Impeccable Table Manners

Anna and Jonathan

Theresa May’s threatening to duff up Russia behind the bike sheds after double-French, and winter is outstaying its welcome longer than the Irish gangster guy in EastEnders – but thank goodness for some small certainties, namely the Guardian Blind Date.

Tentatively wagging their chopsticks over the wonton this week are 25-year-old master’s student Anna – subject not given – and Jonathan, 28, who has a part-time role as Olly Murs. Oh, no, hang on, sorry, he’s an advertising creative. But also Olly Murs.

Photographs: James Drew Turner, Sarah Lee for The Guardian

Read what happened on the date before we plough on.

Anna on Jonathan | Jonathan on Anna
What were you hoping for?
Someone unexpected, yummy food and a funny story to tell afterwards.

I think I’ve said this before, but I loathe the word “yummy”. It’s not that it’s infantile or cutesy or something that posh people say long after they should, like “supper” and “daddy” – Algernon you are 43, sort yourself out – but there’s something so passive-aggressive about it. “This food had better be yummy, dear, otherwise I am going to be vewy, vewy upset about it.” Delivered with the singsong innocence of a toddler but the dead-eyed precision of a serial killer.

“Someone unexpected” – a minotaur, maybe? The actor who played Kenickie in the nineties revival of Grease, three casts in? Her paperboy?

“A funny story to tell afterwards” – spoiler: she’s clearly saving it for someone else.

What were you hoping for?
I’ve never been on a blind date, so I had no expectations.

No expectations whatsoever, Jonathan? So we have Anna wanting something “unexpected”, and Jonathan with zero expectations at all. Perhaps the most satisfying date for each would’ve been to tip them both into a timeless void. I wonder what Jonathan thinks does happen on a blind date. One of his “friends” – chief bantersaurus himself, perhaps – could’ve had immense fun with this. “So, mate, what you do on a blind date is enter the restaurant via a forward roll, undo the top two buttons of your blouse – yeah you gotta wear a blouse by the way – and belch out the alphabet. Standard.”

First impressions?
Very warm with a big, booming laugh and a signet ring.

Haha. Allow me to correct Anna’s typo here. Her actual first impression was, and I’m quoting her brain’s archive directly here: “Signet ring signet ring signet ring signet ring oh my God he’s got a signet ring”.

I don’t really care about them one way or the other but I’m guessing Anna might.

First impressions?
Smiley, friendly and talkative.

Jonathan blowing his load a bit early here (apols for the mental image) and chucking away his “use three words to describe Anna” answer. That’s not what a proper first impression is fyi so Jonathan is now in “the bad books”. Watch me die on this hill and be interred among all the other people who were also RIGHT ABOUT THIS.

What did you talk about?
Robert Winston, immersive theatre, and how, if Jonathan was a panda, he would singlehandedly repopulate the panda race.
Everything from panda reproduction to the meaning of life.

Any awkward moments?
He tried to read my palm.
I offered to pull her finger on a menu choice to help her decide, but I didn’t think about how oddly that must have come across.

I don’t know what to say. The only thing keeping me going is imagining Anna’s face Botox-freezing in absolute mortification, and Jonathan’s concentrated stare of mild panic, with a thin line of perspiration appearing on his top lip, as he realises he is totally and utterly ballsing this up to an apolcalyptic degree.

Or maybe he isn’t.

Good table manners?
He gave me the last dumpling, so yes.
Good table manners?
Better than mine, yes.

OK, this is fine. Onward.

Best thing about Jonathan?
Really fun and very silly, incredibly genuine, and he knows who he is.

“He knows who he is.” This is a loaded statement and this is not my first rodeo. I suppose we can take this to mean Jonathan is comfortable in his own skin. It’s both rarer and more attractive than we might realise. For those of us who are not so much uncomfortable in our own skin as acting like it’s covered in radioactive waste and is an itchy jumper we can’t wait to take off, it can be quite reassuring to see someone utterly at peace with who they are, bad and good, and as Jonathan seems like what my friend would call “a good egg”, there is a lot to be said for that. It is, however, a sad fact that there are quite a few people comfortable in their own skin who could do with shedding it and slithering off somewhere else.

Best thing about Anna?
She put up with my bad jokes and energetic nature.

I imagine Jonathan is a very kind and fun uncle.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
Sure. Everyone loves a dodgy accent or two, right?

