Manspreading: Why we do it and why we need to stop

I learned quite early on there was a wrong way and a right way for a man to sit. As with most harsh lessons, it came from a bully. The dickhead of the week currently enjoying the school bus’s dazzling spotlight pointed out to everyone how I was sitting.

“You sit like a girl. Poof. Is it because you’ve got a small dick?”

I looked down at my knees and immediately felt even more prim and proper than usual. My default sitting position was with my legs crossed at the knee or bolt-up straight with my legs pushed together, usually a book balanced upon them so I could have free hands while I ate toast or a Pot Noodle or whatever I was pretending to be into at the time. I had assumed it was perfectly normal.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the people pointing out to me that I sat like a woman – like that’s a bad thing – weren’t the kind of people who would ever need to balance a book on their knees.

But of course I didn’t wear a skirt and wouldn’t have to endure boys trying to catch sight of my knickers or put their hand up there, so why would I close my legs? Bonjour patriarchy.

Obviously, I fell into line and did an admirable impression of having rickets just so I could fit in. But I never felt right.

As soon as I left my pea-brained hometown, I gave up sitting like I had a gross-weight of aubergines down my Y-fronts, but the manspreading phenomenon seems to be getting worse. We are almost at the stage where a man needs to have his thighs winched apart just to he can have the optimum angle for taking up more than one bus or Tube seat.

Forever reluctant to come into contact with a manspreader, I have come to dread boarding a bus and seeing no single seats available. I quickly scan my fellow passengers and make a beeline for a woman, knowing it’s unlikely I’ll have to perch on the edge of the seat while her legs point to opposite sides of the bus. As I do this, I can sometimes sense the woman cringe, no doubt mistaking me for a man who sits like a dick-scratching gorilla and worrying her entire journey will be spent pressed up against the bus window thanks to a pair of cantilever thighs.

I suspect the reason men do this is very simple: we think we should. Sitting with knees together and legs in tight is a sign of weakness or homosexuality – both social death, of course. So with this overbearing sense of self-consciousness, we have somehow decided that ‘legs akimbo’ is the norm.

We live in a confusing world, a world of Dapper Laughs and Julien Blanc, who I bet sit with their legs ten miles apart at all times. A man should slouch on a bus, like the world is his E-Z chair. He got to the seat first, and he’s sitting the way that makes him feel comfy – if you don’t like it, you should either stand or just perch in the room available to you, right? Wrong.

There isn’t enough time in my life – and probably the world – to run through these incredibly stupid rules we set for ourselves, that we should do something just because it’s what our peers tell us or that we should have these deranged ideas of masculinity and femininity. I can’t even go into the other reason why I try to sit next to women on the bus – that I’m frightened a man will sense my homosexuality and think I have selected his seat because I fancy him, that he will see the way I am sitting and think I am a great big gaylord.

Every bus is the school bus. Even now.

What you are doing when you spread your legs on the bus seat is asserting your dominance, taking your throne. Sadly, for you, your subjects don’t appreciate or respect you. So snap ‘em shut, bae. You’re making people feel uncomfortable, and unsafe. And nobody should aspire to that.

But we can change. You can change. People can help us change. Sitting down is a bit like listening – but rather than put your lips together an blow, you put your legs together and breathe in. Your cock and balls aren’t fascinating and nobody is going to hand you a bottle of poppers just because you sit with your knees knocking. (Don’t cross your legs though – according to my best friend’s formidable Russian mum, it gives you varicose veins.)

Women, and non-manspreading men, don’t stand while King Splay airs his nutsack to the entire train. Say “excuse me” and sit in the seat, and spread your very own legs as far as you can within the confines of the seat. Like invading ivy spreading too fast it needs a prune, and it needs it regularly.

As most things in life, the rules are simple: don’t be a dick, don’t let others think you’re a dick. You’re not the most important person on the bus. Your legs are not weapons and don’t impress anybody the wider apart they are.

Exert your power elsewhere, in areas you can change, but keep your thighs together, for all our sakes. Be a man – just don’t sit like one.

