Impeccable Table Manners

Ben and Henry


On a date, the very first decision you need to make as soon as you lay eyes on the person you’ve turned up to meet is whether or not you can get drunk in front of them. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve met in a park for an ice cream – how twee – or a quick coffee in Starbucks. Can you have a drink? If you do, what will happen? Will it make you fancy them more, and, more importantly, will it make them fancy you less?

Seventeen vodka-tonics, a packed bar and a missed Tube home can change your life.

If you’ve turned up and your date is a teetotaller, well, GOOD LUCK to you. Nobody ever drank five coffees and thought “Oh to hell with it, I may as well shag them”, but perhaps fortune will be smiling on you.

Ben and Henry copy

Ordering another round and leaving their debit card behind at the bar this week are Ben, a 29-year-old dancer, and Henry, 25, who the Guardian website says is a web editor, but the print edition says is a journalist. I’m going to need to see some LinkedIn receipts, Henry. Read what happened on the date and then I’ll get busy with the fizzy.

Ben kicks us off and his answers are in what you might call mustard – Henry’s are in that delightful shade of orange you might see on a scarf in Oliver Bonas.

ben hope

Do you think Ben is one of those people who says things like, “Oh, you know, I can eat whatever I want and never put on any weight!” like all those post-partum celebrities who claim they never go on diets they just “lost all the weight running around after my children”?

Why isn’t there a tax on this kind of thing?

henry hope

Henry, ladies and gentlemen, has never read this column in his life before. You will meet drunks, you will meet bores, you will meet people who are sweet, you will meet those who are ‘chatty’, you will meet people who will make a terrible joke about your hair seven minutes into dinner. Fun? Hmmm. Have you tried hanging around at funerals instead?

ben first

Did you know that eye fetishes are an actual thing? I couldn’t give two bronze farts what colour someone’s eyes are, but apparently it can be very important to some people.

I remember back when I was single, going on a date with a guy who kept staring into my eyes really intensely and telling me how nice they were. “Expressive” I think he said. Anyway, I let him kiss me ‘etc’ and we agreed to see each other again. A while later, he got in touch to say he couldn’t wait to stare into my “beautiful big brown eyes” again.

Reader, my eyes are blue.

henry first

This is very early on in proceedings for an “engaging” to be wheeled out. I didn’t realise people said this in real life. I thought “engaging” was a word you used when filling in a feedback form after sitting through a really boring talk at a dental hygienists’ convention, or what PR people say at screenings when trying to find something nice to say about a really boring film.

Do you notice how they both compliment each other’s laugh? Is this a thing? I’ve heard of laughing someone into bed but I didn’t realise the sound of it was such a draw. Maybe this is going to be the natural successor to selfies – everyone uploading to Audioboom endless recordings of themselves chuckling along to an episode of You’ve Been Framed in an effort to lure suitors. Imagine.

ben talk

If at least two pics in the top four rows on Ben’s Instagram aren’t of him pouting I will be very surprised.

Pouting does look awful though, and not just on men. If you’re doing it to look more attractive, then, great, but you do realise you can’t stay like that all the time, right? Blowjob lips should be presented only when you’re about to give one, guys and girls – it’s like walking around with a napkin permanently stuffed under your chin just in case food comes your way.

henry talk

Funnily enough, the first sentence of Geri Halliwell’s CV says exactly this.

ben awks


Just say “no” if you’ve nothing to say.

henry awks


Table manners. Warning: I spy the I-word.

ben table


This is all quite sweet, isn’t it? Two lovely boys sitting down and saying something nice about each other, in turn. Such a nice change from all those horrible bitchy gay men out there. Or something.

henry table

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 08.05.47


ben best thing

The eyes are back. Ben really can’t resist these baby blues. On reading this, I zoomed right in on my screenshot of the page to have a closer look at Henry’s eyes.

After this scientific experiment, I can tell you that mine are probably nicer, plus, I would rather someone compliment something else other than my eyes, but good for Henry.

Nice of Ben to praise Henry’s sense of humour. It’s good thing to say. We take our sense of humour for granted. I feel sorry for people who can’t take a joke, or who don’t get irony or, who sit – usually head-to-toe in acrylic, with a documentary blaring out of the radio in the background – and say things like “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit”. How the HELL would you know? You’re boring. You never made anyone laugh.

Never fuck anyone who won’t laugh at someone falling over. Unless it’s an old person – I won’t have that. But, you know, a child or someone wearing their Converse a bit too tight or a doctor’s receptionist. Fair game.

henry best thing

I think this is one of the nicest things I’ve ever read in the Blind Date column. Quite an understated, not to mention undervalued, compliment. “I talked. He talked. We listened.” Not to be sniffed at.