OK. Actually, no, I’m not. I won’t.

So because I’m feeling very generous, as the world is tough enough right now, I am going to give Anna the benefit of the doubt and assume what she means is that as part of his exhaustive repertoire, Jonathan does hilarious comedy accents. It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t mentioned this elsewhere; perhaps it’s been edited out. Because the alternative is… not OK.

What is a “dodgy accent”? I quite like that the UK is so diverse and has many different dialects and whatever but I also feel accents are a bit of a prison sometimes. People get very uptight about them. I binned off my own Yorkshire accent on 25 September 1994, speeding down the M1 on my way from my hometown to a new life at a university in “the south”. We can perhaps sit and unpack why I was so desperate to escape the north’s ginnel-minded clutches for the very quickly dulled allure of the south for aeons, really, but in a nutshell, I knew my accent would be a “tell”, a dead giveaway about who I used to be – and I was very determined to leave whoever the hell that had been in the past tense.

So it went, overnight, just like that, and aside from when I get very angry, exaggerate it for showing-off purposes or talk on the phone to my parents, it’s stayed that way. I got rid of it because I knew only too well coming to university in the south, it would be the most instant, interesting thing about me. Perhaps it was the only interesting thing about me – as 18-year-olds go I was uncultured and undercooked and about as uncomfortable in my own skin as it’s possible to be without being on fire. And I was proven right. Everyone with an “accent”, dodgy or otherwise, got the piss taken out of them, or became known for it; it was a quick descriptor for (bloody) southerners who’d never had their utter dominance over the UK questioned before.

You can make up your mind about someone very quickly from their accent, and even now, STILL, when I reveal where I grew up, the next thing people say – they can’t help themselves – is that I don’t have the accent. The benefit of lasering your accent out of existence is you become a puzzle that’s slightly harder to solve – sadly you very probably become less interesting to work out as a result.

But I’m sure Anna didn’t mean that her Pinot Grigio pals would spend the entire night creasing up at Jonathan’s vowels. She meant something else entirely.

Would you introduce her to your friends?
Why not?

Good lad.

Describe him in three words?
Expressive, perceptive, full-of-beans.

That’s five words, Anna. Your hyphens are impostors here. Anyway:

Expressive, like that show you saw at the Edinburgh Fringe – you didn’t mean to go see it but you coughed while booking online and your hand slipped – and it was just half an hour of a pretend married couple standing on stage taking it in turns to cry while they knitted a coffin for their dead dog (not seen on stage, just suggested through limited dialogue and hand movements).
Perceptive, like a guest who immediately realises that “well it’s been such a lovely evening” means “call your Uber, we’re done”.
Full-of-beans, like a bean bag filled with actual beans.

Describe her in three words?
Smiley, fun, adventurous.

Smiley, like a lawyer whose divorcing friends are arguing over who gets the house.
Fun, like being trapped in a lift with a hula-hoop salesman.
Adventurous, like the guy from Accounts who applied to be on the Krypton Factor and immediately regretted it when it came to the bit where you have to do the 3D puzzle.

What do you think he made of you?
Like-minded, adventurous, cynical of the palm reading.

Ooooooh we have a match with “adventurous” – does that ever happen? Anyway: ✅

“Like-minded” seems like quite a good sign. Has this very modern Pygmalion actually been a success?

What do you think she made of you?
She probably thought I was a bit out there.

“Out there.” I mean, Jonathan does seem like he might have been a LOT during most of this date but, well, in my experience, men who think they’re out there tend to be about as wild as sitting outside a Pizza Express in March with your coat off.

Did you go on somewhere?
To Dishoom around the corner for kulfis (posh mini milks) and whisky.
Yes, to Dishoom – she seemed pretty determined to have ice-cream. Or maybe she said, “I scream”?

OK so if I were the restaurant they actually ate in for the date, I would be raging that Dishoom gets TWO mentions in actual body copy while they are reduced to an addendum. I love that Anna has explained kulfi for us (not a plural as far as I know btw, Anna) which will have infuriated Guardian readers who no doubt screamed “I ALREADY KNOW WHAT KULFI IS THANK YOU VERY MUCH; I READ THE GUARDIAN”. At least it saved them the hassle of looking it up on Google and then pretending to their spouse they knew all along.

Jonathan’s joke is so terrible that I’m afraid all humour is now banned until the next series of Dancing on Ice kicks off.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Those poor pandas…
I’d maybe not offer to pull her finger next time.

