Impeccable Table Manners

Frankie and Bruce

“Oh goodness, they’re older,” I thought this morning as I scanned  the Guardian Blind Date to make sure it was worth getting up for. I said this as if I forgot the angsty hour I spent in the barber’s chair on Thursday glaring into what I had assumed was a mirror but was in fact a strange Instagram filter that ages you into your forties. One of them is younger than me. I forget I too am older, another box down on the survey. I know a few longer words, but my tiny brain is still the dizzying mess of contradictions and questions it was in my twenties.

And I am sure that Frankie, 47, an education consultant and Bruce, a 40-year-old company director (that should sting a little because I am 41 and not one of these but I guess I could be a company director if I registered myself as one) are exactly the same.

Read what happened and we’ll get busy with the fizzy.

Bruce on Frankie | Frankie on Bruce
What were you hoping for?
Someone not really tall. I’m not the tallest, so that would have been slightly awkward.

I wish we could do something about this, the tall thing. Why isn’t it OK for a man to be shorter than a woman? In my former life as a heterosexual (hahahahahaha *pause* hahahahahahahahaha) my last ever girlfriend was taller than me to start with, and wore huge heels. Why not? The trouble is both men and women are complicit in this awkwardness. Women aren’t supposed to be interested in short men and men aren’t particularly in being one. And we all go along with it. In the gay world, there is actually a market for shorter gay guys (you may scoff at my saying “a market” but please do open an app and tell me it’s not like a butcher’s window) with some even calling themselves “pocket rockets”. I know. But even that is rare.

Anyway, this ridiculous idea men have to be  taller than any woman in a five-mile radius needs to be dropped. Men go to some ludicrous lengths to conceal their height on dating profiles, and are prone to lying about it. This has always baffled me, because you turn up on the date to discover the “six-footer” you were chatting to (always 6′, don’t ask me why) only comes up to your chest.

(I am 5’9 and a half. I used to say 5’10 on my dating profile.)

Someone funny and interesting.

Hey Frankie. What a great name Frankie is. Frankie is the kind of name scriptwriters in the ’80s and ’90s used to use for glamorous divorcees or spiky single ladies who wore jumpsuits and big jackets. Frankie. of course, is also that Jason Colby used to call Francesca, American sister of his English wife Sable. Women with troubled pasts, big hair, complicated love lives and an inexhaustible supply of lippy striding into rooms on Howard’s Way – they will always be Frankie to me.

First impressions?


This is the only first impression I ever want to make. Full marks to Bruce here.

He seemed confident and had a big smile. I liked that.

I am wary of “nice smile” or “big smile” because it’s usually printed on the back of a one-way to ticket to the Friend Zone, but I feel Frankie is being sincere here.

What did you talk about?
We discovered we are both a bit geeky and like rock music and sci-fi.

What is an actual geek now? I am fascinated by the resurgence of geekdom and how almost everyone is falling over themselves to rebrand as a “geek”. It used to be massively uncool to be a geek, unless you had come out the other side and were now hugely gorgeous and popular. It’s what stunningly attractive supermodels or Hollywood heartthrobs used to say in interviews to make them sound like real people – “Oh I was just an ugly geek” – and you would roll your eyes and go “surrrrrre you were”.

But now being a geek seems to have changed into something else. it is no longer the refuge of the ugly, the friendless, the socially awkward, the bullied and the fanatical. No. Thank GOODNESS, eh, that good-looking people can say with confidence “Hey I’m a geek too; we’re not all lonely weirdos” after being out in the cold for so long. Like there weren’t enough opportunities in literally every other walk of life for the beautiful to dominate absolutely everything. Now you get perfectly toned cuties grabbing a comic, slamming on a pair of Clark Kent specs – £350 Tom Ford ones, though, lol because being a sexy geek costs ££££ – and a T-shirt that says “NERD”, the letters starring against their chest, and claiming geekdom all for themselves.

That’s true equality.

Any awkward moments?
Aside from the fact that we met on a catwalk in the centre of Manchester in front of a few thousand people while being streamed live for Manchester International Festival, no, not really.

I had to read this bit over a few times. The Guardian hasn’t seen fit to explain what the hell they were doing on a catwalk, and I can’t be bothered Googling but I would say this is an awkward moment, yes.

