Impeccable Table Manners

Dan and Jack

Imagine being left on the shelf at 21. How awful it must be to be all out of romantic options before the shine has even dulled on your magic “key of the door”. These 21-year-olds must sit, miserably swiping right to anything – mass murderers, bin bags, former Big Brother contestants, any old garbage – in the hope of finding a date, lamenting all their lost opportunities and failed loves, while a tropical house version of Yesterday When I Was Young pipes out of their Bluetooth speakers. “I’ve tried everything,” they tell their friends over a gluten-free bottomless brunch at a popup in London Fields. “Speed dating, singles’ nights, Tinder, pretending to have been roofied at house parties for attention, and nothing, not a bean, not a sausage.” The last stop for these washed-up old maids, then, who have exhausted every other avenue in the search for love and didn’t get through the auditions for Dinner Date or the First Dates restaurant, is the Guardian Blind Date column.

Click on the picture of Dan, 21, a freelance journalist and fellow 21-year-old Jack, a fashion stylist, to see what happened on the date. I’ll be there right after, the usual table.

Do you, Dan, in retrospect, and having read ahead, wish you’d pressed the ejector seat button earlier?

Could you not have just emailed Ivan Massow directly rather than take up valuable space in Weekend magazine?

An early winner here, from Dan, for saying “different from”. Do you know how many times I’ve corrected “different to” in all my years as a writer and editor? It’s a lot. A lot. I had almost given up, assumed there was no fight left in me, that I would have to admit “different to” had become the norm, like “I was stood”. But here’s DAN, to say, hey, don’t give up, we’re still here, the non-garbage people. Different from, different from, different from. Unless he kills Jack halfway through the main course, Dan has won this for me.

A 21-year-old looking young. I’ll alert the media.

The trouble with the Guardian Blind Date is that it isn’t eHarmony, or the “Luv Connexions” dating agency from a Victoria Wood sketch. There’s no chemistry, no science, nothing is fed into a computer or puzzled over by “romance boffins”. They have a column to fill, they look at sexual orientation, job, and age and go “right, book the restaurant, we’ve got a pair” and that is it. I imagine any questions they ask you about your personal preferences are out of politeness and merely to check you’re not a huge racist or similar.

I mean, how did you think this was going to work? If you were looking for a daddy with a taste for culture and a decent job, as you suggest you might be above, you should have shelled out the £15 a month and shimmied over to Guardian Soulmates – absolutely teeming with the world-weary, work-frazzled human equivalent of yesterday’s newspapers over there.

How early do you think you have to get up to catch me out? Especially on a Saturday, on April 1, when I’ve got the beginnings of a migraine? Spoiler: it’s very probably at least half an hour earlier than you’d planned on waking.

I remember a date once where a guy talked about all the previous bad dates he’d been on. And he spent the entire evening asking me if I’d been on any terrible dates, and where had I been, and what were they like – he was, like, super insistent. Because I was anonymous or whatever, I used to pretend with almost every guy that he was one of the first I’d met off Guardian Soulmates, or wherever, so I didn’t give the game away. Plus, nobody wants to go out with a serial dater – who’s going to invest in you if they know you’re already logging back on to check your messages before the bus has even pulled away from their lonely, slightly tumescent self? Anyway, this guy kept on and on. “Oh you must have some stories to tell,” he said. “Am I better or worse than your most awful date?” And it dawned on me, much slower than it should have done to be honest, but I was younger and greener, that my date was a reader of my blog, and had figured out who I was. I never said anything at the time, and we had a perfectly fine evening, after which I went home alone, despite his mild protests. But perhaps now is a good time to say that I was onto you, Michael. I’ve even changed your name here to spare your blushes, but I know if you are reading this you will know it was you.

When trying anyone out for size, and thinking you have one over on them, it’s always best to keep in mind that they are basically you, plus a vitamin shot, and very little time for your shit.

We can see what you’re tying to do here, Jack, and it’s… well, I’d like to think it’s beneath you. I certainly hope it is.

These are both really nice things to say. I’d be happy to hear a vicar to cough these out at a friend’s memorial. But that is exactly it. They are fine plaudits if you’re filling out an appraisal for the member of staff who is useless but tries hard and is good for morale. They are wonderful words if you’re trying to sell someone a friendly dog that also happens to be incontinent. But they are not the kind of thing you want to hear about yourself on a date. Are they? Really?

Not even one sly wink to say they wouldn’t mind giving you one? At 21? It’s been a while since my 21st, but all we did back then was dream of getting sucked off and do everything in our power to make it happen legally. Have we waded out of those shallow waters now? Decided we’re above all that? Of course we haven’t. Despite all the clean-living airbrushed gay couples in mortgage brochures, we still like bonking, as far as I know.

If the best thing about you is that you’re polite then fantastic – ring your grandma and tell her. But this car has no brakes and is about to plough into the Friend Zone. There will be no survivors.

