see that it’s gay men again this week – I’d have preferred gay women because they are thin on the ground in these dating reviews, but if they don’t apply, they don’t apply – and I’m equally thrilled they seem (spoiler) just as interminably dull as the last pair. Boring gay men clogging up your Saturday mornings – just the way I like it.

Click the pic to read what happened on the date between Pádraic,  a 26-year-old (it says here) trainee architect, and Josh, 23, a charity campaigns officer. My poison pen begins right after.

*ripple of laughter so polite you can hear Melania Trump’s jewellery shaking*

Aiming low is probably the best way to have a decent experience on a Blind Date, but if you’re telling me the aim of 75% of them isn’t to feel the thrilling, urgent grip of a stranger’s hand on their inner thigh, 23 minutes after dessert was served, then you are wrong. Surely you are wrong. Why do we all pretend we’re here for a night of urbane grumbling about the state of the world and the odd pop culture reference?

We’re here to get drunk and SCREW, surely? And I’m not just talking about the gay guys. Come on. I’m done with this.

This is very nice. Especially when you discover Pádraic is forgetting something…

Hmmm. I don’t hold with lateness. Especially on a first date. I mean, if it’s unavoidable – perhaps there was a brief nuclear holocaust en route, or you stopped to pet a dog that was dressed in a tuxedo – then some lighthearted texts to your date to explain should just about get you out of jail. When you walk into the bar or pub or whatever, all these minutes late, do not saunter, or stroll – you need to look sheepish, embarrassed, slightly harassed. Ideally, you’d walk in accompanied by the women from that gif (from Game of Thrones, I think, I don’t watch) who walks ahead of you ringing the bell of shame. Here, like this:

Topics of conversation or answers to questions posed on Fifteen To One? Who can say?

I guess I can forgive the university chat because for these two it happened, like, 5 minutes ago, but once you get a guy in his late 20s or early 30s who still has more to say about uni than a simple where he went and some polite response to your own, inane memories or knowledge of that city, you need to press the eject button. I had a lovely time at university but I also used to very much like doing a big shop at the Asda on the Old Kent Road, but I tend not to go on too much about either.

I’m not entirely sure why two men in their mid 20s would be cracking out the well-known aphrodisiac that is Alzheimer’s on a first date – surely that’s more for my generation, in eternal panic that THIS mislaying of your house keys is the one that plunges you into a spiral of dilapidation, wandering the streets of Shepherd’s Bush in just your socks and forgetting all your best relatives.

I do not binge-watch, as a rule. I did once rewatch the entire first series of Catastrophe in a night before the next one started, but I couldn’t sit through six straight hour-long intricately plotted episodes of some comic-book adaptation or tedious law drama like some do. It feels like self-harm. There’s too much else happening, too much air outside, too many cups of tea to drink, tweets to send, future to obsess over. Binge-watching feels like parking your brain outside a shop, and I’ve never yet had a conversation about boxsets that I haven’t wanted to end with the death of either myself or the person attempting to bore me into my eternal slumber, so thank you but no. No, thank you.

Suuuuuuuuuure.

Oh, amazing. Truly, a gift. Spoiler culture and the dictators who perpetuate it.

Here’s the thing: if something has been broadcast, even online and, yes, in a different country, the onus is not on the rest of the world to keep it from you, like it’s a surprise party or perhaps a terminal prognosis that would stop you from enjoying your friend’s wedding. It’s for you either to try to see it as quickly as possible, or to hide away from all social media, TV channels, news websites, and magazines until you have. Sound impossible? It’s no less impracticable than getting the entire WORLD to shut up.

Often, you will be lucky – I guess I can think of the Star Wars movies as a recent example – and there’ll be a genuine effort by everyone not to spoil it for others, so there’ll be a kind of unspoken agreement nobody will discuss the finer plot points, or the ending, or the outfits, or wherever your general interest lies. But you cannot, and should not, EXPECT this deference. If you are part of a small group who makes a pact not to reveal spoilers, then good for you; that is super cool or admirable, but remember: the rest of us signed nothing.

Drag Race is a tricky one because it airs overseas quite far in advance of over here and not everyone has the nous, energy or wherewithal to go looking for links to download or stream it. Often, then, there’s a grace period. But, you know, say it was two days ago – you literally cannot expect a gay man who watches that show to keep his trap shut about ANYTHING, let alone the result.

