Impeccable Table Manners

Thom and Vincent

It begins. 2018 is not for messing about; we’re getting on with it, cutting oldo the chase. With that in mind, meet Thom, a 30-year-old doctor, and Vincent, 23, an actor/artist – wow that “stroke” in the middle of actor and artist could be a novel all of its own – who’ve agreed to be photographed in a studio, left hanging about for a few weeks, before heading to the same pizza restaurant in the West End of London and sitting opposite each other while all the waiting staff stare, mark their attractiveness out of 10, do funny voices as they serve them, and then look at their arses as they leave. Possibly.

Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Read what happened on the date on the Guardian website, before I pick the last pine needle out of my foot, pour us all the dregs of the Bailey’s from the bottle and get stuck in. Let’s GO.

It’s true that not every good story has to have a disaster behind it. But it helps.

The lyrics to the lost verse of the Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men have finally surfaced and, well, let’s just say they’re a little less sexually charged than we’d hoped, guys.

If this were an old dog-eared copy of one of the original Armistead Maupin Tales of the City books, Vincent’s standing up would actually be some kind of horrific gay code which meant because your date could easily stand up on your arrival, it meant he didn’t have an erection and thus didn’t fancy you because you were an uggo. But as this is 2017 London and not ’70s “Frisco”, it’s probably a very sweet attempt at chivalry, perhaps honed from years of watching James Bond stand up for one of his beautiful, leggy love interests who’s usually dead by the end of the movie.

Btw, have you ever noticed on TV dramas or comedies, when someone is invited to something, they reply “I’d like that” instead of the very normal “That sounds great” or “Would love to!”. Scriptwriters can you please cut it out, because nobody ever says that in real life. It always reminds me of Dallas matriarch Miss Ellie saying it whenever Pam or Sue Ellen would invite her out for lunch at some dreary peach-upholstered nouvelle cuisine haunt. Thanks.

Eyes are a thing, aren’t they? People go wild for them. They’re like the acceptable thing to perv over now openly salivating over someone’s boobs, bum or “package” is no longer the done thing. Anyway, yeah, Thom has nice eyes.

I’ve told this story before but it’s one of my favourites so here goes. Many moons ago, I went on a date with a very handsome man who kept staring intently into my eyes and topping up my wine like it was a promise. At the end of the date we kissed, but he told me that although he didn’t “want the night to end” we should go home separately, so as not to “spoil the magic”. He cupped my face in his hands and kissed me one last time, before gazing deep into my peepers, giving a love-drunk smile and leaving me at the bus stop. I floated home. A day or two later, he messaged me asking me out again.
“Can’t wait to see you,” he gushed, “and those big brown eyes of yours.”

Reader, my eyes are blue. We did not see one another again.

SO much to unpack here. Like, oppressively so. “First day back after a three-week all-inclusive tour round the Balearics” levels of unpacking to do. So I’m going to do what I always do when I come back from anywhere and leave most of it, unpacking only really easy, clean items I know I can put away and forget about.

Nepal and Buddhism – OK, at least it’s different from “the London dating scene”.
Artsy – what does it mean? In my experience, wearing clothes that don’t fit you which seem to have fallen onto you from a first-floor window, and never washing out your coffee mugs properly.
How credit cards work – you hand them over to a shop assistant who probably loathes you and then punch in a PIN. Do you need a diagram?
Brexit – shut up.
Travels – fascinating.
Hobbies – fascinatinger.
The gay community – *laughs until the end of time or Madonna’s next number one single, whichever comes first*
Mindfulness – to me this is just being extra careful of the gap between the train and the platform at Balham station in 2004.

Yes, that is quite awkward. This is why wearing pink carnations or carrying a copy of Horse and Hound used to be popular back in the day.

I’m confused. Does this mean “No, not awkward at all, so the conversation flowed”? Or does it mean “Yes, horrendously awkward; I was trying to meditate and be mysterious by chucking out the odd syllable every ten minutes but the conversation flowed so I couldn’t concentrate.”


Niche, yes, I know.

Hahaha wow the bar for men on dates is so low it’s practically underground. A cricket would struggle to limbo under it.

Not checking your phone is such normal, expected behaviour that I wonder what absolute monsters poor Thom must have met before. No doubt dreary social influencers who simply had to get a shot of that asparagus salad before they tucked in, or perma-tumescent sex dolls who would revert to Grindr as soon as the conversation lulled.