Never underestimate how grim, how dispiriting, it is to be on a date with someone who hasn’t listened to a word you’ve said. Someone who asks you the same question more than twice, or forgets where you said you worked or, the ultimate diss, forgets your name. Don’t waste your time on these people. Seriously, just don’t bother. if you’re not heard, not listened to, you start to feel like you don’t exist, and nobody deserves to feel like that.

The only time it’s acceptable for someone not to listen is if they can’t remember what you’ve said because you are so DAMN BEAUTIFUL and they can’t concentrate and all they can think about is their new goal in life, which is to take you away somewhere, with your permission of course, and fuck you until you see stars.

ben three

These aren’t character traits, Ben – you’re describing to police the man who sold you a stolen Ford Focus.

“Tall.” “Blond.” You’re not putting together a photofit. Christ.

henry three

Henry describing the guest speaker at an HTML developers’ award ceremony there.

Can we sex things up a bit here? Quick, somebody say “dildo” or something.

ben made of you


“Dishevelled.” I know this is the question where you really have to pull out your weapons-grade false modesty, but there’s a photo RIGHT THERE Ben, and you’re a dancer, and you’re about as dishevelled as Kate Middleton on her wedding day.

Dishevelled. I just can’t. A tenner says Ben posts selfies looking like he just stepped out of a Kardashian botox party with captions like “Feeling SO rough today”. You’re 29, Ben, you want to see dishevelled? Get an Uber to my house. I’ve been up since 6:30, my eyes look like a rat’s yo-yo and my skin’s more leathery than an old bible.

henry made of you

Oooooh now what I’m getting from this is that dancer Ben had a few comments about Henry’s posture. Things like this are always useful, if a little demeaning. For example, I haven’t crossed my legs since 2011, when my best friend’s mum poked me with a pan of porridge and said I shouldn’t do it as it as an expressway to having varicose veins.

That said, I wouldn’t take any shit about the way I sat from some bloke on a date. Want to share all your handy tips? Go get a blog.

ben kiss

henry kiss


YES. You can always rely on the gays, can’t you? Here we are, getting beaten up by your older brothers and called “poof” and laughed at by bouncers if we try to hold hands and yet, despite all that, we’re generally having a better time than YOU.

I am going to take Ben’s absolutely disastrous attempt at being coy to mean that they shagged.


ben change

meryl lightning strike

A mistake?! No combination of anything that ends in a drunken snog with someone whose eyes you can’t stop banging on about should ever be labelled a mistake, Ben.

henry change

I don’t like port either. And I’ve got blue eyes. Hey, Henry, “IT ME” etc.

We’re at the scores. This has gone pretty well, hasn’t it? But are you getting a “will be picking out furniture in a year or two” vibe? Or, at the very least, “will be arguing at a cash machine about how much to take out ‘and by the way don’t think I didn’t see you looking at that guy just then’, while a long queue stands behind them, seething” vibe?


ben score

Tom Cruise what

7. Is this face-saving? The date went well, you snogged (and possibly more) and yet you’re wheeling out a 7? A seven is a 1 with a double-garage and vague plans to build a conservatory, not a score you give someone you actually like.

And yet. I don’t know. Look back at Ben’s answers again. He doesn’t really say how Henry made him feel. There’s attraction, but it’s… empty. There isn’t a lightning strike here. And Henry too, despite saying all the right things, has a slight chill to his answers.

henry score

Eight. OK. Rubbish.

I have two theories: 1. They ‘did it’, but one of them left kind of early, like too early, or maybe even straight after (!) so it seemed maybe they didn’t really like the other one that much. Maybe he had a really early dance rehearsal to go to or something. (Oh come on, of COURSE it was Ben.)

These scores, and indeed almost every answer, are the very definition of cautious. They don’t want to appear like they fancy the other one too much in case they’re rejected.

2. Or they’re embarrassed to say that, while it was fun for one night only, the “forever and ever” achievement has not been unlocked. I’ll leave that one for you to chew over.

This is the price of the knowledge that someone out there somewhere is ‘swiping left’ on our face right now. It makes us afraid to say “YES, I’m into you, but if you’re not into me too, that’s OK, I don’t feel a fool, I had fun, I’ll get over it”. By the same token, we’re just as fearful of letting someone down. Just say “thanks but no thanks” – it doesn’t make you a bad person. Just don’t leave them dangling.

In a world where disappointment and rejection are much easier to dish out, and encountered more often, we’re not becoming hardened to it, as you might expect – we’re actually more frightened of it. You can have no fear when you are dating. Your heart can take it. Trust me. Also, you’re in a magazine, spill the bloody haricots or get the fuck out of Dodge.

Anyway, will they meet again? Fuck knows. It’s like playing poker with a table mat. I mean, 7. Bloody hell.

ben meet


henry meet


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 bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re lovely. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. And if you’re not into someone, just tell them for God’s sake. If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have. 

Photograph: Teri Pengilley; Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian


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