I do find it strange how we’re so keen to turn ourselves back into toddlers, unable to deal with disappointment or things not going our way, satisfied only by a constant stream of surprises. Imagine the strain on our hearts. Can you really not sit and enjoy the show now you know what’s going to happen? What is with this continual need for shock? Why are we so intent on creating drama or jeopardy in even the most mundane of situations? I know there is a certain buzz from having a genuine “WTF?” moment when you’re watching something, sometimes, but life can’t be full of them. Sometimes it’s better for you if you read ahead, take note of the spoilers – in life, surprises can be nasty, irreversible. Bone up on your own storyline; don’t leave everything to chance. Because, spoiler: you still end up being you.

This is what someone would write on your notes after they’d just interviewed you for a graduate scheme. A graduate scheme you would not get a place on.

“The best thing about him was he turned up before me.” Yeeeeees, I don’t think these two are going to be indulging in a spot of fleshy swordfighting before sundown, do you?

I imagine  these two going at it would be as much fun as watching the last two Pringles in a tube turn stale, anyway.

Somewhere out there a Radio 4 comedy commissioner is shouting for their nearest child to “Go get me my phone”.

About as much enthusiasm as going to the GP to have a lump checked or a child forcing down a Brussels sprout so they can have ice cream.

PASSIONATE, like a Maeve Binchy novel.
ETHICAL, like all the detergents in my extra-woke cupboard under the sink.
CHEERFUL, like a character who will almost certainly be murdered second in a Miss Marple mystery.

SMART, like a Foxtons estate agent who can calculate their commission and drink a Diet Cherry Coke at the same time.
CONSIDERATE, “like you were when you were younger, such a lovely little boy, a fine young man, not like now” – your grandma.
RELAXED, like the poppers have just kicked in.

23. An early night. Some people don’t deserve to be gay.

You have to feel sorry for straight people, who have only just worked out what “vada your dolly old eek” means, only to be confronted by yet more impenetrable gay references thanks to the internet and, some might say, us just wanting a little bit of something for ourselves.

Well, we all like to be liked. But the question mark at the end tells you a) that Josh really isn’t sure and b) he’s not too bothered either way. It’s a shrug, a whatever, a “Well I guess if I had to come up with something, I suppose it would be OK if he thought I was friendly”. And, luckily for Josh, who has perhaps never even considered what someone might think of him before – and how little control he has over that, so I imagine he may start pondering on it more now – Pádraic did think he was friendly. It was one of the first things he said, despite Josh being LATE. Pádraic is a better man than I – they’d be dredging canals by now if Josh has been coming to meet me.

“Coming up after these messages: what happens when an 8 is a 9 but they give you a 7 that is actually a 6? One half of a doomed couple tells their story.”

Another comment left under the Guardian Blind Date last week was a complaint they should get rid of the last question “Would you meet again?” I think they said it was unnecessarily cruel – I can’t remember and I’m not going back to read it. This is a nonsense opinion. This question is the lingering closeup just after someone loses the prize, it’s the “for sale: baby shoes, never worn”, it is the final sweet aftertaste of pudding, that you hang on to as long as you can before it’s washed away by the inevitable glug of water or wine or Pepsi Max (you asked for Diet Coke but they “just have Pepsi, is that OK?”).

This question must never die, even if it is in itself a mass murderer of hope.

Beautiful.

Photograph: Linda Nylind; James Drew Turner, 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 – 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. I’m sure the sex would have been ELECTRIC. 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.

José and Tom

Gay men today! This could be just what we need. Here are José a 36-year-old project manager and Tom, 31, a restaurant manager. Click on the pic to read what happened on the date before we join them for a fight in the lily pond (’80s reference – avail yourself of Google).

Is it? It is if you go to the same three bars and always hang with the same people and never sleep with anybody you haven’t spent at least a year WhatsApping, I guess.

Here you go, Tom. Quite shocked you don’t have this already, tbh.

I quite like Tom’s cheeky allusion to the fact he’ll definitely F on the first date because, look, we’re gay men and we’re a long time dead so, come on. I’m not sure I would ever accept breakfast from a one-night stand, though. The trouble is, you know exactly where their hands have been.

