We all need our comforts in times of trouble. Some of us reach for chocolate bars, our credit card, or even a bottle of vodka. In an uncertain world, when our mother’s knee is not as readily available as it used to be, we grab what we can to make us feel better. My therapy is perhaps one of the strangest of all, kinkier even than getting an Uber to a flat in Fulham and paying £150 to get thrashed with a cat o’ nine tails by a disinterested millennial who stands texting with their other hand. I take an innocent magazine column and dissect it, right here, with only a keyboard, a blank screen and an increasingly dwindling flair for eye-rolling. So here we go again.
Behold Daniel and Cecily, both 23 and far too young to be navigating the desperado tundra that is the Blind date column but that attention won’t grab itself, will it? Read what happened on the date before I dunk my biscuit one time too many and watch as most of it slides off into my Earl Grey.
I’m not being funny, but usually I’d be hoping any date I went on would not be suitable material for the family – if you know what I mean. (Sex.)
I can never decide whether the places the Guardian sends them are vital to the plot of the date or are a distraction. You put two 23-year-olds in a snooty restaurant and surely it can’t do anything but overwhelm them. I realise there’s sponsorship involved, and that’s how the meals are paid for, but I can’t help but think we’d get better results if we started sending daters for a bucket of chicken somewhere and then off to the park to down a bottle of Thunderbird before the gates shut.
Daniel – can I call you Dan, Daniel? Oh, OK, sorry – is clearly a regular reader of the Blind Date column, but why would he be surprised? It’s not as if week after week there’s a lineup of desperate horse-frighteners. Nobody who doesn’t like getting their photo taken has ever applied for this column.
I go out with a guy from just outside Glasgow and one of my favourite things to do is pull up a chair, snacks etc and watch him try to get Siri do something for him. From setting a timer to searching for a TV show on Netflix, it is never less than entertaining. As soon as I hear “Hey Siri”, I know that my abs are going to get a workout from intense belly laughing. That said, Siri is a robot/computer/whatever – you are a person, Cecily. The Glaswegian accent isn’t that hard to understand – it’s just the same words as us with “by the way” inexplicably tacked on to the end of every sentence and “aye” liberally dashed here and there. Oh, and the impenetrable slang, of course. Most of my friends are Scottish and my life is all the richer for it. Seriously, though, try harder – it’s a gorgeous vernacular that you should be bitterly envious you’re not fluent in.
It should be a law that if you’re Glaswegian and an English person asks you about deep-fried Mars bars, you’re allowed to douse them in Irn-Bru until they drown. Honestly. Is that the best you can do?
Cream teas. 23. I have literally never been less excited to scroll down as I have now. I think I’d rather open an envelope saying: “TEST RESULTS: PLEASE TAKE A SEAT BEFORE OPENING” than carry on, but it’s Saturday morning and this is what we do.
I’m not sure how I feel about menial tasks like cleaning the toilet, paying a bill or buying groceries being given this handy buzzword – which sounds like it came from a McDonald’s advert – to kind of jazz them up a bit or suggest they are achievements instead of things you simply have to do. But whatever.
I don’t know what a chocolate scientist is, but as someone whose working life has been plagued by people calling themselves brand guardians, content wizards and social media gurus, pardon me if I don’t have to cover my lap with a cushion in excitement.
Cream teas. This comes up on social media a lot. Like a scary amount. People really care about this. Except they don’t. Not most of them anyway. In times of intense globalisation, where most of us shop at the same stores, eat the same food, listen to the same music and have very similar Instagram accounts – oh look a funny sign! – we have to grab every chance we can to find our niche, carve out on identity for ourselves. It’s like supporting a football team but requires much less effort. So we pretend to care about which order the – I don’t know what would you call them? Toppings?! I don’t care – are added to a scone. A scone in itself is a pretty contentious baked good, as nobody can quite agree on how to pronounce it (rhymes with “gone”, don’t @ me) but it reaches new level of pointless mutual trolling when a cream tea is brought into the mix. Stop pretending you care about this. I bet most people willing to die on this hill fashioned from jam and cream have eaten a maximum of three cream teas in the life. Honestly, just get a piercing if you want to express yourself.
“I can only imagine the chat after I got out.” I mean, I’ve only read halfway and I can pretty much guess.
I mean unless he was chucked onto the train tracks, this is a story that could use a bit more vim, you know? But I guess if this is awkward as it gets, it can’t be all bad.
Pro tip: if you eat like Donald Trump claiming a discount at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, just prattle on about cream teas – your date will be too spellbound by your stellar chat to notice.
I’m joking, they are SWEET.
I am usually fairly wary of “great smile” because it tends to be a nicer, diplomatic say of avoiding talking about something else. Children who pick their noses and eat them in wedding photos are deemed to have a “nice smile” by horrified aunties. When you’re trying to tell a friend that you don’t fancy the funny, amiable Nosferatu they’ve set you up with, “nice smile” usually gets doled out. Here, however, I feel Daniel is being genuine.
What would clinch it for you in the realm of free stuff? People love it, don’t they? I’ve never been that bothered, because the thing with things that come for free – unless they are given with love – are that they’re usually of inferior quality, someone else doesn’t want them or, more often than not, you’ll have to pay in some other way.
I am not that keen on that chocolate except at Easter so access to free “choccywoo” would leave me cold, I’m afraid. A man who could connect me to free, lifetime supply of T-shirts, salami Milano, moisturiser and haircuts, however, and I would very probably be lapping it up.
CHATTY, comme un chat français. FUN, like a party always is about three seconds before I arrive. FRIENDLY, like that French cat a couple of lines up, especially if you offered it some, oh I don’t know, baguette, or an onion.
SCOTTISH, like Ruth Davidson. POLITE, like Erica Davidson. RESERVED, like the table across the restaurant, that’s better than yours, farther away from the toilets and, will not be filled the entire time you sit there, staring at it resentfully.
How much is too much? Daniel says she was “so easy to talk to” as the best thing about her earlier in the column, but then goes on to describe her as “chatty” in his three words. What’s the magic balance of talking *just* enough not to be seen as awkward but not too much that you’re taking over. It’s a minefield, isn’t it? And women seem to worry about it more than most – you almost never see a man saying this here.
Cecily. Oh. This feels low at first, but then if you read back, Cecily doesn’t say much about Daniel at all other than the fact he’s Scottish and how inexplicably mind-blowing she finds it. Daniel’s 9 looks all the lonelier, curving round at the bottom in that hopeful smile.
Sorry, pal, looks like yer tea’s oot. Unless it all comes together in the final question…
Photographs: Sarah Lee, Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian
Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. Know what I mean, hen? Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story.