David and Alex
Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

David and Alex

They say youth is wasted on the young, but few things have made me as grateful to be more on the ‘getting on a bit’ side than the uncertainty about when we can do what in the face of the pandemic. It has been hard for everyone in different ways, but if your entire existence depends on being out and seen in all your smooth-skinned and long-limbed glory, it must’ve been very hard. On a good day, I have all the energy of a long-retired greyhound and look like Zelda from Terrahawks post-Clarins counter makeover, so while having to make my world smaller has been a mind-melt in many ways, having to stay at home a bit more than usual hasn’t been that much of a hardship. Nobody has looked at me salaciously on public transport since the 2012 Olympics – back when I used to wear those indecent blue shorts cut right upon to my clavicle – and I have long been invisible to barmen. But, luckily for us all, if you want to follow the tabloid vernacular, we are gradually being ‘set free’, which means young men who like to date men are back in the Blind Date where they belong, their natural habitat.

This week, they’re so young that I immediately crumpled into a pile of old leaves as soon as I turned the page of Weekend magazine. David, 24, and on the left, is a civil servant, and Alex, also 24, is a PR account executive. Other than ‘person behind you in the queue in H&M shouting at the staff to open another till’, I can’t think of two more perfect ’24-year-old in London’ occupations. Here they are from top to bottom:


Alex and David
Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

and then HEY why not come on back here and we’ll say a few words that are definitely only jokes and not cyberbullying.

David on Alex | Alex on David

What were you hoping for?
To meet someone new and enjoy a few drinks.

‘To meet someone new’ as opposed to… your old headmaster turning up? Maybe this happens a lot, I’m not on Grindr.

What were you hoping for?
A laugh, free drinks and a reason to get off Hinge.

Free drinks! Honesty at last!

First impressions?
He had good vibes, a really nice ear piercing, and a good fashion sense.

Ear piercings – They’re back! Or did they never go away and I’m doing that thing people do where they assume that just because they’re not into something anymore, it’s disappeared off the face of the Earth? I noticed when I was doing my twice-yearly Google for photos of Guy Berryman from Coldplay that he has one. And he’s hot. What, you didn’t know Coldplay had a hot person hiding in there among all that wailing and dayglo face paint and fluorescent powder and ‘wellness’? Well, they do. I’d post a photo but copyright, so here’s a link to a GREAT photo of Guy Berryman.

Good fashion sense – (Not pictured.)

(THIS IS A JOKE.They both look great.)

First impressions?
Funky shirt!

Funky! Funky?!? Alex is 57, hoping for a fondue set for his next birthday, and thinks Marie Helvin is ‘top crumpet’. Funky. Who says this? Unless he means David’s shirt smells like an old airing cupboard.

What did you talk about?
Living in London, our drinks of choice (tequila), university nostalgia, climate change, what we were reading, past dates.
Our mutual fondness for Timothée Chalamet, backpacking, London gay bars, our most traumatic drunken journeys home, and climate change.

Living in London – I do love that young people talk about this, hopefully with excitement, and not just the stuff that eats us all in the end: moaning about the Tube, rent, every place we ever loved going getting replaced by a Pret or a Co-op. I’m assuming they’re relatively new here. I moved here 19 years ago, when I was 26, and I had literally no idea how anything was going to turn out and had only one month’s rent – not exactly Madonna running away to NYC with her $35, I know, I know – and I have never, ever regretted it. In the last few months, I have been going out for long walks, getting to know neighbourhoods and going places I would never actually purposefully end up. I know London isn’t perfect and is one of the most unequal, unfair cities on Earth – which I felt very acutely when one of my walks took me up Frognal, I mean, bloody hell, how rich is it possible to be?!? – but I still love it so much. It makes me feel fresh and alive (in better weather anyway) and like anything is possible, still.

London gay bars – Must’ve been a short conversation

University nostalgia – save that for your 50s when you’ve got a soul-destroying job, at least one child who hates you, and appointments for a divorce solicitor tacked to a cork board in your high-spec kitchen extension. Play The Killers or The Vengaboys or whoever you ironically danced to in your halls and let a single tear drop onto your reclaimed marble worktop.

Timothée Chalamet – Ah Timothee. When I was 17, I had a body exactly like his, give or take a few inches of stature. Everything concave and sharp. Sadly in 1993 it wasn’t fashionable to look like you only ate on Fridays, and I longed for fragrance advert muscles, because I was about as sexually appealing as an invitation to lick the bottom of a shopping basket in a Tesco Express. What a jawline though, eh? He could cut the Houses of Parliament in half with that jaw. I wish he would.

What we were readingbuy my books. Thank you.