A bona fide first impression. Although it does sound like a description of a dalmatian.

Not strictly the kind of first impression we’re going for. You would think that the question comes so EARLY in the set would be a clue to them, but… oh I’ve had enough. I shan’t feature this question again unless the answer is interesting.

We only have one restaurant manager among us and that is not José, so I think our man is trying to tell us Tom wanged on a little too much about his job. You’ll notice “managing projects” is not among the conversation topics here. I don’t know what you’d say about being a project manager anyway. “Yes, I walk into rooms and let everyone else do the talking until, by my silence, I’ve convinced them all it’s their fault we’re behind schedule, then I sit staring into Excel spreadsheets and project timeline software for a couple of hours, send emails to ‘stakeholders’ at annoying times, implying that anything less than a speedy reply would hold up the entire project, then, after warming my scarf and gloves on the top of my MacBook, I go home at 4:30 pm, and invoice them for £450. Per day.”

I refuse to believe live music during dinner was anything but a pain in the arse, but I’ll have to give José the benefit of the doubt because he was there and I, sadly, was not.

As “regular readers” may know, my bêtes noires when it comes to dating conversation are, after exes and politics, “London life” and “dating”. I’d love to know what hitherto uncovered mysteries about London these two managed to air. London is one of the most fantastic cities in the world but I like to think living here is like a magical spell, and if you start overthinking it and talking or analysing about it too much you will break this enchantment and realise– with a lurch of the stomach – that it’s just a big Southampton, with nicer buildings, better places to get coffee, more than one decent H&M and loads of people who hate you.

Ditto dating. Nobody wants to hear your horror stories or “a funny thing happened once” monologues. Get a blog so we can ignore it in peace. Worked for me.

Yeah. They kind of have to do that to take your order. You know, as much as they’d love to spend all night watching you forensically debate the pros and cons of getting the Central line instead of the Overground – which I am willing to bet you call the “Ginge” – to east London, they have orders to take, bills to prepare, restaurants to clean, and homes to go to. A waiter’s nightmare is two daters engrossed in smalltalk who keep saying “We haven’t even looked!” when they come over to try to get you to order a starter, 35 minutes after you sat down.

When a waiter says to you, “Are you ready or would you like another couple of minutes to decide?” they actually mean “Bitch I am here now and the food all tastes the sodding same. You’re not defusing a bomb or picking a new sofa, just get on with it. And when I say a couple of minutes, I mean I will be back in exactly 45 seconds and you two better be ready. You better. Don’t make me mad. I’m crazy”.

But of course Tom should know this. He’s a restaurant manager. Unless he’s one of those people who takes the opportunity of a day off to behave like the worst customer. Oh, you know, like people who work in a shop and then go to a different shop and DEMAND the very best service because they “know how this works” and “have high standards”.

I don’t think I’ve seen such a weak attempt at building and maintaining suspense since Downton Abbey was last on.

Does this happen to you a lot, José? At client lunches, perhaps, when they see your daily rate on the invoice?

This is fine. A decent answer. No praise for being able to sit up at a table and not get carbonara down himself, just a statement of fact: he wasn’t offensive.

“He talked too much.”

“He barely said a sodding word.”

“No. But I can say yes because it is never going to happen as, inexplicably, despite working as a project manager in London, I have no friends here. They are in Portugal. Yep. Otherwise, I’d love to introduce him to them, I really would.

“But no.”

“No. But I would show them his dick pic if he sent one.”

Can I just take a break here to do this:

Thank you.

Onward.

CHATTY like he talked too much, hang on have I already said that, I guess I have but I need to say it again. He talked too much.
POSITIVE like a pregnancy test a soap character always finds in the bin when they are searching through it for some nonsense reason.
FRIENDLY like a cat that thinks you know where the tuna is.

GENUINE like around 75% of gay men on Grindr claim to be.
CULTURED because he’s from Portugal and ordered something that didn’t look or taste that nice.
EASY-GOING like an uncle who has concerning views on immigration but “really loves curry”.

None? Really? You can, I guess, walk away from a date – say, an excruciating two hours of turbo-silences, staring out of windows and wringing the end of your shirt in your hands – and not have any particular clue what someone thought about you. But to end an evening with a stranger – a GAY stranger – eat in the Oxo Tower, and then (spoiler) go on for more drinks after, and come away with absolutely zero impression of what they thought about you? NOTHING? Like, no analysis of the situation whatsoever? No scenario-building? Nope?