We were both very chatty: the prosecco probably helped.

Can we talk about prosecco?

Like, what is this “drinking proscecco is an adequate replacement for having a personality” trend?

While I find allegiance to a particular alcoholic drink at least more understandable than caring about 11 strange men you’ll never meet kicking a football round a field – booze gets you pissed after all, which is fun – I have never been able to fathom why drinks like gin and prosecco are supposed to tell us anything about you other than the fact you may well be a nasty drunk prone to arguing in kebab shops.

I mean, FFS, prosecco is just WINE. It’s cava with a conservatory and an ensuite. With a bidet. Asti Spumante, but with silver salad tongs instead of wooden. And it’s not even champagne. “Oh I prefer it to champagne,” you hear people say sometimes, before they go on to list some nonsense reason why they prefer a bottle of enamel-eroding, bladder-burning, fizzy migraine to champagne. It is never, strangely, the same answer as mine, i.e. the real one, which would be “I can’t afford it, so £4.99 fizz gives me almost the same buzz and sipping it from a flute allows me to pretend to be Joan Collins”.

Best thing about Frankie?
She’d probably blush, but she has an amazing smile.

That smile again. Lots of smiling. I have a theory that men say this because it’s the one physical compliment they can give without coming across as  an objectifying, perverted sex dinosaur. In fact, I may just set my phone to autocorrect “nice smile” to “bodacious rack” and see what happens.

Best thing about Bruce?
His confidence.

I take this answer paired with Bruce’s assertion that Frankie would “blush” at a compliment to mean that Frankie is shy. However, they met on the middle of a catwalk at a festival or something so perhaps she’s not a wallflower all the time. Anyway, Bruce is ballsy enough for the both of them by the sound of it – his very name alone exudes “I will barge past you to get to the bar” – and he’s director of his own company at the age of 40 so he must be doing something right.

Describe her in three words
Attractive, fun, interesting.

ATTRACTIVE, like a fairground attraction, a fatal attraction, or a vase.
FUN, like the idea of going to Alton Towers, rather than the reality.
INTERESTING, like your face when you discover a blond hair on your husband’s sports jacket – yet you are bald.

Describe him in three words
Smiley, confident, fun.

SMILEY, like fucking hell can’t they think of anything else to say about each other it’s like two people trying to find a way to avoid saying “your teeth are too big”.
CONFIDENT, like the rollerskating woman in the Bodyform adverts years ago.
FUN, like doing half a pill in the queue to get in a LeAnn Rimes concert.

And… did you kiss?
Yes, a few times – she’s very kissable.

Amazing. This is how you do it.

I’d say 10, but it was our first date and no one scores 10 on that, so a solid 9.

What? If a person is a 10, score them a 10. Of course someone can score 10 on a first date – why not? There are tonnes of 10s out there – well, tens of 10s, tbh – don’t withhold your top score just because of some weird rule that you just made up that nobody can be absolutely perfect the first time you meet them. In fact, if anything, it’s as perfect as most people are going to get, that all-important first time, when you can see only the good and the exciting – before reality, bad jokes and a habit of leaving towels on the bathroom floor kick in and makes everybody a 5. Call a 10 a 10.



Kylie tosses her pony tail

Ha. Touché, Frankie.

So we’ve come to the end, but will brassy Bruce and beaming Frankie meet up again to see how they get on when we’re not looking?

Would you meet again?
If he asks, yes.

Don’t be SHY, Frankie – YOU could ask. I worry sometimes we spend so long waiting for other people to do something, to approach us, or be there for us, or help us, or enable us, that we waste a lot of time we could’ve spent moving things forward ourselves. Come on, let’s GO.

Yes. I think a second date is on the cards.

Don’t think it, Bruce, make it happen. Before someone other than you and her dentist spots how great Frankie’s smile is…

Photograph: Christopher Thomond 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. Say cheese!


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  1. Ah, the height thing. I’m not tall, 5′ 3″, so it would be unusual to meet a man shorter than me – tho not impossible. My STBX husband is 5′ 4″, and he is SO bothered by this. He has serious issues about his height, to the extent he buys those shoes with hidden stacked heels. He thinks he is held back in his job because of it, that (before meeting me) women were put off when they met him and saw he is short etc etc etc. I couldn’t get him to see it was his attitude that is off putting, not his height. Maybe I’m wrong.
    Whatever. We are in the process of getting divorced, and I don’t think it’s because of his height but, perhaps it is, after all.