Where not to meet your next lover: The gym

I have never dressed sexily for the gym – I have never seen the point. Either I have been partnered during my stack of memberships or, more usually, I have had no interest in romance among the kettle bells. In the dank, municipal hellholes where I like to work out, I have somehow known instinctively that Mr Right was not lurking by the lockers.

While my latest gym is clean and modern, it is most certainly not a place where I will ever feel lustful and attractive. It is so basic, so stripped back, that there is not even a swimming pool – thus it is devoid of the comforting pong of chlorine to mask all the toxic BO of my fellow gymgoers. You don’t just feel the burn; you breathe everyone else’s.

Any attempt I would ever have made to dress sexily – my running shorts are cut pretty high, I guess – is instantly negated by the inability of the staff to really grasp how air conditioning works. Unless you climb up inside one of the three or four pathetic air con units protruding from the wall like tin-covered beer guts, you’re unlikely to experience anything more than a light breeze that feels like it’s coming from several planets away.

A spandex-clad set of cockerels strutting round a farmyard of metal, grunting and always the most unfortunate choices of sock you can imagine.

Thus it takes no more than three half-hearted tugs on a machine that likes to call itself “Lat Pulldown” (very Star Wars cantina) before I am tomato-red, gasping and dripping in vodka-infused perspiration.

While most people are only there because the vending machine is the place to get the coldest Coke Zero in the western hemisphere, for some the gym is a total cruising experience. Cruisier even than being winked at in a public toilet or coughing suggestively in a sauna. I have watched these men (and women, of course, but it is the gay guys who fascinate me) strutting around – a spandex-clad set of cockerels surveying a farmyard of metal, grunting and always the most unfortunate choices of sock you can imagine.

It seems no part of the gym is off limits when it comes to being chatted up or flirted with or, in the most extreme of cases and depending on your proximity to Vauxhall, a spot of shagging. The sunbed room at my gym – 12 tubes, an Ikea chair and a bin filled with discarded wet wipes – is almost always occupied and I have never seen any ultra violet light beaming from under that door.

The locker room is where things begin, of course. I have lost count how many times I have shot down clumsy attempts at flirting as I stuff my bag in a locker only to find it’s broken. (About six or seven, in reality.)

The reality is I find the situation even more awkward than them, gradually going redder and redder and looking anywhere, at anything, other than their eyes, arms, pecs or, on one most unfortunate and unwelcome occasion, their depressingly low-hanging balls.

A range of subjects from where I got my padlock to the colour of my socks, via the incredible “Where did you get your hair cut?” have been among the awkward opener for potential suitors.

Of course, in my head, my tongue is an anti-aircraft gun and these hapless blokes are the Luftwaffe circling. Bang! Bang! Bang!

The reality, however, is that I find the situation even more awkward than them, gradually going redder and redder and looking anywhere, at anything, other than their eyes, arms, pecs or, on one most unfortunate and unwelcome occasion, their depressingly low-hanging balls. As soon as politeness will allow I give a friendly, yet curt, nod and head out of there.

I have seen it work on others. The chat will begin super-innocently in the changing rooms, and then once they’re out in the exercise area, chat will turn to protein drinks, running times and before long they’re ‘spotting’ each other’s ‘reps’ in that sweat-glazed palace of meat that is the free-weights area.

This part of the gym is full of mirrors, and our boys spend as long as possible glaring into them, but actually at each other, trying desperately to gurn as sexily as possible. The success rate is below sea level.

Not that it deters them – like attracts like, after all. Before you know it, they’ve got their towels over their shoulders and a mortifying time in the locker room for everyone but them is all but guaranteed.

But how to avoid all this eye-fucking and unrequited lust across the yoga mats? Well, why would you?

Just watch your eye contact; participation is automatic and there’s only one way to get yourself an early shower…

Nobody ever said all football fans had to be able to score goals at Wembley. Strap yourself in for the ultimate spectator sport – you still get the fitness benefits but don’t have to compete. Just watch your eye contact; participation is automatic and there’s only one way to get yourself an early shower…

Once you’re muscle-buddies and getting regularly up close and physical, though, what next? What about the times you can’t always make a training session? Is he there without you, making those same locker-room eyes at the cute guy on the treadmill? What if he says “great pecs” to all the boys? Is his spandex hanging out with other lycras?