Or, more likely, you have a pretty good idea what he thought of you, but you’d rather not say. This question is actually a very big trap. Assume the other person liked you and you risk looking like a bighead and/or an idiot when they absolutely drag you in their sketch of the evening. Say they didn’t like you and you could be cockblocking yourself

Spark. The get-out. The silent killer. It has extracted me from many tricky situations. “No spark” covers all bases. It is the kindness, the trip to Dignitas, the polite decline for the boring, the stupid, the joyless, the bigoted, the pathetic, the bitchy, the braindead, the hairy-backed, the selfish in bed, the balding, the unwashed, the obsessive, the coldhearted, the shameless, the shameful, the C*NTS – all the things you cannot say are conveyed with “no spark”. It means no thank you, not now, not ever. Not you.

All that chat about “London life”, like they had two rolled-up Time Outs and were bopping each other over the head,  and they still ended up in one of the top 5 worst bars in the capital.

Dates used to ask to meet there sometimes, in that sodding bar. “The nice one,” they would say, “the one at the back.” Compared to the one at the front, which is like sitting in among a pack of chihuahuas while an airhorn blasts continually, I guess it is “the nice one”, but I should’ve known better and not bothered turning up. That bar somehow drains the sex potential from you. It’s so charmless, and stressful, and free of atmosphere – you can’t even see anything from it, just loads of concrete giving you the side-eye and someone having a substandard dinner in the even worse restaurant adjacent to it. Seriously, just stay home, sit on an uncomfortable beanbag, crack open a bottle of unchilled wine you paid too much for, half-tune for radio into TalkSport and have a wank –you’re already having a better time than anyone in that bar.

“Look, I’m a professional and I wouldn’t stand for this in my establishment.” Way to get a waiter SACKED in a magazine column, by the way.

Scores!

Don’t ever let anyone tell you gays are mean. We’re just as shy, sweet, dull and desperate as everyone else. For example, these two sevens are ones if ever I saw them and yet, despite the date sounding as interesting as sanding a floor or counting the sequins on a drag queen’s frock, they managed to keep things polite and award each other a 7.

Photograph: James Drew Turner 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 – you know how it is. 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, and most of the time I’m just reaching and making something out of nothing – a lot of nothing. 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.

Damola and Karen

Something we hardly ever get to talk about is where the daters are sent. Not that it’s not fascinating – which it almost always is – but because the daters themselves usually hog the limelight with ridiculous tales or personal beliefs about who should be pouring the wine (yourself, always).

Anyway, today’s duo went to Exmouth Market Grind, part of a small chain beginning to make its presence felt across the capital. I have been a couple of times, but if you haven’t, here is a delicious testimonial from the homepage of their website that should give you an idea:

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-07-59-37

I could write 1,800 words on this quote alone, I reckon, but that is not what you’re here for. Is it? No.

Onward.

Today’s participants are Damola, 25, a content writer – which seems an oddly granular and slightly superfluous description but perhaps that’s what it says on his business card – and 28-year-old researcher Karen. Let’s get going.

damola-karen-key

damola-hop

Abraham Lincoln?

karen-hope

I have some bad news on line 2.

damola-first

WHOA. No messing with the formula, Damola. I know you like to write your content and all that, but three words and shoehorned alliteration belongs to the “Describe her in three words” question. Here, you’re supposed to misunderstand what a first impression actually is and instead drop a massive spoiler and give your overall impression of the evening. Allow Karen to show you:

karen-first

She’d have got away with it if it hadn’t have been for that “dynamic”, too, wouldn’t she? “Dynamic” is the fairground owner with a pillowcase over his head scaring away the customers for an insurance scam.

damola-talk

So much to unpack here. So much content, you could say.

“How much we both like Jamiroquai” is the doozy, though. I mean, aren’t they a bit young to even remember Jamiroquai at their (his) peak? Or maybe they heard the new single, which isn’t too bad (Automaton, not the other one), and they’re getting into them (him) in a kind of ironic retro way, much like a 21-year-old hearing Kim Wilde’s Cambodia for the first time might do. Either way, I didn’t think this was the kind of thing people actually said out loud. Not any more.

