Category Archives: Dating 101

Owner of a lonely heart

We’re long used to living our lives in public. Even before social media really took off and we were all superstars in our own storylines, there were plenty of opportunities to show the rest of the world who we were – Big Brother is almost 17 years old, after all.

For anyone too timid or claustrophobic to live in a pretend house with 12 sociopaths and Brian Dowling, there are dating shows. Take Me Out, First Dates, The Undateables, Dinner Date – playing voyeur to poor hapless souls’ search for romance has never been so popular.

Sharing our romantic struggles way pre-dates even the internet; there’s nothing new about matchmaking as a spectator sport. Cilla Black took her first curtsy on Saturday night stalwart Blind Date over 30 years ago, with a host of imitators trying to recapture the primetime magic of Cupid’s arrow ever since. Despite the fact that most first dates are awkward, agonising garbage fires littered with bad jokes, deathly silences, revulsion and dreary bickering over splitting the bill, humans seem to have a death wish, ever eager to show off how supremely undateable they really are. Newspapers and magazines all over the world send two hapless punters out to a local restaurant for a free meal in the hope a carafe or two of the house red and a hovering waiter will be enough to loosen some tongues and fill column inches, perhaps the most notable example being the Guardian’s Blind Date column in its Weekend magazine every Saturday, which I gently eviscerate on my blog.


If I’m harsh on the participants of the Blind Date column, it’s because I speak from bitter experience. The call is coming from inside the house: I appeared in a similar one myself.

Years ago, the Observer ran a monthly column called Up Close and Personals, which would delve into dating profiles to see how the hunt for Mr Right was going. I do not believe in regrets, particularly – they seem like such a waste of time – but I am terrible for lying awake at night and replaying bad decisions in my head. One I could really do without, though – I need the space for all my future mistakes – is my decision to appear in this column, back in 2010. And here it is:


Why did I do it? I could lie to you here and say I thought my story was worth sharing. Perhaps I could claim that I aspired to give hope to other singletons out there, or make them laugh at my poor fortune. But this is nonsense. I just wanted the attention.

One of my favourite things about the digital age is how much attention we can get if we’re up for it. We can put as little or as much of ourselves as we like to get it, although, sadly, we can’t control the attention we receive, either in quality or quantity. It either comes or it doesn’t, and we either like it or we don’t.


I wasn’t getting much of it at the time. I was living alone for the first time ever, staring at the walls and fanning myself against the oppressive heat of that first lonely summer. The blog was in its infancy, read only by a handful of strangers and the flies who’d land on my laptop screen.

Usually the best way to get attention, and the preferred, acceptable way of dealing with it, is to pretend you don’t want it at all. So I could say to myself back in 2010 that I wasn’t interested in the attention at all, that it was “an experiment”. Oh my goodness, I mean please. I’ve written for a living for almost two decades – I crave attention. It is my fuel. I write to be read. Without actual, physical attention, with zero eyes on my words, I am nothing, dead. Plants need light and water; writers need your eyes.

So, back in 2010, I wanted two strands of attention: I wanted someone to read it and think they should commission me to write something for them and, perhaps more easily as it turned out, I wanted a man to read it, look at my photo, and fall in love with me.


What? You never dreamed of that? That someone would just lay eyes on you and be immediately smitten, as if they’d just drunk a magic fairy-tale potion? Oh, man, that’s a shame. Dream big. The whole dating thing – from start to finish – had been about getting attention. As I said in the column, albeit paraphrased heavily, “I wanted to check whether I was still attractive”. When you’re with someone for eight years, you’re never sure whether they’re telling you you’re handsome because it’s true, or out of habit, obligation, fear, or a combination of all four.

I answered an ad. A journalist phoned me. We spoke. I did not write it myself, as you can see from the journalist’s byline. I agonised over which photo to send in. I sent around five, I think.

I know how it must feel for the Guardian Blind Date couple when they see the finished product. “Is that me?” they may wonder. “Did I really say that?” Well, yes it is. And, yes, you probably did.

They hadn’t picked the picture I liked; I looked like I was leering into the camera (because I was). The interview’s paraphrasing of our conversation made me sound quite cold. My reference to my previous relationship came across as particularly flippant out of context, and my ex was upset about that. It looked like I’d explained away almost a decade of what was in actual fact a very happy relationship as a mere blip, an inconvenience that I’d dealt with – but I must have known this could happen.