Maybe look further for your next partner than the end of your dumbbell – save your communal sweating for the bedroom.

Image: Flickr

The Muse

Some people really love talking about their job. And I should know – I have spent many a sunny evening sitting under a cloud of boredom at a smeared pub table across from a guy going through his company’s sales figures in mind-numbing detail. Curriculum Borae.

I don’t really like talking about mine; I never have, really. People always think it should be more impressive than it actually is, that I should be sipping champagne at celebrity events and photobombing Taylor Swift’s selfies.

The sad fact is, however that most of the time I am in my living room, slamming my fingers on my laptop’s much-maligned keyboard, limbering up for a lifetime of back and shoulder pain thanks to my terrible posture. Either that or I’m doing the same but in a local café, while demonic children on microscooters encircle me.

But when a date asks, you have to tell – and Luke, my handsome, but slightly vanilla, date for the evening, is about to do just that.

“So you’re a writer?” he says.

“Yes.” I’m hoping my blank face will stop him from enquiring any further. It never works.

“What do you write about?”

I resist the temptation to roll my eyes and instead begin to tell him about my job, leaving out the key detail that sometimes I write about men I go on dates with, too. Describing what you do for a living to a date is one of the least fun parts of the whole process. Like I say, they’re almost always disappointed that I don’t get to meet any celebrities or break any big political stories.

My date listens intently, or at least pretends to, and then takes a swig of his drink. “I’ve been on a date with a writer before,” he says.

“Oh, really?” I reply. “And how was that?” Although from his tone, I can guess it went badly.

“Fine,” he shrugs, “except that he told me he was in the middle of writing a book about going on loads of dates with different men. Can you imagine that?”

Well, I kind of can. I gulp. After a silence lasting infinite millennia, I lean forward in my chair. “And what did you say to that?”

“I was really annoyed,” he retorts with a furrowed brow. “He didn’t want to be on a date with me because he was interested in me; he just wanted to put me in a book.”

While I sympathise, I can’t help but think it would be highly unlikely for my date to have been interesting enough to make it into the final draft of any book about dating. We have been sitting here for about an hour and this is the first time he has asked me a question, yet I know everything about his firm’s redundancy procedure, which in the main seemed devoted to getting rid of him and him only. What a shame someone so beautiful has turned out be such a dullard.

“So what happened?” I ask.

“Well, nothing. Once he told me that, the date was over.”

I consider revealing all, just so I can get the exit I’ve been waiting for. Instead:

“Would it really have annoyed you to see yourself in print?”

He looks at me quizzically. “Well, of course it would. What a stupid thing to ask. Jesus.”

“…”

I drain my drink and stare at the glass, my throat tight with awkwardness. I resolve not to ask him anything else, stupid or otherwise.

Luckily, my date seems to have tired of me considerably, as he gives a very stagey yawn and stretches his hands above his head. “I’m pretty beat,” he whimpers. “Shall we call it a night?”

‘Beat’, yuk. I check my watch. 8.30 pm. Hardly “a night”, but fair enough.

“Sure,” I smile. “It was nice to meet you.”

“Yeah,” replies my date with not even a hint of sincerity. “You too.”

“Ooh, by the way,” I say as we part. “Do you read Gay Times magazine?”

He scratches his head. “No, I can’t say I do. Why?”

“Oh, no reason. Goodnight.”

Stats: 31, 5’9″, black/blue, Hertfordshire
Pre-date rating: 8/10
Post-date rating: 5.5/10
Date in one sentence: Write about me, like one of your French girls.

Image: Flickr

This post originally featured in truncated form in Gay Times (funnily enough – sorry Luke) in a monthly dating column. I still write for them, answering readers’ dilemmas and looking at some of the types of men it might be best to avoid. You can get the latest issue now at gtdigi.co.uk

Coming out isn’t a one-off event – you’ll do it day after day for ever

Did you come out on National Coming Out Day? And how was it for you?