As for who would win between a giant spider and giant octopus, this depends on a) where they are, because water tends to favour one, while land the other and b) what exactly they’re competing in. A fight? A beauty contest? A stock car rally? A sponsored climb up the side of a giant bath for charity?

Anyway, it’s a nice try, but I have always found baboon vs badger a much more compelling idea for a fight to the death within the animal kingdom.

karen-talk

“Life’s zigzags” sounds like something you’d hear in a meeting about potential new Radio 4 comedies, describing Moira, a 40-something divorcee who’s toiling through the choices, challenges and chancers that come her way when her eldest son goes off to university, decides to retrain as a barista and gets pregnant by a colleague 20 years her junior. Working title: The Immacchiato Conception.

karen-awks

Meanwhile, over at ITV, commissioners are hammering out casting details for The Power Of Love, a six-part comedy about Peter Power and Lucy Love, two confirmed singletons who, after a disastrous first date where they’re actually seated at different tables and end up on dates with the wrong people, get together and set up a dating agency to make sure other lovelorn characters – to be stunt-casted and  make only one appearance – have a much smoother path to true love. The main characters’ marriage is pencilled in for the series finale of the third season when the actress becomes massively popular and decides she wants to star in hard-hitting dramas that Suranne Jones and Sarah Lancashire haven’t got time to do. (If you would like to commission this script from me, do get in touch.)

damola-awks

Staff. Forever building their part. I hope he was shouting, “Please say nice things about us and tell them we keep meaning to take down that Sam Smith quote but our web editor is off with RSI at the moment and none of us know the passwords”.

damola-table

karen-table

Bet they shared. They look like sharers. Octopus, probably.

damola-best

rihanna-cross-eyed

Here come the eyes! The compliment you dole out when you can’t think of anything to say because if you hang around any longer you’ll miss your train to the Friend Zone.

karen-best

the-magicians-apprentice-9

Thank you for not telling us about a single one of them.

damola-friends

karen-friends

dp43s7u

Ooh, that “sure”. It’s back. It’s non-committal. Purely hypothetical. “I would” is missing only “if my life depended on it in a hostage situation” at the end of it. Sure, they would introduce the other to their friends, but there’s no way on earth that’s ever going to be a situation they’ll find themselves in.

damola-three

You’d worry Damola had used up all his best adjectives earlier on in “the show” but don’t worry, here he is with three more. He has the CONTENT you need, at all times.

REBELLIOUS like Betty Boo says in probably one of the very best pop records of all time. “Hoodlum, that’s what you you called me. Rebellious, you can’t ignore me.” Yes I still know the rap.
STREETWISE like the secondary character in a “very special episode” of your favourite teen comedy who will suffer a terrible breakdown or sudden lack of confidence according to the laws of issue-driven television.
KIND like sensitive handwash.

karen-three

SHARP like a sheet of A4 just waiting to slice the tenderest part of your thumb.
POSITIVE like a team leader on an away-day.
SPARKLY EYES like—hang on…

tumblr_m3jgnqi7zo1qzhj33o1_500

That’s… four words altogether. You… you can’t do that. You can, if you must, make the three words a sentence and, if you’re the kind of troll who loves to be both lazy and extra af, make “a” one of the words, just to make your crap sentence work. But you must never, ever, use four words here. Could you not, oh I don’t know, have conjured up an adjective, slung in a hyphen, if you really must cram more stuff into your little word suitcase here? Hmmm? Sparkly-eyed, maybe? This is why the world needs more Damolas – people just don’t respect the words enough.

damola-change

karen-change

Like hemlines, bum bags and Taylor Swift, the questions in the Blind Date column slip in and out of vogue, and relevance, quite regularly. One of the most telling at the moment is the “change one thing” question. It could, in a way, replace the scores quite happily and I wouldn’t mind. As with most of the date, it’s all about what they don’t say and, here, when given  the opportunity of a virtual, textual time machine, if they squander it then you KNOW there is more than meets the eye.