I hadn’t told anybody it was going to be in, so I had a run of shocked texts from friends, family and, mortifyingly,  a few previous dates. My ex’s parents were particularly unamused – what must I have looked like? Exactly what I was, I suppose: an attention-seeker looking for the validation I lacked and the reinvention I needed.


I did get attention, most of it from readers tracking me down on Facebook or Guardian Soulmates. Some were women who hadn’t read the small-print, and the rest were men chancing their arm, at least half of them without their underwear. Like I say, you can’t choose how you get it. If you throw out your line, you’ll catch something eventually.

But it could’ve been worse. At least I was a lone voice in my column, even though they weren’t my exact words. No other side of the story, no rebuttals, or arguments, no contradictions. That’s what makes the Guardian’s Bind Date so terrifying and exciting at the same time – and so dangerous.

There’s a school of thought that says to be truly entertaining, you need conflict, but watching people argue or feel nothing but contempt for one another is a temporary buzz that soon becomes tiresome. Insults, hair-pulling and grudges quickly lose their lustre once you realise there’s nobody left to root for, and while watching the fur fly is the backbone of reality TV, what we really need is a story we can get behind. Reading about your average Joes and Joannes cringing their way through a starter, or bite their tongue in horror at a clanger they’ve just dropped, gives us hope, it reassures. Contrary to what you may have read in my blog, the ones where they get on are way richer, more satisfying.

We’re just like them, we think, except we would never go so far as to seek attention like that. And then we pause for a selfie, or write a funny tweet, or do a quick meme, and post it to our 3,000 followers, our heart beating that little bit faster every time a like comes in.

We are all Blind Daters now. We always have been. But they dare to do it in print. They’re extra. Once you’ve done it, you’ll know just how brilliantly brave – and a little bit stupid – that is.


Note: The Impeccable blog returns next week

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We need to make room for some light negativity

Main image: The Observer, September 2010. Faint trace of a leer: model’s own.


Which Twitter A-levels pundit should you aspire to date?

It’s A-level results day on 18 August, which means a lot of people who maybe once years ago sat some exam have a great deal of opinions, bons mots and tales of struggle and survival to share with… well, each other. No teens are really watching are they? Who knows?

But which one of these educational experts or university of life graduates would make the best boyfriend? Let’s see!

“Don’t worry about it. I didn’t get any A-levels and look at me now!”
Look at him now! Jeremy Clarkson sipping champagne in St Tropez and trying not to assault anybody! Richard Branson, a zillionaire who still looks like Santa left under the grill too long! Simon Cowell, still has no idea about jeans. None of them got A-levels! Not a one!

What do they all have in common? They have lots of money and live a perfectly decent lifestyle. And yet.

Hand on heart could you ever truly say you wanted to be them? Or shag them? Ending up being sewn into your dad-jeans every day with a hairstyle that a magician couldn’t fix, let alone a barber, is the best advert I can think of for retaking those A-levels over and over again until you’re in your mid-fifties.

Date rating: 2/10. 4 if you really, really like Talksport, cava and collapsing into a heap of cholesterol on your 61st birthday.


“Just follow your dreams!”
Following your dreams is actually harder than it looks, because some people dream about being an astronaut or being able to walk through walls. Following your dreams does take hard work, yes, and usually, I’m afraid, rather a lot of self-confidence and MONEY. Got none of that? Um, well, maybe see if there’s a Marilyn Monroe quote out there to help you along.

Men who tell you to follow your dreams have usually achieved theirs – which is great – but they’re only really happy for you to follow yours if a) it does not in some way interrupt the express ride to their own achievements and b) you are funding this yourself. Oh, and c) they don’t have to talk to you about them.

Date rating: 6/10. Think of all the fridge magnets he’ll buy you at Christmas.


“Let me tell you about my victory over adversity.”
You think you’ve had it hard? He’s had it harder, you know. There may well be some Venn diagram overlap with the “Follow your dreams” guy, but this one will have tales of grit and hardship.

There are some odds to be overcome, a struggle to be had and – because every boring story told down the pub needs a hero – a huge, exaggerated victory.