What people never seem to tell you about coming out is that it’s not restricted to one day – it’s a never-ending event. See those closet doors? They’re revolving. Day after day, you will find yourself – directly and indirectly – coming out to a host of people, even total strangers. The coming out never stops.

Think you have everybody covered? Relatives, friends, key people at work – check. However, you’re not out of the woods yet. We live in a world where there may be equality in law, but socially, we’ve still a long way to go.

Even a simple trip to the doctor, or a casual chat with a colleague, and having to say that dreariest, laborious word “partner”, like you’re in love with a law firm, is an act of coming out. It still feels strange on the tongue, let alone in the head, having to explain yourself.

You never know whether the news you’re gay will get you a shrug, a hug or a punch in the mouth. You wonder whether sitting next to that straight guy on the bus will make him think you fancy him, because he can tell, right? He knows you’re gay.

Will that drunk woman who caught you steal a glance at her boyfriend laugh it off or get in your face and throw a drink over you, calling you a “poof” and warning you to keep your eyes to yourself.? Welcome to the worst lottery ever.

Perhaps one day it will be no big deal and there’ll be no need for a lurching stomach or a mild stutter as you get the words out, wondering what the reaction will be. Here’s hoping. But despite all that, coming out is worth it. It really is.

I have already documented how I broke the news to my parents 14 years ago, and while I thought my work was done, about a month ago I realised there were two other people who’d remained blissfully ignorant over the years – my siblings.

I have a 17-year-old brother who I don’t see very often. He’s never really asked me about relationships or anything like that – teenagers tend to have their own stuff going on – but it niggled at me that he was in the dark.

I never had to tell my 18-year-old sister, to whom I’m very close. I suggested to Mum I should reveal all, but she said there was no need. Looking back, she was right. While it took her a few years to work it out, the fact she had her very own gay best friend at school helped her realise that I wouldn’t one day be bringing home a blushing bride.

Despite it never being explicitly said, she never questioned it,  instead accepted it without so much as a shrug – how disappointing for my inner dramatist – and my sexuality has become just another drab fact of life.

She may have had her suspicions about where my ‘flatmate’ and I slept in our one-bedroom flat but she never voiced them. We have settled into our relationship as grown-ups brilliantly. In her own words: “I didn’t really notice.” Perfect.

My brother was a different proposition. How do you tell a sporty 17-year-old just discovering girls that his big brother, who for some bizarre reason he looks up to, can never really join in on the whole lady appreciation thing? How do you prepare yourself to be a disappointment?

Well, the way I did it is spend the entire weekend with him and not say anything about it, before going home and telling him in a language he would understand – on Facebook Messenger.

In the middle of a conversation about a gig I was going to – Kylie! Of course – I decided now was the time to drop the bombshell, or gayshell, if you like. I decided not to make it too emotive – the slightest hint of sentiment can send even the most sensitive of teenagers reeling and heading under the nearest Xbox. I kept it matter-of-fact:

“It’s just occurred to me that you may not be aware – my partner is a bloke. I’m gay. Hope you’re cool with that. I should’ve mentioned it before, I guess. It’s a difficult one to drop into conversation. If you need a bit of time to think that one over, I understand. I should’ve said at the weekend really. Anyway, now you know.”

So now he knew. I awaited his reply with the kind of feeling you get when you know your electricity bill is due – crippled by inevitability. I was also kind of excited. Something was about to change. Finally, some drama.

Hours dragged. Then: a tick appeared by his message. He’d seen it. I closed Facebook and went into another room and pretended to tidy up. Any distraction welcome. Finally, I scraped myself off the ceiling and opened Facebook again. And like a beam of light, his reply shone:

“I can imagine you would’ve found it very hard to put that into conversation!
But yeah.
As long as you’re happy bro I’m really happy for you!
I have the utmost respect for you, it must be really difficult sometimes.”

Whether it’s a blatant acceptance like my brother’s, or a  marvellously unspoken one like my sister’s, never underestimate its power. And even though I have come out a thousand times to a million faces, the feeling of being accepted, that good reaction, never, ever gets old.