“Nothing at all” is, of course, a boring answer, but quite sweet. An even more awful – yet revelatory – answer is what we have here today, in duplicate to boot. They make it about the food. This means they certainly do have things about the evening they’d have changed, but they don’t want to look like garbage people in a magazine column and they’re worried they’ll get recognised on the Tube, so play safe and pretend the only thing that could’ve made the evening any better is to have eaten something else, or, more usually and depressingly, to have ordered MORE of it. It means “The evening was such a waste of time I wish I’d just eaten myself to death instead of allowed myself to be bored into it”.

Yes it does.

damola-marks

One for every leg of your giant spider, Damola.

karen-marks

Sadly, Karen bit off one of her delicious octopus’s tentacles so could only manage a 7. Giant spider wins after all.

So, after a night of lightning conversation, perched in Sam Smith’s favourite hostelry, will our media-trained pair ever see each other again? Prepare yourself for carefully worded statements now:

damola-meet

sophia-loren

It’s traditional, it’s brief, it’s optimised. Damola knows less is more here. It means no.

karen-meet

tiffamy-pollard

It’s a no.

Photograph: Linda Nylind; James Drew Turner, 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 – 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, or if you do, at least just shrug it off in public. 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.

David and Mary

We’ve all got a clapped-out Vauxhall Viva parked on a meter outside so let’s not mess about.

Today’s willing victims tap dancing on the side of the cauldron of boiling oil that is the Guardian Blind Date column and the wrath of its readers are David, a 55-year-old physiotherapist, and Mary, 61, a teaching assistant.

Here they are:

david-mary-full

Read what happened on the date before we hold our nose, breathe in and dive into the deep end.

david-mary-key

david-hope

This is more common than you’d think. Not everyone skating precariously around the dating arena is looking for love, true or otherwise – it’s an exercise in self-assessment and improvement. This is exactly why I started dating. Would anyone be interested? Would I know how to talk to people who weren’t a) friends b) relatives c) shop assistants? Would anyone ever look at me and think “you’re gorgeous”?

You could stare at yourself in a mirror all day, guessing what people might think of you, or you could spritz on a bit of Tom Ford, floss your teeth extra carefully, and go and find out for yourself. Clean your mirror before you leave – in case you want to take any drunk, crying selfies when you come back.

mary-hope

Sad Sack from Raggy Dolls

While this may not be the most positive start, hoping for nothing can be quite a good idea. It’s pretty much the only thing you’re guaranteed from a night out with a stranger. Nothing. Bring on the bonuses.

Mary has the world-weary air of cabin crew stuck doing the Manchester–London shuttle for the last 10 years – bing-bonging the passengers about their seat belts in perfect deadpan, sticking her finger through every tenth mini-croissant just for something to do, to check she’s still alive.

Brace, Mary. Brace.

david-first

morticia-addams-o-rly

“What about these?” said the cheery young girl in the optician, handing Mary a pair of bright purple specs. “These are quite jolly.”
It had been a long day. Mary took the glasses from her – the seventeenth pair she’d tried on – like she’d been handed a nappy by a stranger’s child in the toilets of a petrol station (just outside Widnes), and wearily tried them on.
She looked like a Far Side cartoon character, or an agony aunt on Lorraine who’d been a bit of a goer in her youth but had discovered grandchildren and quadruple gin-and-tonics. But they were better than all the matronly goggles and faux-ironic plastic “web-designer who dyes their hair grey despite only being 24” ones she’d been trying on before.
“I’ll take them,” she said, resolving to buy not one but two bottles of white zinfandel on the way home.

I think if someone thought my glasses represented my personality, I would shimmy under an oil tanker – while it was moving. Incidentally, I have exactly the same glasses as David. Whether this is an insult to one, neither, or both of us, I’ll leave you to decide.

mary-1st

Very good.

dvid-talk

mary-talk

This is nice. I’ll take David’s “illustrious” here to be slight sarcasm, on which he’s taken a lead from what Mary was telling him. Otherwise it sounds rather like he’s taking the piss and with those glasses, there’s no way David could be such a shady bitch. It’s just not in our nature.

david-awks

I’m not sure how I feel about a 55-year-old man not knowing how to tell someone he needs to go for a wee. Did Mary not pause to drink any wine?

mary-awks

Do you know how there are some things you know you won’t like, without trying? Holidays in the Falklands. That new flavour of Findus Crispy Pancakes. Emmerdale. Mine is fennel. It’s ugly, it smells funny, and even before I accidentally tasted it once at the dinner party of a friend who took “is there anything you don’t eat” to be his cue to establish a career in aversion therapy, I knew it wasn’t for me.

david-table

mary-table

Two “impeccables” that got a makeover on This Morning. Next.

david-best

Whenever I hear the phrase “boundless energy” I think back to when I was a child and 85-year-old women who had joined the local gym would pop up on the local news programme, Calendar, to show they were “young at heart”. They almost always made them wear godawful leotards and Reebok classics as they filmed them glacially lifting a pink dumbbell and giving a gummy smile to camera. Seriously, there was about one a month.