Yet he makes it sound so easy! That’s because he has left out the four years he spent working at CarpetRight, crying in the stockroom.

Date rating: 5/10. Hours of fun to be had saying “Axminster” at random intervals.

“It’s not the end of the world.”
Says the media darling tweeting only to the clique he’s worked with, or met networking, or wants to meet, or might find useful, or screwed, or wants to screw, or wants to write for, or wants to write for him, or… you get the general idea.

Failing A-levels is not the end of the world to him because he is 34 and editing out double-spacing or hyphens that think they’re en-dashes in agency copy. Now that is the end of the world.

Date rating: 3/10. That should read a 4, but he hasn’t spotted the typo.


“I just, you know, got my A-levels, went to uni, got on with it and that’s it, really.”
What? No humblebrag? No Hollywood ending? This can’t be happening.

People who ‘just get on with it’ are myths – the unicorns of social media. If you find one, hang on for dear life.

Date rating: 7/10. Perhaps you could ‘adapt’ their story into something more exciting when you’ve finished tweeting your own. It’s what your followers would have wanted.


“I can’t believe I got my A-level results 17 years ago.”
Should you maybe not be thinking about something else, then? Maybe time to let go. Men who are amazed at the concept and passage of time tend to be dull over-thinkers, endlessly pondering their own mortality and forgetting to take the rubbish out.

Date rating: 4/10. They tend to be poor sleepers, worrying for hours at a time about something they said in 1984.


“Teenagers don’t care about your advice anyway; they are not reading your feed. You are 100.”
Every kingdom needs a ruler and when it comes to Twitter’s echelons of superiority, this arch commentator thinks he’s it.

He will compose his snide, wryly amusing tweets and press “Tweet” with a maniacal flourish, like Dorothy Parker ordering another round of absinthe for the Algonquin Round Table.

The trouble with kings is that they are never fully in control. And they never look up. But if they did, they would see that the sky is not the very top after all; there is… more!

Date rating: 7/10. At least in his own small bubble, he’s top of the heap. You might enjoy the odd bask in his glory when he passes 8 retweets and texts you excitedly about it.


“Everyone moaning about people talking down to teenagers who don’t care about your advice anyway – you are the lamest of them all.”
Kings give way to emperors and here’s our Lord and Master, who has recently become the sole heir of Twitter in its entirety thanks to a few strategic deaths or social media hires. His plinth is the highest of them all (as far as he knows) and this meta-God can only shake his head in disappointment as we all fall into the same trap we do every year when A-level results come out.

“They just don’t get it,” he cries out into the wilderness, from the tallest window of the uppermost floor of his lonely palace. “They… they are just as bad. They’re worse. You’re all terrible.”

Date rating: 9/10. He’s the one. He knows it all. And if you’re lucky, his head might burst and then Twitter will all be yours.

“I am going to write a blog about things people say about A-levels on Twitter.”
No. I’m stopping now. Don’t fuck this guy.

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33 things your date will worry about while waiting for you to turn up

Image: Flickr

55 reasons to ditch your boyfriend

1. Your boyfriend points to broccoli on a restaurant menu and tells you it’s “the colon’s broom”.

2. Your boyfriend waits until he gets to the front of the queue in McDonalds before looking at the menu and deciding what to have.

3. Your boyfriend while you’re out of town:

ITV/Celebrity Juice
ITV/Celebrity Juice

4. Your boyfriend has just wished a baby a happy birthday on Facebook.

5. Your boyfriend buys you panettone for Christmas.

6. Your boyfriend is planning to propose to you on Christmas Day.

7. Your boyfriend‘s made me a mixtape.

Keisha Stronger headphones

8. Your boyfriend took a picture of a milkshake and Instagrammed it with a “brings all the boys to the yard”-related caption.

