Photographs: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Ben and Alice

We’ve been hearing a lot about toxic masculinity lately, especially since Gillette launched a new campaign exposing the, shall we say, antisocial habits some men delight in, which generally make society a drearier thing to be a part of. People of all genders and persuasions have been up in arms about this tiny chip off the giant iceberg that is “men rule everything and you will deal”, as if all it takes to wrest millennia of power and control is a glossily shot advert aimed at flogging you a clean shaven lifestyle. One ad. Relax, boys and their defenders, you still own the world.

One thing we don’t hear too much about is toxic heterosexuality, the relentless death march of milestones that must be met, which our planet’s entire romantic rituals are built around. I think most “conventional” couples – by which I mean a cis man and a cis woman arguing over shelving in IKEA – could benefit from a bi or trans element, no? Something to make it a bit more interesting, to pierce that bubble of conformity, assumed normality and, of course, Krispy Kremes “in the usual place”. Imagine the conversations! And the clothes! While it’s not a universal truth that the LGBTQ crew are snappy dressers, even on a bad day they’re better than a straight on a good day. I’m sorry but Instagram exists and you have nowhere to hide.

Anyway, speaking of “oh well whatever, let’s just paint it magnolia and add stencils if we fancy it”, here are this week’s Guardian Blind Date twosome. Ben, 25, is a local government officer and Alice, 23, is a student at/in Oxford (I assume, from an answer coming up).

Read the date before I go in and pick apart the most interesting answers. It won’t take long.

Ben on Alice | Alice on Ben 
What were you hoping for?
A fun evening with someone interesting.
A laugh. Or love. Preferably both.

For some reason when I read Alice’s answer, I sang that old jingle “Life, liberty and Fruit of the Loom”

First impressions?
Tall, pretty, confident.
Very tall. And sweet and handsome.

Ah, two tall people have found each other! This is good. I have a couple of very tall friends and one of them isn’t remotely bothered about being Empire State-high but the other, a woman, has had to deal with “OOOOH aren’t you tall?!” for most of her life and, guess what, it does get old – it ages like Theresa May at an EU summit.

What did you talk about?
Our lack of wine knowledge, what our parents made of us going on a blind date (Alice hadn’t told hers), music we listen to when we run, Alice’s sausage dog and our jealousy of each other’s pets.
What we do for a living, our motivations for doing the date, politics. The conversation flowed, and he asked me lots of questions.

❌ No matches but that’s not always a concern. Sometimes it makes for a better conversation if you both priorities different topics.
Lack of wine knowledge = that is perfectly fine in your early or mid twenties. I am 43 and still know nothing about it. Do I have to? Should I clue myself in? I have a friend who’s a sommelier and even he will drink anything.
To me, the only thing you need to know about wine is how many glasses it takes for you to fall over, whether it will make you cry, how bad the hangover is going to be, when to stop drinking it, and, crucially, is it on special offer?
“What our parents made of us going on a blind date” is so sweet because these two are so young they consider talking about parents on a first date as perfectly fine. I mean, they left home less than a decade or so ago, so it will still be quite fresh in their minds. Once you career toward middle age in your Volkswagen with the dodgy brakes, parents are removed from the chat menu in case they’re dead, estranged, on their third divorce, embarrassing or, worst of all, “it’s complicated”.

Any awkward moments?
I had to leave earlier than we probably would have liked, but not because I didn’t want to stay. I’m a lightweight and couldn’t handle another pint.

I haven’t heard the term “lightweight” in a long time. Do students still say it? God, student slang is so weird when you look back. When I was at university (my personal tutor was Methuselah), “chunder” was the word everyone used for “vomit”  – please tell me it’s died out.

Good table manners?
Great table manners.

The italics on the “great” are my own. I also like to imagine Ben, while saying it, holding up both his thumbs and gurning like he drank from the wrong bottle of Evian at a party in Vauxhall.

Best thing about Alice?
How easy-going she is – we chatted a lot. Also her support and work for the NHS.
I felt at ease straight away.

These two are very sweet. What do you want me to say?! I’m not a monster!

Would you introduce her to your friends?
I’m sure they’d like him as much as I did.

Look, we can’t have knickerless lesbians every week and I’m sure Ben and Alice are trying their best. This is a great answer to the friends question so Alice must be protected at all costs.

Describe Alice in three words
Smart, interesting, attractive.

SMART, like that weird car that’s so compact you can, apparently, park it sideways but nobody ever did/does because that would be too try-hard for words and if you’ve bought one of those cars you’re already sending out quite the message.
INTERESTING, like a tax return filled out in Comic Sans.
ATTRACTIVE, like, there is something robotic about the word “attractive” but I quite like it. It has a wry undertone; it smells of Tuscan leather and a recently extinguished Sobranie. It leaves silk scarves on the bedroom floor and stares at you across the hotel bar until you have to look away.

Describe Ben in three words
Genuine, engaging, kind.

GENUINE, like your last fiver, you hope.
ENGAGING, like, we need to banish this word to the boardroom or ITVBe focus group where it belongs. People aren’t “engaging” – they are fun, exciting, effervescent. People are vivacious, attractive, and desirable. Or, sometimes, they are leaden, dreary, and limp. Things that are engaging: a project manager’s desperate enthusiasm for a flash mob promotion; the last slide on a PowerPoint; a short film which tries to explain whooping cough using only cushions, a housebrick, and a two-litre bottle of Fanta (lemon) that’s been allowed to go flat.

Did you go on somewhere?
We had a couple of drinks at a pub nearby until fairly late, but Alice had to get a bus back to Oxford.

A bus back to Oxford after dinner at the Savoy. Bathos.

And… did you kiss?
A little kiss goodbye.
A fleeting kiss. He made the first move, but I’m glad he did.
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I would’ve ordered the scallops.

Fuck off, “Ben”. Just say “nothing” if that’s the answer. I won’t tolerate “I wish I’d tried the tofu” bollocks anymore.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I’m not sure I would.

Thank you Alice for showing Ben how it’s done.

Marks out of 10?

These are nines but they’re too shy or middle-class or uptight or whatever (you can’t mistake my tautology) to admit they’re absolutely horny for each other.

Would you meet again?
We’ll see. Distance aside, I don’t see why not.

DISTANCE. Oxford isn’t the fucking moon, Ben. I don’t think Oleta Adams is going to be crooning about your arduous journey any time soon.

Would you meet again?
Yes, even if just as friends.

Go for it, my pretties. And make it worth the trip.

Alice and Ben ate at Kaspar’s at the Savoy, London WC2. Fancy a blind date? Email   If you’re looking to meet someone like-minded, visit

NOTE: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page, but get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. I hope you found this piece engaging or whatever, bloody hell.

AND FINALLY: Money is tighter than Tom Daley’s speedos at the moment so if you liked this, think about , or if you already have, reviewing it on Amazon. If you want to do neither of these things but are in charge of hiring people to write for money, please consider me for that. 


  1. I’m 21 and I’m afraid everyone does still say ‘chunder’ – in fact, often shortened to ‘chun’. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

  2. What did you make of “kind”? I liked it. The older I get, the more convinced I become that kindness is THE most underrated quality in human interactions. “Acerbic” is more fun, perhaps, but “kind” is what makes people love you.

    1. Oh I missed out “kind” – how strange. Agree it’s a good and increasingly important quality. Acerbity does indirectly pay my bills though.

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