    1. I dated a man who was awesome- funny, attractive, great dancer (we both danced swing) interesting creative job, knew the best secret cocktail bars, excellent conversation… also short (my height, Kylie sized) and not a little chubby. He could not stop drawing attention to and referencing the fact that he was short. In the end it was his insecurity that drew a line under it, not his height.
      But men and women are alike in this, when it comes to physical attributes, we have to try and remember that the object of our affections has seen them and is none the less still around. They can accept your shortcomings (bad joke) so must you. But it ain’t easy.

      Excellent column bte, you never fail to make me laugh, I wish the whole world could discover your greatness!!!

  2. ‘I mean, FFS, prosecco is just WINE. It’s cava with a conservatory and an ensuite’

    So true. Alcohol’s PR has got completely out of hand…

  3. I have a friend who refuses to date “short” men. She thinks anyone under 5’8″ has an attitude about it. She also doesn’t appreciate that I think that is very funny because she is 4’11” in thick socks and has an appalling attitude about it.

  4. YAY!! Go Bruce and Frankie! Loving the honesty and not the usual millennial angsty replies trying to be funny.

  5. I watched them meet! Didn’t know it would be on Guardian Blind Dates, so pleased to hear it turned out well. It was part of Manchester International Fest opening event, they walked Bruce out first and left him standing at the end of the catwalk as some other Mancunians came and went. Then they brought Frankie on to much applause and the two walked towards each other to meet in the middle of the 100m runway. Very sweet / brave.

  6. I’m a 6ft tall gay man and I like:

    (a) short, “compact” men (it’s sooo cute)
    (b) overpoweringly tall men, so big they could pin you to the floor without any effort


    (c) all the other ones in between because, seriously, who gives a fuck about how tall they are if they’re hot?

  7. I just loved (and squeeed over): ‘I may just set my phone to autocorrect “nice smile” to “bodacious rack”’.
    Thank you for this (and your column).

    I am not very tall but still adore men shorter than me. Somehow they give me a “safe” vibe (which is ludicrous as first impression – I suppose this means that some parts of my brain thinks that, should they misbehave, I might have an easier time defending myself – so yeah: ludicrous).

    Some Prosecco can be VERY nice. But it usually doesn’t cost £4.99.

  8. I am ALL ABOUT this couple. #TeamFruce!

    “That smile again. Lots of smiling. I have a theory that men say this because it’s the one physical compliment they can give without coming across as an objectifying, perverted sex dinosaur.”

    I think you’re right in general. Also in this particular instance, because on the evidence of the photos Frankie is kind of – no other way of saying this – hot.

  9. I just met your blog and this is crazy but wow this has made my weekend. Especially the bit about prosecco. The absolute worst is where it overlaps with twee Not on the High Street tat. However as well as being similarly anti-prosecco-pride, I am a pedant, so feel compelled to point out that prosecco isn’t cava, they are made differently. Cava and champagne are both fermented entirely in the bottle to make them sparkly where as prosecco is given its fizz in a tank. It’s a cheaper method that results in less interesting and complex flavours (another reason I hate it).

  10. It says a lot for Frankie that she can still appear attractive despite the Guardian insisting on using a photographer who’s best suited to taking pictures at autopsies.

  11. Belated reading again (just noticed I hadn’t read a couple of recent entries). Great date and great write-up, particularly enjoyed:

    “I have never been able to fathom why drinks like gin and prosecco are supposed to tell us anything about you other than the fact you may well be a nasty drunk prone to arguing in kebab shops.”

    Prosecco is dry and sharp, I really don’t see the appeal but then I’m not a wine drinker as it gives me major headaches. Gin, similarly is massively overrated. It’s so weird, this unjustified social cache that is bestowed on certain drinks and some (a lot of!) people seem to buy into.

    1. You don’t read every week?!?!? Hahaha. I do find the fetishising of food, drink and even TV shows as a bit strange – it’s a bit like we’re afraid to say who and what we really are so cling to these weird categories. Are we worried people won’t like us if they can’t work is out immediately?

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