Am I right? Seriously.

Marks out of 10?
8.5.
8.25.

What the hell is this mess? The eight-point-five is bad enough, but that 8.25 is unforgivable. Stop showing off. They’re like two Foxtons estate agents winking and doing gun fingers and challenging each other to shots in that last remaining bar of a chain that went bust in 2003.

Are they going to put each other – but thankfully not us – through this again?

Would you meet again?
If she can cope.

Would you meet again?
I think two ENFPs might wear each other out. But he was really fun and I’m sure our paths will cross again.

Those four letters. You may as well wear a huge neon No Entry sign round your neck and stamp “AVOID ME” on your forehead as wheel out this code. For the uninitiated, these four letters relate to the Myers-Briggs (no relation) personality tests, which people who don’t really have a personality take to try and convince themselves they do. Apparently ENFP people are “charming, independent, energetic and compassionate” and “free spirits”.

Strangely missing from the rundown of 16 personality types is a four-letter term for someone who – perhaps on their Twitter bio or dating profiles – lists their Myers-Briggs result and expects you to go off and work out what that means. Luckily, I have just invented one! It starts with a C and ends with a T.

Anna and Jonathan ate at Ekachai, London N1. Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com.

NOTE: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants and not what they may actually be like in real life. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits it to suit the column. Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story; I’ll publish whatever you say. My Myers-Briggs personality type is MDNA.

12 Comments

  1. Absolutely hilarious as ever. Couldn’t agree more with the final para, and this line is one of my favourites in a while:

    ‘Perhaps the most satisfying date for each would’ve been to tip them both into a timeless void.’

    I honestly don’t know how you come up with some of your lines but please don’t stop.

  2. Putting a Myers-Briggs personality test result in your Twitter bio is as bad as mentioning your star sign, Jesus, or your other half. GET IN THE BIN, THE LOT OF YOU.

    Anyway….another great dissection. Particularly enjoyed your reaction to their decimalised scores.

  3. Oh come on, Myers-Briggs is brilliant! Don’t be such a J😉
    These two seem a great match, but the big question is why haven’t you analysed the previous blind date?

  4. Don’t understand how you can resist doing last week’s. Jaw-dropping. I almost hacked in to do it myself … your fans await …

      1. Would never want you to Overdo Things (though that might be a vain hope by this time) but how could you lose your timing so late in your career? The only date I’ve ever seen where one of the protagonists left before the end!

  5. Another excellent and funny report, with superb curation of gifs and pics. Seriously, you make my Saturdays brighter, I definitely rush here from the G to get your take. Never disappointed.

    Really interesting about the accents, it seems a very British thing, the intricacy and fine gradations and slicing to exactitude. To the neighborhood. I wholeheartedly support a young person’s choice to erase their accent and be the person they want to be. It seems a very gay male thing as well (I am one), especially in a British context.

    I’m reminded of an interview with Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys (my idol) where someone gently ribbed him about how his brother retained a Newcastle accent while Neil didn’t. Neil feigned exasperation, “Well, I HAVE been in London for a very long time, you know..”. He took it in good humor, it was a wink. Neil chose the accent that represented who he wanted to be from a very young age. Growing up, gay people are adept at being able to be malleable, just to get on and survive.

    My parents are from Ireland, I grew up in the Bronx (with Irish accents from both the North and the Republic, two different Irish accents in my ears) and then the east end of Long Island. I have none of those accents, and I suppose it was semi-on purpose. My straight brother sounds quite the New Yorker, I don’t. I suppose I just chose how I wanted to be, a lot of gay men decide when they’re young who they are and how they want to be. No apologies.

    Ps. I enjoy your email newsletters very much. Everyone here, do subscribe!

  6. Of course I didn’t have to look up kulfi (I read the Guardian), but I did have to Google both”ENFP” & (the guyliner’s brilliantly used) “ginnel.”
    “…desperate to escape the north’s ginnel-minded clutches” is a gem.

  7. Agree – one of them even refused to give a score out of ten for the other. Was so looking forward to your take on it!

  8. Everything else about him suggested he spent a riveting 20 minutes doing comedy accents. Possibly while attempting to read her palm. Which is why my marriage is secure – I’m not risking being out in the world and meeting people like that.

    But as a foreigner whose accent is the most interesting thing about me, I can see why you’d interpret it the other way.

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