Impeccable Table Manners

Ben and Joe

Easter. Selfish Christmas. Instead of family get-togethers and card-writing, or agonising over which gifts to buy, Easter gives you overpriced city breaks “just the two of us”, a desire for peace and quiet, gorging on chocolate and definitely not sharing, being out all weekend, getting so drunk you can’t remember whether the key in your hand opens your door or the back of your head.

To celebrate Easter’s status as one of the biggest “screw you all, this is my time” of all the bank holidays, there are two gay men in the Guardian Blind Date this week. Let’s be brisk – I have an Easter egg calling out to me suggestively from the fridge and hot cross buns going stale on the worktop.

Today we have Ben, a 27-year-old communications manager and Joe, 28, a textiles postgraduate. Here they are, looking like two time travellers from a Children’s BBC drama in 1976:

Click the pic to see what happened on the date. Spoiler: nothing.

As someone who’s spent my entire life being told to “cheer up” or asked “what’s wrong” or told “you look really bored/pissed off/miserable/annoyed” can I JUST say that some of us – many of us – have resting bored face. Because we don’t carry a mirror with us all the time and apparently taking selfies is narcissistic or whatever, we can’t keep constant check on our expression so when it slips into this natural state of repose and we don’t look like a gurning, ecstatic clown, we are unaware. Why do you care, anyway? Sort your own grill out.

Don’t mistake someone who looks – or sounds, for that matter – a bit grumpy for someone who is actually miserable. I happen to find continual smiling really unsettling anyway. Believe me, you can’t afford the wrinkles – find your inner misery as soon as you can, before it’s too late.

I’m sorry but setting expectations this low shouldn’t allowed. Imagine Joe at family gatherings as a teenager, being grilled by relatives as they pressed a greasy fiver into his hand.
“And what about your exams, Joe? How are you hoping they’ll go?”

“Well, Auntie, I’m hoping to queue up outside a large room – perhaps in a civic hall – and make my way to an individual table and be given an exam paper, whereupon I’m hoping my pen and brain will come together and write some words, and after that I will wait for, say, two months or so and then go to school and open an envelope and find some grades inside.”

Do people look closely at nails? I don’t. There’s a reason I don’t: I bite my own. I’m not one of the those fanatical biters who shreds them down  to the quick so their fingers all look like thumbs, but I’ve always thought casting a critical eye over other people’s nails would be hypocritical. I make an exception for dirt under them. I’m not a savage. I can’t take my eyes off that when I see it.

We don’t hear “sparky” very often unless “spark” is being wheeled out as en excuse for why they didn’t get on.

These are like Mastermind specialist subjects for people who wear baseball caps back to front.

Mind you, if you are not down to shag someone, it’s probably best to let them know as soon as possible by doing exactly as Ben did here.

Obviously usually this would have me running for the hills, but sometimes the food calls for it and, I have to say, looking at the menu, on this occasion:

Sharing is still not a thing, though. I don’t care where you are. I was an only child for the first two decades of my existence and, let me tell you, nobody ever wanted to share my stuff for anything other than vindictive reasons. I write books now, and all those people who said I needed teaching to share when I was younger had better be very fucking afraid when I get round to writing that tell-all exposé about  the absolute garbage that an only child has to listen to. Oh, I’ll certainly know how to share on that occasion, believe me.

*polite laughter rings off the high ceilings of the Algonquin*

OPEN like the door of your rabbit’s hutch, while a fox sits nearby with Rennie on hand.
AUTHENTIC like a Bjork album that you probably haven’t heard of, and it’s Björk, actually, you forgot the umlaut, but I guess you’re not a real fan.
CREATIVE like any liar under 11 years of age.

BRIGHT like a lightbulb.
ENERGETIC like another lightbulb.
WITTY like a Victoria Wood sketch about screwing in a lightbulb featuring mashed swede, an architrave and a travel agent called Pam.

Funnily enough, a few years ago, when he first became big,  a couple of people told me I looked like Eddie Redmayne. I don’t, at ALL by the way; I just go very freckly in the summer. But some people have the breadth of imagination of a dead lizard – what are you going to do, eh?

I absolutely detest being told I look like celebrities. Why do people do it? It’s not remotely interesting. A few weeks ago I was at a party, minding my own business, when a man slumped down in the seat opposite me. He was very drunk and this was an afternoon event so I automatically checked my watch to see whether that level of inebriation was appropriate for that time of day – like Margo Leadbetter would do watching Jerry pour a second cheery before twilight – and waited. I waited, as I knew he was going to say something because even though he had thrown himself onto the seat with all the grace of a jumbo jet trying to land on top of a cupcake, this man had purpose.

After lifting his Estrella to his wet mouth once more, he waggled a finger at me and said “You look like [insert name of celebrity I do not want to resemble in any way]”. On seeing my face, he then tried to qualify this with “Not the jaw, like from the jaw up”. This celebrity has a distinctive jaw and not much else, so this was either a lie or a man in the process of setting up a very niche lookalike agency. Then, pronouncement made, and getting nothing but a polite “oh right, erm, OK” from me, he said, “I don’t know what to say now”. GREAT CHAT, GLAD WE HAD IT.

Telling someone they look like someone else puts them in a very weird position, They either hear it all the time, because people who tend to say this kind of thing share a hive mind of mediocre banter, or, it’s a totally preposterous comparison. And then, when you have the information, what do you do with it? Start impersonating them to see if you can get a slightly better table at Byron? There’s nothing you can do with it, except cultivate mild anxiety over whether this means you are hot or ugly or, worst of all, neither.

Anyway, you’ve got two eyes and hair and a nose and look like you might stamp your foot if the queue at the bar of the Duke of Wellington was too long so, yes, you are a bit Eddie Redmayne, I’m sure.

Gay men in 2017. When you read the next hysterical headline about chemsex, or Grindr, or how horrible gay men are, remember that most of them – most of us – are actually like Ben and Joe. Being mildly boring and not getting off with each other on a high street near you. This is both a good thing and a bad thing I guess.

But seriously, gay men who appear in this column:

It’s getting ridiculous now.

Just eat the prawn, Ben. Eat the prawn.

A little bit tight of Joe here but maybe he really didn’t like Eddie Redmayne’s last movie.

The passion is simply sizzling off the screen, isn’t it? “Sure.”
Do you want a drink? Sure.
Mind if I just squeeze by? Sure.
Want to see this person again and embark on a journey of everlasting love? Sure.

What a dull bruise of a response “sure” is. It means “well, if I had to” or, in this case, because that is an 8 up there, “if he wants to but I’m not sure he will tbh”. Sure.

Photograph: Katherine Rose; David Levene, both for the Guardian.

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy.  Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. You’ve a look of Eva Braun – did you know? 


  1. “Do people look closely at nails?”

    Joe appears to have nail polish on in the photo, which might go a little way to explain why his nails were something to be remarked on.

  2. You could not have described more eloquently or more accurately the look of these two than you did. They DO look JUST like time travellers from a BBC kids tv drama series from 1976. Amazing as usual, happy chocolate eating.

  3. Oh, I was looking forward to reading last week’s blind date… Was it that they appeared to be actual well-mannered and socialized adults?

  4. “First impressions: good dress sense” – ?! – he looks like a hippie on a budget. It’s all the worse because he’s actually a good looking guy with good hair, but that outfit is horrific (I realise it probably wasn’t what he wore on the date, but good grief…).

    1. I’ve written often about how I, personally, don’t like eating with my hands hence the “usually” and I follow the phrase up immediately with “sometimes the food calls for it and looking at the menu I can see, on this occasion [it does]”. Hope that explains.

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