If you have come out to friends or family this weekend, I hope they reacted as brilliantly as my most excellent siblings.

National Coming Out Day is all yours – make it count

It’s National Coming Out Day, the day when the collective force of a zillion closet doors being thrust open is enough to knock you off your feet.

Coming out is a milestone that every gay person feels obliged to pass – it’s the ritual that all of us have to go through on the ridiculously long path to being ‘the real you’.

The main issue I had with coming out is that I really didn’t want to – I was convinced my sexuality wasn’t anyone’s business but my own.

I was a late starter, getting to the grand old age of 24 before I was ready to admit to even myself that I was actually gay, and so to announce my sexuality felt unnatural and odd.

It was such a small part of who I was, I told myself. It didn’t define me at all; it was no more relevant to my life than the colour of my hair or my eyes, right?

These are the ridiculous things you say in your head when you’re on the cusp of changing everything for ever. You don’t realise how relevant it is to your life until you don’t have to keep it a secret any more.

Coming out to friends was interesting. Some had badgered me about it for years, only to be met by strenuous denials. I almost didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of being right all along, and dreaded the conspiratorial “I knew it!” I didn’t want to be a bright, shiny gay bauble for people to marvel over.

Something you should be prepared for when coming out is not just a bad reaction from parents or relatives, but that you may even find friends’ positive reactions distasteful. I found horrifying the idea that my newfound self-acceptance could become the most interesting and important thing about me.

Don’t make this mistake: be pleased that people are happy for you. “Oh we always knew” might leave a nasty taste in your mouth (not for the first time ho ho ho) but remember they are just trying to make you feel comfortable. Don’t resent them for it.

For a while I played down my homosexuality, not allowing myself to celebrate it. It was no big deal. Next question. I realise now that coming out doesn’t mean an end to the awkwardness – revealing all is just the first step to accepting who you are.

Once I was out to friends, the inevitable next step was to tell my parents. They’re divorced, so I did this separately – in very different ways.

I told my father when I was drunk and in a terrible mood, my secret bursting out of me during a heated debate. Oh, and it was also his birthday. I know, I know. What a model son.

I spat it out angrily, but his reaction was far from furious; after momentary shock, he was understanding, gracious and happy I had confided in him. Despite this, I continued to do it all wrong, saying once again it was no big deal and that I didn’t want to talk about it, when all my dad wanted to do was be supportive. It takes a really long time to be comfortable in your own skin, but open up if you can.

Coming out can be an utterly selfish act – as you deal with your own emotions, you forget that the people you tell have feelings too. Learn from me: don’t come out in anger.

I told my mother soon after, one breakfast just after Christmas, after remarking that in the upcoming Absolutely Fabulous special, Edina would find out her son was gay.

I found myself blurting out: “What would you do if I were gay, Mum?”

My mother did not look up from the pan of boiling eggs she was hovering over.

“Why? Are you?”

“Um, yes.”

There followed a brief discussion about the gay men Mum had known when she was younger – sadly, all drug addicts and emotional wrecks, so not the best poster boys for my cause – and once she’d had a think about it, she too was supportive, just like my dad.

My mother admitted she’d idly wondered if I was gay, so wasn’t entirely shocked, but as I hadn’t said anything, she didn’t want to risk upsetting me by asking outright.

One of my mum’s friends when I was growing up was a militant lesbian who was obsessed with outing me when I was about 13, before I’d ever even imagined a man’s body pressed against mine. I’m sure she meant well, but those who try to out others before they ready only serve to push them so far back in, branches of trees of Narnia scratch them.

Coming out can help set others’ minds at rest. My parents were, of course, concerned, but it was my responsibility to show them they had nothing to worry about. Now my sexuality is the thing I wanted it to be all along, just another part of my life. I was lucky. Not everyone is.

Did I need to come out to finally be at peace with myself? I think so. Coming out is difficult for many reasons; the fear of people’s reactions; the conflict with religious beliefs; the knowledge that there is still a huge amount of intolerance and hate out there to name just a few.