It also reminds me of Mary Brazzle. If you do not know of this amazing sketch, avail yourself of it now.

mary-best

So good a listener he almost wet himself, Mary, but don’t let that put you off. And more about these glasses! I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that today’s date was sponsored by SpecSavers. (You can’t get those glasses at SpecSavers, btw. Very reasonable online, though.)

david-three

DEDICATED like a plaque on the wall of a leisure centre, to commemorate the site of the world’s oldest chocolate vending machine.
FUNNY like that smell on the Bakerloo line platforms at Waterloo.
BROAD-MINDED like absolutely nobody in the comments underneath a piece in the Guardian, ever.

mary-three

Ooh, alliteration.

CHATTY like someone who talks so much he would rather carry on chatting than relieve himself.
CHARMING like Kaa in The Jungle Book.
CHEERFUL like the man behind the counter of your local off-licence, pretending to like you because you’re the only person to buy booze that’s outside the “4 cans for £5” deal.

david-made

nod

mary-made

cybill-2

Single in your 20s or 30s? Then either take heart, or run into the hills with a tea-towel over your eyes, at the realisation you can get to the age these two are and still not really know whether someone likes you or not. It’s going to be a long forever, isn’t it?

The other week, I was at a work event and someone I’d just met asked me, “If there was anything you could say to me as a 19-year-old, what advice would you give?”

My main tip would be “Don’t ask life advice from 41-year-olds you don’t know”. Any 41-year-old, in fact. Anyone older. They don’t know any better, they aren’t wise – they just got here before you, with a larger catalogue of mistakes behind them than you have. The idea we should have it “all figured out” by some magic age is not only nonsense, it’s extremely dangerous and patronising. I’m still finding my way, we all are –it’s just that I’m doing it with eye bags and greying hair and acid reflux instead of youthful effervescence. I didn’t say that to her, though. She would grow up and come to that conclusion herself anyway.

My advice, which I delivered very kindly because she was very sweet and had flawless skin which I couldn’t take my eyes off, was: Don’t assume advanced age brings any wisdom whatsoever. Worry less. You’re probably not studying enough, so make sure you do. Perhaps  my ACTUAL advice should have been to ask those you admire for guidance, not people who just happened to have been alive longer.

Anyway, then I remembered I had an online advice column, and someone else might have told her, so that’s probably why she was asking. My memory’s not what it was. Oops.

david-kiss

mary-kiss

fe1f34dc0f9cc0de644a21de59e7e764

david-change

mary-change

Well, this is very encouraging, isn’t it? What would you score someone who held their pee in for you?

david-mark

A strong 7. Seven. How strong is this 7? As strong as your bladder, David? I mean, we all know what a 7 is. It’s a gentleman’s 1. Maybe – and this is me giving you the benefit of the doubt, David, because we are Tom Ford spectacles buddies, so obviously you are a great person because we are ALL the same – you’re old-school and don’t believe in over-marking. But if Mary, who has had an “illustrious” career in education, remember, and thus will be an absolute expert in marking appropriately, scores you higher than you scored her, what does this say about you?

mary-mark

Oh, David.

So we’ve come to the end of the line.  It has been a fairly uneventful journey, to be honest. They haven’t given me much – my main takeaway from the whole thing is that their favourite music sounds like it would be played at a barbecue in 2004, David’s bladder was like a hot air balloon by the end of the night, and Mary loves alliteration but not believing someone actually might find her interesting for a whole evening. Will they finally show their hand, and a little enthusiasm for each other?

david-meet

harry-styles-1111

mary-meet

kermit-ice-bucket-challenge

Photograph: Christopher Tomond 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 do not take this personally. It’s about what you say, not who you are. If you want to give your side of the story,  or send in your original answers, just get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.