Impeccable Table Manners

Benjamin and Mark

I have a friend who, at Christmastime, bought a huge box of Monster Munch for her boyfriend. She wrapped it up and left it under the tree and, when he opened it, found not a zillion packets of tasty, synthetic crisps, but a surprise Playstation. He was, of course, elated.

Today’s date is exactly like that. Except there’s no Playstation. And it’s not Monster Munch; it’s a supermarket’s own copycat brand. Beastie Crunch, perhaps.

TL;DR: It’s gays, Jim, but not as we know them.

Today we have Benjamin, 27, a composer and 21-year-old (!) Mark, an editorial assistant. It doesn’t say where he is an editorial assistant but I don’t think you’ll need two hands and a wheelbarrow to guess.

Read what happened on the date before I delve further into this quagmire of disappointment and regret. And remember, I don’t get paid for doing this.

Mark | Benjamin
What were you hoping for?
I didn’t expect to find love, but hoped I’d enjoy myself.

And, reader, I was disappointed.

First impressions?
Not too shabby.

Benjamin wants the D. You can’t look at a 21-year-old and think “not too shabby”. What this really means is “holy hell they have sent me something young and malleable and I want to make every shape possible with this guy like he was dough or doll’s hair or clay”.

Mark? Is he going to get the D?

First impressions?
Dashing and friendly, but not my type.

Dame Edna grimace


Don’t worry readers, this isn’t going down the toilet without a fight. Here’s Benj again:

What did you talk about?
Our mutual love of Björk, Stravinsky, Schoenberg. Our shared desire for a Georgian terrace house by Highbury Fields. I think we agreed he’d write the libretto for my next opera, too.


Did you go back to the top of the page, as I did, and check their ages again? Your turn up on a date to find some smooth-skinned honey in their twenties sitting there and all you can talk about is wanting a house?

When I was about 21 I dressed like I was in my early 40s and owned one of these houses these two manchildren are lusting after. I had a long corduroy coat and wore grey flannel trousers and sensible, well-fitting woolly jumpers. My hair was atrocious, and fell into an unfortunate centre-parting that never really worked because I have two crowns.

I was fooling myself into thinking that if I dressed like an investment banker taking the weekend off to go see his flaxen-haired braindead daughter at university that I’d be taken seriously, that nobody would spot I was an imposter – a young northerner from a council estate who had nothing but popcorn for brains. So I know a try-hard bore when I see one.

Apart from Björk, I don’t know about the music stuff so I will have to let that pass and assume they have a shared interest in music by dead people, but the house thing made me want to travel back in time, stride into the restaurant where these two were boring each other into infinity, shake them by the shoulders and say “Look, this ‘being in your twenties’ thing isn’t going to last long and rather than dreaming of some house which you’ll only be able to afford to buy when you’re ancient, fat and unfuckable, you should be concentrating on the here and now and getting busy with Aftershock and making plans to destroy a duvet”.

Do we even need to go on? Should we go on? OK. Mark:

Our favourite operas, teaching piano and our fantasies of meeting Björk.

Oh I’m utterly desensitised now. I am untrollable. Next.

Any awkward moments?
He doesn’t like Gerhard Richter. Unforgivable.

Here you go:

This is all well and good and thanks for the early morning cultural lesson ‘guys’, but what are you actually like as people?

I declined going on for another drink and owned up to being hungover. That was a little embarrassing.

Oh no! Hungover! Stop all the clocks etc.

Turning up to a date drunk is unforgivable; showing up hungover is… well it’s just being alive isn’t it? You don’t have to “own up”.

Table manners next. I wonder if this is the week that is finally going to kill me.

He navigated sharing dishes like a pro – although he’s allergic to carbs, so I let him enjoy the pork sausage alone.

These boys are 48 years old. I know I moan every week that the answers are really boring and if you’re going to be in a magazine you need to step it up but Benjamin’s feel like an audition for something. A panel show. On Sky Arts 2. At 2am.

And don’t even get me started on sharing dishes because you can only really do that if you intend to share something else and the sexual chemistry here certainly does not require a hazmat suit.

“Allergic to carbs.” Get in the bin.

Good table manners?
As far as I remember, yes.

Look, some guys just happen to think vanilla is the best ice cream flavour, OK?

Best thing about Mark?
His musical leanings. And his face wasn’t bad.

Ah, Benjamin. I know. I know. You see, if you’d spent less time communicating your real estate-related hopes and dreams and more time turning on the charm, you may well have been waking up to that face this morning.

Best thing about Benjamin?
A good conversationalist.

Mark, you are the queen of shade. And here he is again:

Would you introduce him to your friends?
I don’t think the opportunity will arise.

Can anyone smell roasting flesh? Because, baby, that burns.

Describe Mark in three words
Smart, musical, cute.

I am trying to imagine these two ‘doing it’, but all I can picture is two John Lewis gift cards sliding around on top of each other.

Describe him in three words
Punctual, musical, polite.

“Punctual.” Phwoar. I actually like a man to be on time. In my book, if you arrive bang on time, you’re actually late. But would it be a top 3 quality I was looking for in a potential partner?

Well, yes, actually. But I am 100 and have ‘a knee’ I moan about and such things matter now that my hair is greying and my looks are fading behind a mille-feuille of Instagram filters.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
We’d embrace carbs in a bigger way.

Carbs make you sleepy, Benj. It was perhaps a wise move to steer clear of them because I am getting some serious Nytol vibes from this pairing.

I would have eaten more.

Not “I wish I had fancied him” or the standard “I would have ordered that second bottle of wine”, but “I would have eaten more”. It is free, after all. Carb avoidance is for when it’s coming out of your own pocket, Mark.

Scores, then, because time is fleeting and this date is like glugging an endless drink of water while a cat watches you.

Marks out of 10?
A solid 7.

“I realised quite early on that even though I fancied Mark, it was not reciprocated, so in an example of face-saving even more brazen than Delboy falling through the open bar in Only Fools And Horses (I saw it on cable TV at 3am once) I decided to score Mark a 7, but it’s a 9. Nine.”

6. Nice guy, but no romance.

“Zero.” Mark again:

Would you meet again?
Unlikely, we didn’t swap numbers.

Veins. Of. Ice.


I don’t think it’s on the cards. Maybe we’ll bump into each other at a Björk gig.

*hollow laugh*

Or maybe next time you’ve both got your faces pressed up against the window at Foxtons, eh? Good luck on the road to buying your dream home.

But first, go out and experience a bit of failure; it sounds like you need it. This date, it seems, has been a good start.

If you liked this and want to show your appreciation, you could buy one (or both) of my books or if you prefer,  No subscription or obligation, the blog remains free.

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 this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this or any other date and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris and James Drew Turner 

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  1. Very funny. But I do think a trip to B&Q is in order as Mark doesn’t work at the Guardian. He doesn’t write for the Saga newsletter either but if the salary got him closer to a mortgage deposit he probably wouldn’t rule it out.

    1. Haha. Mark and I have since been in touch and I am now up-to-speed with his employment arrangements. You have to admit, it diiiiiid look a bit suspicious.

  2. I thought the interviews in Blind Date were rather depressing so I stopped reading them. Now that I’ve found your blog it’s the main reason I read the column.. just wanted to leave a note to say I love your writing and sense of humour. Thanks!

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