What coming out does do for you as a gay person is allows you to be at peace with yourself. The turmoil doesn’t vanish, but the internal struggles you’ve had for as long as you can remember can suddenly become less painful. Your friends’ and family’s reaction may surprise you – in a good way.

And if you’re not gay, if someone you know stares intently at you today and clears their throat, there’s a good chance they’re about to tell you they’re gay – or they have a peanut stuck in their throat and are unable to speak, silently willing you to decode their desperate glaring. Before you put on your best understanding face, check their airways just in case.

I’d encourage anybody who finds themselves as a coming-out confidante to react calmly, positively and maybe save the celebratory air punches and that you “knew it all along” for later. Be prepared to fight their corner, as not everyone is going to react as well as you. Make sure the voice of acceptance shouts the loudest.

So why the big fuss about National Coming Out Day, when you can make the big announcement any day of the year? Well, if you do it today, you know you won’t be doing it alone. Most of us need motivation for a lot of things.

You may tell yourself you’ll do it tomorrow, or the next day, but they’re just like any other day, full of trivial things to help you put it off until later.

But if it’s not the right time for you to take the plunge, don’t. Coming out should be a personal thing; you’re doing it for you, not them.

But when you’re ready, do come on out – the water’s lovely.

To find out where it all began, read The Hogmanay Kiss.

Earlier versions of this post have appeared elsewhere.

The Charm Offensive

I am 24 and at a friend’s flat. She is having a party. Well, I say party – the lounge is full of people, there are bottles of vodka and dubious mixers on the kitchen table and there is a queue for the toilet. It’s as close to a party as we’re going to get this evening.

I am a different animal as a 24-year-old. I’ve yet to endure all the various, turbulent life experiences that will teach me to be kinder, more humble, accommodating, friendly – all that shit.

Instead I am almost a quarter of a century of awkwardness, curiosity and sugar-topped vitriol masquerading as confidence. A familiar tale to many, I’m sure.

I’ve not been out of the closet long – I’m still working out what to do with my wonky wiring and feelings that I’m now allowed to have. And I get super-nervous around other gay men.

As I pour myself a really large gin and tonic, alone, my friend glides into the kitchen and says: “Claire’s friend Matt is here. He’s gay, but a bit weird. Watch out for him.”

I thank her for – well, warning me, I guess – and pour an extra shot of gin into my glass, sending the contents splashing all over the table. 38-year-old me would get a cloth and wipe it up, but time machines aren’t a thing yet and so 24-year-old me vaguely waggles some kitchen roll in the spillage’s direction and strides out to the lounge to witness this weirdo for myself.

I spy him immediately. He is kind of good-looking, despite being dressed in clothes you would describe unfortunate at best. He throws his head back in laughter at something the guy he’s with is saying.

I have met the other guy before and know for a fact his banter is up there with a night in a Bangkok prison in the LOL stakes, so I assume the hysterical laughter is for somebody else’s benefit. It then occurs to me that maybe he too has had a ‘warning’.

I play that desperately unoriginal game every young gay plays: faux-blindness. Oh, boys, you all think you’re being so clever, but coyness is the one trick every gay guy likes to pull out of the bag first. It’s never convincing and always ends in disaster. But I’m yet to learn that.

So it begins. I pretend I haven’t seen Matt at all and instead trundle over to a corner and start talking to someone much better looking.

It continues this way for around an hour or so. Whenever he walks into a room, I find the earliest opportunity to leave it and if finding myself trapped in a group conversation, smile politely before making my excuses and going to the loo. He does the same – he never addresses me directly and doesn’t cast his eye over me at all.

While our paths don’t cross and we haven’t said a word to each other, the air is thick with something – and it’s not cigarette smoke. Our fellow party guests eyeball us nervously, nudging each other, as if wondering who’s going to bite first.

Eventually, I take a pew in the kitchen and join another conversation. Matt enters soon after me and sits opposite. I am between the kitchen wall and the table and can’t possibly get out without appearing very rude. So the conversation continues.

