Impeccable Table Manners

Alice and Joe

They say youth is wasted on the young, don’t they? That if we, at our advanced age, could snatch it back and do it all again, better, we would.

I’ve always said that youth is, in fact, a punishment meted out retrospectively. Youth exists only for us to have something to look back on and regret when we’re older. All these people who become millionaires at 21 because they invented a social media network for people to share pictures of peg bags, or apps that tell you how fast your hair is growing, are missing the point of being young. You are supposed to screw everything up, throw it all away, so that when you’re older you can learn from it and try to be successful and responsible before it’s too late. Start early and get yourself sorted before 30 and, well, you’re staring into the abyss of an early death in the bath with a coke-clogged nose when your inevitable midlife crisis rebellion kicks in.

Alice and Joe

Two people who are definitely going to sit in their rocking chairs and wish they’d partied a little bit harder are today’s Guardian Blind Daters. Read what happened on the date between Alice, 23, an arts fundraiser, and 25-year-old musician Joe, before I unwrap a set of Werther’s Originals and get chewing.

Alice, who looks vaguely, disturbingly familiar, starts us off:

alice hoping

Bad luck, then, Alice, that the Guardian has set you up with a musician, as I imagine being an arts fundraiser you must meet quite a few of those.

“A nice dinner.” Readers, my nana is back from the dead and cutting up a Mars bar into slices if you want some?

joe hoping

“A good meal in good company.” The sort of answer you’d hear from a 74-year-old contestant on Challenge TV reruns of Mr & Mrs, not tumbling from the mouth of a 25-year-old musician.

alice first

I love it when the woman describes the guy as “chatty” because it is almost certainly a diss in every instance. Anyway, Alice thinks Joe is friendly, which is nice, although it’s probably the kind of word your auntie would use about the most vicious of her cats in an effort to get you to pet it.

“No, it’s OK, Tibbles is really friendly, go on stroke him.” Seconds later:

File 16-01-2016

joe first

We are playing Jeopardy and the question is “What would your basic, middle-class friend’s mum say about Kate Middleton?”

alice talk

Baking, pottery and museums. See what I mean about youth being a punishment? 60-year-old Alice is going to look back on this and think “fucking hell”.

“Being valued for what you do” = two millennials wang on about how annoying it is that the world doesn’t see just how totally brilliant they are and kiss their feet for it every day.

We have all worked in an office with one of these, haven’t we? Strolling in late and taking 20 minutes to turn their computer on, flicking through BuzzFeed or Vice or MailOnline for another half-hour, wandering off for a coffee break and then, when you finally ask them to do something, they tell you they feel undervalued and need to do something more exciting and creative, and sign themselves off with stress to go home and watch Homes Under The Hammer, ironically.

joe talk

“Drinking in parks in teens.” Adele’s 25 album has come to life! I don’t imagine the parks these two drank in while teenagers will have been the rough kind with broken glass everywhere, vandalised tennis courts and odd, random pages of pornography strewn in the bushes. Alice and Joe look like the kind of teens who’d smuggle “a half-pint of shandy booze” into Proms in the Park and think they were Iggy Pop.

I could be wrong.

Oh, and “Nazi art theft”? Hmmm. Have you noticed that Joe looks a bit like a taller, less slick Moriarty from Sherlock? I don’t know why he’d be talking about Nazi art theft but whoooomp – there it is.


alice awks

joe awks


Table manners next. I wonder what they’re going to pull out of their (Anya Hindmarch) bags for us, eh?

alice table

joe table


This is like watching two “Speak Your Weight” machines bag off with each other.

alice best thing

This is nice. This is a nice thing to say. It’s nice. She was nice about him. This is good. They’re in a magazine, after all.

You don’t want someone to say, “He bored on about his pointless, dogged determination to learn Japanese, which he will probably use to chat up bored bar workers in Tokyo, before driving me into a coma with his witless musings about pottery, which he took up to give his hands something to do other than play the guitar and pull himself off.”

Definitely not.

joe best thing

ENGAGING! Like a PowerPoint slide! Like a corporate health and safety video presented by Ant and Dec! Like a specially commissioned abstract painting in the reception at Deutsche Bank! ENGAGING!

alice three

ENGAGING! Like a brochure for a day spa! Like a display of hair gels in a hairdresser’s window! Like an instruction manual for a George Foreman grill! ENGAGING! Like pretty much anything other than the answers these two have given so far.

If these two haven’t been emailing each other, proofing their answers and making sure everything is “on brand” I will be very, very surprised.

joe three

“You had to be there.”

alice made of

He thought you were engaging! Like a… oh, you get the idea. Alice seems nice. They both do. They just deserve to have a night out with a little more kick to it than this boring old trundle round the crematorium.

They are 23 and 25. Fifteen years from the future – a dystopian future featuring osteoarthritis, grey hair and an overwhelming sense of underachievement I like to call BEING 40 – my soul is shouting itself hoarse. Do something, anything, before the elasticity in your skin, and your pelvises, is gone for good.

joe made of again


THANKS JOE. Saving all your words for your lyrics, I guess.

joe go on

Oh, might they, Joe?


alice change

“I was happy with how it went” sounds like something from a customer testimonial in a brochure for double glazing.

If they both wanted to go on somewhere, why the HELL didn’t they? “If it had been the weekend” – fuck the weekend, it’s now. There will never be another now.

So you’ll be tired at work tomorrow, so what? So you might find yourself buying out-of-date condoms from a machine in a dodgy pub staffed by the living embodiment of emphysema, so WHAT? Live this life that’s been bestowed upon you. Stay out a bit later than usual. FUCK someone you just met. Appear in a magazine. Make your autobiography a page-turner. You owe it to yourself, AND us sitting at home, reading this ab-so-lute trivia.


alice score

alice score

Eight. The beige, non-committal, “twirling its hair round its finger in faux-seduction because it’s desperate not to appear too… well, desperate” number that says absolutely nothing. They appear to have got on quite well – he could put Alice’s description of him on his CV, let’s face it – yet their scores seem businesslike, doled out with all the sexual anticipation of a warning label on the back of a bottle of bleach.

So they’ve talked about pottery, she’s pretended to care he’s learning Japanese, and they both wish they’d stayed out for another Diet Coke – will they be meeting again? Alice?

alice meet


Joe? You got some final words of wisdom to impart? Wanna tell the world just how much you can’t wait to see Alice again?

joe meet


Stick a fork in me. I’m done.

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are dicks – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people, despite the fact they give as much away of themselves as double agents. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally.  If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

Photograph: James Drew Turner, for the Guardian




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