9. Your boyfriend says he’s still on BT Cellnet.

10. Your boyfriend asks shops whether they “take Switch”.

11. Your boyfriend says “All the double-yous” when reading out a URL.

12. Your 34-year-old boyfriend gets upset if his parents haven’t bought him an advent calendar.

13. Your boyfriend was out in Soho on his own last night.

Alexis rented

14. Your boyfriend‘s just putting the finishing touches to his YouTube parody of Adele’s Hello video.

15. Your boyfriend‘s been telling me what he really wants to watch on Netflix.

16. Your boyfriend voted for himself on the Rainbow List.

17. Your boyfriend films the local firework display. In portrait.

18. Your boyfriend‘s legs are like his DMs – open to all so anyone can slide on in.

19. Your boyfriend bought this pan thinking it was a great idea.

Tom Daley/Instagram
Tom Daley/Instagram

20. Your boyfriend tells the driver his destination when he gets on the bus.

21. Your boyfriend says yes to a Paperchase loyalty card when there’s a queue of 17 people behind him.

22. Your boyfriend puts his Uber rating in his Twitter bio.

23. Your boyfriend writes open letters.

24. Your boyfriend tapped his Oyster card on the reader repeatedly even though it said “Seek assistance”

25. Your boyfriend put this pic on Facebook and captioned it “me and bae”


26. Your boyfriend calls you “Sir Tweet-a-lot.”

27. Your boyfriend can’t start his day without that “caffeine boost” from his favourite “cup of Joe”

28. Your boyfriend interjects when strangers mispronounce ‘espresso’.

29. Your boyfriend goes to cafes and says no when someone asks him to watch their laptop while they go to the loo. “What am I supposed to do if someone tries to take it? Ninja-chop them?” No.

30. Your boyfriend pins his own memes.

31. Your boyfriend just posted ten YouTube links each with the caption “TUNEAGE : MALLORCA MEMORIES 93”

32. Your boyfriend did this on his first day as a social media manager:


33. Your boyfriend is anxious to “get a good seat” at The Breakfast Club at the weekend.

34. Your boyfriend pronounces eggs Copenhagen the opposite way to the waiter on purpose.

35. Your boyfriend asks to switch eggs with you as soon as the plate arrives. His are “too runny”

36. Your boyfriend asks for baked beans in a bowl on the side so they don’t touch his bacon.

37. Your boyfriend thinks microwaving porridge is sacrilegious.

38. Your boyfriend is still secretly disappointed that Ready Brek doesn’t *actually* make you glow.

39. Your boyfriend asks for straightened croissants.

40. Your boyfriend buys Tuc crackers because Jessie J does.


41. Your boyfriend insists on sitting near the window in Nando’s because it’s the only place he can get phone signal.

42. Your boyfriend: “I’m just going to take a selfie of myself.”

43, Your boyfriend: “Ooh, I don’t half drink a lot of tea. And I really like it. I should mention this in my bio.”

44. “I like to watch them go in.” – Your boyfriend, talking about Celebrity Big Brother. Apparently.

45. Your boyfriend wears these sunglasses:


46. Your boyfriend hopes you like your Baylis & Harding gift set.

47. Your boyfriend wonders aloud why someone hasn’t “replied back”.

48. Your boyfriend‘s updated his LinkedIn because he’s moved desks.

49. Your boyfriend‘s Gmail password is the town and year of his birth and then an ‘x’

50. Your boyfriend tweeted this:


51.Your boyfriend goes to parties and, after introducing himself, the first thing he says is: “I’ve never seen Star Wars. Is that weird?”

52. Your boyfriend sent me a LinkedIn invitation before our meeting was over.

53. Your boyfriend thinks Boris Johnson is “bants”.

54. Your boyfriend says “Netflix and Chill” when he means he wants to watch a movie.

55. Your boyfriend sees himself as a “male Carrie Bradshaw”.


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Image: Unsplash/Ian Schneider

23 signs you’re dating a Christmas Fanatic

As the song goes, Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year”, but for many of us, it belongs in the last couple of weeks of December and exists purely as an excuse to get drunk in a horrible jumper and open loads of presents that you’ll be queuing up with in Customer Services in a couple of days.

But what if you find yourself loved up with Santa’s missing elf? What if your other half is actually, underneath the reindeer horns and ugly Christmas ‘pullover’, Father Christmas’s keenest son?

Have you got yourself a Christmas fanatic? Here’s how to spot one:

1. They set their alarm to go off to the sound off sleigh bells. In July.

2. The Christmas playlist kickoff date gets earlier and earlier. Again, we’re up to July.


3. You walk in the lounge in September to find your other half very carefully adding the 1,000th bauble to a seven-foot artificial Christmas tree.
“This one is just to do us until we can get a real one in December,” he’ll say.