Matt doesn’t say much, but looks across at me often. It is definitely not lust in his eyes – his hooded eyelids convey a dash of contempt, if anything. I decide I don’t have anybody to impress and let forth what I suppose at the time would’ve passed for bawdy humour but would now seem crass and attention-seeking. I’d do anything for a laugh.

At the next gap in conversation, Matt takes a swig of his drink and leans over, saying loudly to me: “Do you know, I think you’re the most arrogant person I’ve ever met.”

The room goes deathly quiet – the only sound is the ice clinking in my glass as my hand trembles.

I laugh derisively and he gets up and walks out of the room.

About half an hour later, I decide it is time to go. I call a cab and wait for it outside the flat – the sky getting lighter and lighter as I smoke the bollocks off a Marlboro Light.

I hear the familiar diesel engine sound and my chariot pulls up. Suddenly by my side is Matt.

“Er, hi,” he says.
“It’s bye, actually,” I beam as I open the cab door.
“But…” he starts breathlessly. “Aren’t I coming with you?”
“What?!” I shriek. “Why would you be coming with me?”
“I thought I’d be coming home with you,” he says plainly.
I’m incredulous. “Why? I thought I was the most arrogant person you’d ever met.”
“You are. And I want to come home with you.”

I’ll never forget his look as I carefully close the cab door and tell the driver to go – his hopeful face getting smaller and smaller in the distance until it is just a dot.

I’m sure Matt wanted to teach me a lesson I’d never forget, and he did – just not the one he was hoping for. The only thing I learned from him was that I should stop being a dick at parties – and that men are depressingly impossible to read.

Image: cathydelmarnie on Flickr

Guardian Blind Date: Scottish Independence Special

Ever wondered what would happen if Scotland and England were to appear as romantic hopefuls in the Guardian’s Weekend magazine column Blind Date? Me neither. But, anyway, it might go something like this…

Fiercely independent Scotland, 1171, meets homely England, at least 1113.

Scotland on England

What were you hoping for?
The chance to meet somebody who’d let me be who I wanted to be.

First impressions?
A little domineering.

What did you talk about?
West Lothian, our health, cash. About how I was looking to travel but he’d rather stay at home. He seemed very interested in my skincare regime and which oils I used – and how much I had left.

Any awkward moments?
Every time I got up to go to the loo, he begged me to reconsider.

Good table manners?
Impeccable.

Best thing about England?
He seems keen to make a go of things.

Would you introduce England to your friends?
We already have a few mutual friends; I’m not sure I’d want him at all my social events.

Describe England in three words.
Flattering. Possessive. Deluded.

What do you think England made of you?
Hopefully he realised I was no pushover.

Did you go on somewhere?
Not together.

And… did you kiss?
I considered giving him a Glasgow one.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
That I’d left sooner.

Marks out of 10?
3. One for each century we spent together.

Would you meet again?
Maybe as allies.

England on Scotland

What were you hoping for?
Someone like me – in it for the long haul.

First impressions?
Rather flighty, with a lot of big ideas.

What did you talk about?
I talked money. I can’t really remember what she said – none of her arguments seemed to go anywhere.

Any awkward moments?
When I suddenly took an interest about 20 minutes before the end of the date. And she wouldn’t share pudding.

Good table manners?
Impeccable.

Best thing about Scotland?
She knows her own mind.

Would you introduce Scotland to your friends?
If we stay together, she has full access to my entire social circle. If not, well…

Describe Scotland in three words
Please. Don’t. Go.

What do you think Scotland made of you?
I think she might have found me a bit controlling. But hopefully she saw me as more than a friend.

Did you go on somewhere?
I wanted to talk some more – she wasn’t having any of it.

And… did you kiss?
Not even a Chelsea smile.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Now’s not a time to change. But I’d probably have listened to what she was saying more.

Marks out of 10?
We said we wouldn’t mark each other. But I say a lot of things. 7.

Would you meet again?
I’ll wait to see what she says first. (Probably not.)

  • Scotland and England ate at Café Ritazza, Southwaite motorway services on the M6.

See the real Guardian Blind Date column in all its glory/horror in the Weekend magazine every Saturday or read it online. I love it really.

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