Oh honey. I mean, your youth is yours to waste I guess. But I can’t think of anything less sexy than being in tune with someone else’s Netflix tastes.

God, Netflix. That licence to be a boring old drongo who never goes out that couch potatoes have been waiting for all their lives. The “acceptable face” of telly. The TV that tells itself it’s different from all those people who sit goggle-eyed in front of Saturday Night Takeaway and Big Brother because it’s, like “quality” TV and you can “binge” on your favourite shows. Isn’t it strange how it’s OK to sit in a vegetative state in front of the TV all day as long you’re glued to Riverdale or Stranger Things or something else that costs $8 million per episode, but spend a good four hours catching up with Jeremy Kyle on ITV2 or an entire day wired into the Kardashians and suddenly you’re trash. Netflix is the dirty burger of the TV experience. All that plot and filler that takes an entire day to get through, just to catch up with where your friends are on each season? I’d (genuinely) rather sit in front of Strictly for a couple of hours and truly relax. Netflix, boxsets, series stacking and anxiety over your TiVo groaning with shows unwatched all sound too stressful to me. Which is the very opposite of what vegging out in front of the TV is supposed to be.

WITTY like a character killed off before the end of season one.
DRIVEN like Joan Collins to The Wolseley, every other morning.
ATTENTIVE like a doctor returning to work after a malpractice hearing.

PLEASANT like something not unpleasant.
POLITICAL like a think-piece about Jeremy Corbyn.
YOUNG-SPIRITED like a 21-year-old.

Spoiler. It’s somewhere between:


Lucky you.

21. There’s no such thing “work the next day”, not if you really want to stay out. There aren’t hangovers when you’re 21; they’re just mild obstacles that can be overcome with a bacon sandwich and an hour or two laughing at memes. Tiredness at 21 is like a full battery  to a 30-year-old. They dream of being able to say they’re knackered at that level of energy. Just wait until you hit 40, when even the sight of a vodka and tonic across a crowded room can give you 24 hours of panicky sweats, an upset tummy and the feeling that you knocked back every optic of the bar in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, getting cornholed by every single barman as you drank.

Take it from me, who gets a hangover from drinking more than three Diet Cokes on a night out, that at 21 you are basically as invincible as it’s possible to be and your job probably doesn’t matter that much. Look, almost everybody expects 21-year-olds to be disappointing fuck-ups – don’t die trying to prove them wrong. Just live up to your hype. Be that entitled young person old journalists are always moaning about. You might as well. And then, when you’re 45 or whatever, you too can whinge about the generation below being a bunch of boring old sacks who acted like they always came seventh in a pub quiz.

I am all for honesty, and living your truth and speaking your mind and all that guff. Yes, let’s be that generation of Big Brother contestants who think that somehow “If I’ve got anything to say about you, I’ll say it to your face” makes them a better person, and not an ill-mannered, confrontational sociopath who treats other people’s feelings like the wrapper off a Pret sandwich. In a world of fake news, we cling to the truth like it’s the last lifeboat on the Titanic, but sometimes, it is simply better to let the truth float away, frozen to death, forever mute, than haul it back out of the water to live another day and ruin everything.

If you didn’t fancy him, you didn’t fancy him. Fine. I’m just not sure you needed to use up all those words to say it here, though. He’s reading it, you know? We all are.

You know, in Europe, they put, like, a bar though a seven in case it’s mistaken for a 1? I do it myself actually – an affectation from primary school that I refused to give up despite many warnings from my teachers.

Anyway, today I am French and this looks like a 1 to me – I think it is a very generous score.

Don’t think I don’t see this for what it is. I don’t want to be too hard on Jack because he’s only 21 and all that – but unless your date was a total piece of shit and made you cry, there’s no excuse for a 4 here. If you’re stuck on a date with an arsehole, just score him 7 – Dan managed it.. If it’s a true 4, then spill the details. Otherwise, this happens.

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Graeme Robertson, 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. But seriously. Whatever. Get in touch if you want to pretend I’ve misrepresented you in any way, and I’ll bring the popcorn. 

No Comment

  1. I guess Josh reads this blog, the reference to Netflix was shading Josh from a couple of weeks ago.
    So if your reading Dan, Jack comes across as an arrogant tosser, so its no loss aim higher.

  2. If there are any professional rugby players reading this, please suit up and pitch up in your Land Rover, or other manly car, and take Dan for a spin past Jack’s flat, and then onwards to Heaven/heaven. Tar.

  3. Sounds like Dan dodged a bullet with Jack, there. He’s impressed no-one and disappointed everyone with that 4/10.

  4. Good grief. What a bitch – and I thought I was bad. He probably thought he was living up to the sassy, shady homo trope, when he just came across as awful.

    As ever, however, your words were A+. So many great moments. I particularly enjoyed your Titanic analogy for the “I tell it like it is” types.

    Also, all the best people strike through their 7s; by pure coincidence, I do this, too.

Leave a Response