4. Your breakfast cup of tea tastes suspiciously mulled.  Continue reading 23 signs you’re dating a Christmas Fanatic

Why you should never date the Christmas Refusenik

“I don’t do Christmas,” he will say, his face pinched with misery. Quite a statement, and one loaded with meaning.

To him, Santa is just an anagram of Satan and nothing more. You can deal with this, though, you tell yourself. You can make him adore the festive period – everybody says they hate it, but love it really. You can play him Winter Wonderland over and over. Maybe hang some jingling bells off your privates. And so your denial continues.

But as the nights draw in and the Christmas lights start twinkling, you’ll realise when someone says they don’t “do Christmas”, sometimes they mean it. He’ll tell you he’s not “doing presents or Christmas parties” – Christmas Refuseniks spend a lot of time telling you what they’re NOT doing.


He’ll wince at tuneless Christmas carolling and hiss and tut when he receives a Christmas card from another poor soul who thinks they can rehabilitate Santa’s Little Detractor. He’ll use your Phil Spector Christmas album as a coaster and – horror upon horror – delete all your copies of Mariah’s All I Want For Christmas Is You from your iTunes.


Continue reading Why you should never date the Christmas Refusenik

11 guaranteed ways to destroy your relationship

The thing with many relationships is they have a certain shelf life, don’t they? When you’re in them, and know you need to be out of them, it can actually be difficult to move things along to their natural end.

Sure, you don’t want to be with this person any more, but it’s not like you want to kill them. What you need is a catalyst, that spark to ignite the fireworks that will send your relationship bye-bye, to that great love nest in the sky.

So if you’re eager to move on to the next stage of your relationship – jealously scouring their Facebook for new loves, bitching about your ex on WhatsApp and crying whenever you hear a Celine Dion – take your pick from this list of guaranteed relationship destroyers.

1. Put together a wardrobe from Ikea
There’s an old cliché that going to Ikea itself can cause catastrophic rows between couples, but if you can’t handle a three-hour schlep round a furniture shop without tearing each other’s heads off, you’re basic or whatever. Nobody argues in Ikea any more. It is the bootcut of argument-starters. Over.

What you really need is to buy, arrange delivery of and attempt to build, the hugest wardrobe you can find in Ikea. Tell yourself that you’re “dead handy” and “it will be fun, our little project” all you want – by the time you’re on to the second door you’ll be wielding drills and tearing the joint apart screaming at each other about how bad the sex is. Continue reading 11 guaranteed ways to destroy your relationship

How to be “the boy”

You can’t move on social media or in an airport novel for mentions of “the boy”, that mythical perfect boyfriend who gets their partner’s eyes and tweets all a-flutter.

“Meeting the boy for drinks later,” they coo, as they skip down to whichever chichi future-dive their beau is sitting in, batting his sweet little eyes at the rest of the clientele.

But who is The Boy? How do you get to be one? What does he do? Much like the “Cool Girl”, “The Boy” is a fantasy of perfection.

In my head, The Boy is not the reality: an amiable, farting beard machine who clogs up the plughole, always makes you reach for the tissues and has never heard of a courtesy flush. The Boy for me is a handsome, slightly malevolent, and somewhat enthusiastically dull yet louche character like Dickie Greenleaf from The Talented Mr Ripley. Do you have one? Are you The Boy?

Behold The Boy checklist:

His nipples align perfectly. His skin is soft and shines only with youth and brilliance, not oil. There are one or two blemishes – perhaps a chicken pox scar or a dinky mole, but the faults are few and far between.

When he beckons, you come.


Perpetually 27, his Sundays are Instagram-ready hours of lazy brunches, huge roasts served on slabs of slate in that pub in East London – the one from Time Out 7 months ago. Mocktails!

Nobody is every quite sure what he does, but his job at least sounds good on LinkedIn. It involves vague transatlantic travelling, using the word “synergy” in meetings,  and lots of Uber rides. The Boy has a perfectly curated playlist just waiting to go as soon as he bounds into the car and, needless to say, he has a 4.9 star rating. Continue reading How to be “the boy”