Any awkward moments?
None stand out.
Any awkward moments?
Not particularly, but he’s never seen Bridesmaids. I was really taken aback.

Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids

I once went on a date with a man who pretended not to have seen Mean Girls, because I think he thought it was a gay cliché, not realising, perhaps, that pretending not to consume popular/gay-leaning culture is even more of a gay cliché.

Anyway, not seeing a film is no big deal – maybe you can… see it together?

Good table manners?
Well, we only had a coffee table, but yes.

Imagine trying to look sexy and dateable while eating a meal hunched over a coffee table like a Hollywood-stylised hobo in an ’80s movie, barbecuing a rat on a brazier.

Good table manners?
I was too engrossed in my falafel burger to notice, but he was still eating his chips an hour after they were served.

Cold chips. Does anyone find them anything but unlovely? Some people are slow eaters. One of my closest friends takes an absolute age to get through any meal. But, as she’s always reminding me, she only has a small mouth. Maybe that’s David’s problem too – which may well become Alex’s problem later on. 

Lucille Bluth winking

I also find it hard to believe anyone could be ‘engrossed’ in falafel.

Best thing about Alex?
He was fun to be around and was easy to talk to.

It’s pretty much all you need from a man, isn’t it? Shame they’re determined to do other stuff too.

Best thing about David?
He was very willing when I suggested tequila shots – both times. Good chat, too

Suggesting tequila shots is often – but not always of course – the equivalent of handing over the PIN to the padlock on your knickers. 

Describe Alex in three words
Fun, social and engaging.

Fun, like a seminar arranged at Facebook HQ where you know the topic will be boring but there’s going to be Haribo on the table.

Social, like… does he mean sociable? He might mean sociable. Or socialist? Anyway, social, like a working men’s club staffed by two fierce middle-aged barmaids who smoke Player’s Navy Cut, have the lyrics to Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten tattooed on their knuckles and would die for their children.

Engaging, like the feedback you won’t give on that seminar – turns out there wasn’t Haribo after all.

Describe David in three words
Brainy, chirpy, friendly.

Brainy, like… Never hear that word now do you? It’s almost not brainy enough a word to use, ironically. Or maybe I’m using ironically wrong there. I’m sure someone off the internet will be along to tell me soon enough. Anyway, brainy, like someone who can use the word ‘ironically’ without self-doubting, second-guessing, and furious googling.

Chirpy, like Orville on a Zoom to all his friends who can actually fly and are patching into the call from their treetop apartments to point out that ducks actually quack and don’t chirp, so could Orville please get over himself and just learn to fly already.

Friendly, like most people are to your face.

If it weren’t for social distancing, would you have kissed?
Er… maybe?
Nina looking with hatred at Corey on coronation street – Nina is captioned 'people who want to kiss' and Corey is captioned 'covid'
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
To have a heater, or sit inside.
I’d have brought a portable heater.

Ugh these outdoor dates are giving them the perfect escape answer to this question. Wishing there’d been a heater is the new ‘If only I’d ordered the langoustine croutons’ when what they really want to say is, ‘I wish I’d set the restaurant on fire ten minutes into the main course’. I hate it. Let’s get these people back inside!

Marks out of 10?
7 for the date.

David’s 8 is hopeful; Alex’s ‘7 for the date’ is… well, what else were you scoring? Has this been edited? 7 for the date; 8 for his hair; 9 for that ‘funky shirt’; 6 for the empty assurance that, yes, I did look a bit like Timothée Chalamet if you were looking at me from across a dual carriageway; 5 for the napkins; 4 for the waiter’s arse; 1 for the money; 2 for the show.

Would you meet again?
Probably, we’ll have to wait and see…
Not romantically, but I’ll buy him a drink if I run into him in Heaven.

Heaven! After that 7?! Not if he sees you in hell first, Alex.

Alexis slams a door

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The Magnificent Sons cover on an orange background

About the review and the daters:The comments I make are based on answers given by participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most things I say are riffing on the answers given and not judgements about the daters themselves, they seem very nice, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments. If you reply to my tweets about the date, please don’t embarrass yourself. Daters are under no obligation to get along for our benefit, or explain why they do, or don’t, want to see each other again, so please try not to speculate. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. I really want to see that full list of scores and also where that funky short is from.

Alex and David ate at Skylight, London E1

Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com

1 Comment

  1. “ I was about as sexually appealing as an invitation to lick the bottom of a shopping basket in a Tesco Express. ”

    I don’t know if it’s cool to comment on an author’s work with his own quote but I needed to highlight this as the phrase that made me choke on a chocolate finger! Self-deprecating and tragic but probably more accurate than most of us would like to remember ourselves.

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