Acceptable times to check your phone when on a date:
– While they are at the toilet
– While you are at the toilet
– While they are at the bar
– While you are at the bar
– When they’re trying to stick it in but struggling, so you’re googling a quick YouTube how-to
– Your mum phones

That’s IT.

Vincent is NICE. They both are, actually. Too nice and kind for this cruel world. I’m torn between wanting them to get together, and encouraging them to go out into the world and reform a couple of bastards who so desperately need it.

“But the rest are arseholes.”

OR

“My mates Richie and Sam are doing Veganuary.”

OMG Vincent is a SQUIRREL and we never noticed.

Friendly, like the squirrel in The Children of Cherry-Tree Farm.
Inquisitive, like the squirrel in The Children of Cherry-Tree Farm.
Earnest, like – hang on, people are saying this more and more these days, aren’t they? Sincere appears to have gone out of fashion, or isn’t extreme enough. Strange. Anyway, Earnest, like Ernest but with an A.

Interesting, like a “lovely piece on Alma Cogan” in a women’s magazine.
Positive, like a pregnancy test.
Visionary, like the name of a really tacky (expensive) brand of jeans in the ’90s, where all the denim had bits of traffic cone, crisp packet and metal chains hanging off it because design.

I suppose doctors, by nature, ask a lot of questions, don’t they?
“How long has it been bleeding? Do you have any pain elsewhere? Are you aware your head is actually hanging right off your shoulders? Did you know you have walked into Pret A Manger by mistake?” – that kind of thing.

Good to ask questions on a date. It is, after all, just a job interview with no biscuits.

Talkative, like – WHOA we did this already, no? What’s going on? They should do this actually! Try to guess the three words the other person used. MUCH more fun, and avoids the copout answer, “Oh I have no idea”. Anyway, bad news for Vincent (Vinny? Vin? Vince? Vincenzo? I must know) as he’s guessed precisely zero out of three.

Stop this. It breaks my heart when the gay guys or girls do this. “The next day” is merely a vague concept, the suppression of free spirits, creativity, and, more importantly, boning a stranger all night. You’re an artist, Vino; surely to reject the constraints of these “work commitments” would be your ultimate project?

I mean, OK, perhaps Thom has to be on the wards by 5am, in which case, he has an excuse. But couldn’t you have gone along with him and had a fumble in a cupboard full of syringes or the staff locker room? They do it on Holby City, like, all the time.

For some reason the very slight difference in answer here is making me laugh quite hoarsely. It tells a thousand stories, loaded with intent, meaning, misunderstanding, aspirations, and lust. It is fantastically evocative and to comment any further on it would be to break the spell for ever. I must let it be.

Oh. Oh, boys. I… I don’t know if I want to look.

The seven. It can’t be ignored; it demands our attention. We know what it means. We have sat here on endless Saturday mornings for three and a half years, and we have come to know this column better than it knows itself. And we know, despite all the positivity, the light, the clinking of glasses and the shy look away after every synchronised smile, that the 7 is shaped that way because it a scythe, and it is coming for your hopes and dreams.

It’s made all the more poignant by Vincent’s 8, which could wibble and wobble and topple over into a 9 any minute now. Vincent’s 8 is a hand is reaching for the handle on the passenger side; Thom’s 7 is the gentle tap of the foot on the accelerator that takes the car just an inch or two out of his grasp every time.

Thom, with his eyes so bright and clear, can see everything – this is his clarification on the future.

Disclaimer: The comments I make about the couples are meant to be light, playful and merely a LOL to help us escape the joyless tundra of our daily existence. My responses are based only on the answers given by the participants, which the Guardian chooses to publish and usually edits to make them less boring or fit onto the page. Boys, I was rooting for you. I believe in you. Mediate. Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story; I’m nice.

Note: If you’ve liked this – maybe you even LOVED it – do think about sharing it among your wider networks. It really helps raise awareness of my work and also leads to me getting paid for things. If, like me, you have zero power or influence, maybe you’d like to buy my novel instead! Google “The Last Romeo Justin Myers” and purchase from your preferred retailer. Ebook out 1 Feb ’18; paperback follows 31 May. 

3 Comments

  1. Simply marvellous. As always! The Absolutely pic made me howl and I’m now compelled to spend the afternoon looking up Stoneybridge Town Council sketches on YouTube.

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