Gustavo and Bryan
Photographs: Jill Mead, Graeme Robertson/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Gustavo and Bryan

Everything is burning. Let’s fiddle.

This week, we have a 31-year-old nurse practitioner called Gustavo and Bryan, 34, who is a head of sales. Selling what we will never know. Car parts? Leather basques? Insurance? Vajazzling kits? It’s a mystery.

Read what happened in full, on the Guardian website, before I forget everything I knew about social distancing and plough on in.

Gustavo on BryanBryan on Gustavo

What were you hoping for?
At worst, a funny date story and a free dinner. At best, a good time with someone I might not have otherwise met, and a free dinner.

My mother would clip me round the ear for mentioning the free dinner at all, let alone twice. This answer does feel like it’s been cribbed from my as-yet-uncommissioned compendium Shit People Always Say in the Guardian Blind Date Column (£3.99, inevitable available from all good local garden centres which have a cafe called L’Orangerie, and motorway service stations).

What were you hoping for?
A fun chat with a funny, clever guy who doesn’t take himself (or me) too seriously.

Gustavo was hoping for a funny story and a free dinner, Bryan here is hoping for a fun chat with a funny guy. There’s reaching for the moon, and then there’s reaching for Alfie Moon. I suppose experience has shown them to keep their expectations fairly low when it comes to appearing in this column.

First impressions?
Handsome and punctual.
Very handsome and immediately engaged, conscientious, and clearly very intelligent. Great jumper, too.

A double-handsome which is a VERY good start.

Bryan is really running away with himself with the other adjectives there, like he’s doing a quarterly appraisal on one of his team leaders, but let’s ignore those and focus only on the handsomes and, of course, on the GREAT jumper, because who wouldn’t want someone to say they had a GREAT jumper? Unless:

  1. The jumper is not actually great, but is in fact quite ugly, but in a semi-stylish way, so the “GREAT jumper” isn’t quite a sincere compliment, but an admiration in the vein of “I see what you’re doing there, but I could never get away with that.”
  2. The jumper is in fact the most unpleasant thing since Ann Widdecombe’s draft tweets folder and the compliment was an attempt at tired, Chandler Bing-esque sarcasm.
  3. The jumper is uglier than a from-below, 6am selfie taken in bus lighting, and the wearer seems to be unaware, so the complimenter is trying to gee them up.
  4. It’s a Christmas jumper, worn in March, or a sweater with Cliff Richard on it, or has “I rode the waltzers at Hornsea Pottery” stitched on it, and the complimenter has realised they’re on a date with a potential serial killer and are trying to keep calm.
  5. The jumper is amazing and the compliment is said through envious, gritted teeth and will be followed by a quick Google once the jumper-wearer is at the loo to ascertain cost and work out whether it’s worth boning him just to be near to that gorgeous jumper.

Anyway, great jumper (that we can’t even see because, contrary to a very commonly held belief, the photos are rarely taken on the same day as the date).

EDIT: An update from Gustavo: “Fun fact. I did the photoshoot and the date on the same day. So that is THE jumper 😅”

They do sometimes do the dates on the same day as the photo, yes, usually in an emergency, which would explain why the date was round the corner from the Guardian offices. But every other week, when readers say to me “I always thought they did the photos on the same day!” they answer is no. I love that this has come to bite me with such great speed.

What did you talk about?
Travel, families, our jobs, hobbies, past relationships, music, food.
Growing up gay in a small town (cue Bronski Beat), our strange families and their niche faiths, genetic testing kits, what it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally, sports, musicals.

There is a glaring omission there that carbon-dates this meeting to around, oh, what is it now, a month ago? Enjoy these precious last few moments.

Families (and niche faiths) ✅. Wonder what the niche faiths are? Evangelical flat-Earthism? A crossover between martial arts and Judaism called Judo-Judaism (needs workshopping, but it’s early)? Satanism-lite? Who knows?

Hobbies/music/sports/food/musicals ✅. These are all the same thing, really. Category is: things you would say you liked to do in your spare time if you were a Pointless contestant and had prepared one stock musical/artist/song/hobby if Alexander Armstrong asked you to tell him more about it. Chicago, Alexander! Madonna! Oh, anything but Borderline, probably! I do a lot of reading!

I always find these little chats so fascinating to find out more about someone you will never play eyes on again, but I think gameshows would be more interesting if instead of asking Barbara from Crawley how long she’d been recreating TV Times covers in cross-stitch, they got her to play a quick game of “Fuck Marry Kill”, using the other contestants as stimuli.

Growing up gay in a small town (cue Bronski Beat). I never realised that song was speaking directly to me until much, much later, when the small town was far behind me and I was no longer a boy. Listening to it now, as an older man who got away (not from my parents but the small town) is quite an experience. There was a remix out a couple of years ago and was fed to me constantly by Spotify and I never skipped it. I owed it that, at least. I spent a lot of the 1980s red-faced and puzzled and sometimes all it takes is a song to make it fall into place. Well done, Jimmy. (Anyway, it’s a good song.)

What it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally. In my new novel The Magnificent Sons (out May 28, please buy it because HELLO look how things are going) a teenage character is asked by an older man what it means to be an LGBTQ ally, and she drawls, “‘In my experience? The bare minimum. Not killing a queer person is usually enough. The bar is looooow.” I didn’t say that, she did, but… well. Prove her wrong!

Good table manners?
Yes, although we had a laugh at this question before we even started eating.
His were perfect.

I wonder why they laughed. I never presume anyone is a reader anymore, not since I was at an event or a party or something (must’ve been ages ago) and someone was describing to someone else what these reviews are (I never bring them up unless I’m asked; I would be a terrible influencer). The look on the other person’s face was priceless.
“He reviews…” The person turned to me. “You review it?”

Anyway, maybe they laughed because nobody wants to be thought of as having bad table manners, even though nobody really does. My admittedly limited observation is that bad table manners are usually a sign of someone being too rich or selfish to care what anyone thinks of them. People who were brought up well and, usually, don’t come from money, have good table manners anyway.

Best thing about Bryan?
He’s relaxed, which makes him easy to talk to; the conversation flowed really well all night.

I’m assuming Gustavo means Bryan was very chilled, rather than relaxed from huffing poppers in the loos between courses. Conversation flowing well is important although I do love an awkward silence, even a brief one. Those little stops and starts are opportunities, anything could get in there, things you might never normally say. Most interesting turns of events are preceded by at least three seconds of excruciating silence, thick with intent.

Best thing about Gustavo?
He’s completely present in conversation.

A compliment, certainly, but definitely appraisal jargon. Congratulations Gustavo, we’re promoting you to the Basingstoke and Winchester micro-region which means your next Mondeo will indeed have a CD-changer in the boot and three USB sockets on the dashboard. Pay remains the same.

Anyway, this is going well, right?

Sauages thwacking against a par of bikini bottoms

Would you introduce him to your friends?
I would: I think they’d get on well.
Sure, but heaven knows what he’d make of those heathens.

Great answers but I want to flag the use of “heathens” here. (Although bearing in mind they’ve talked about niche faiths, so maybe Bryan’s friends are literal non-believers, or perhaps into something more humdrum  than goat sacrifices and cannibalistic transubstantiation.) Mislabelling your friends is one of my favourite Guardian Blind Date tropes – especially if you’re suggesting they’re insane hedonists when they are (probably) anything but – and I am grateful to see it here again this week. We all do this to a degree, think our friends are just too ‘out there’, our social circle too cliquey and impenetrable to ever be appreciated or endured by a stranger.

In a way, we are right, as most friendship groups have a natural urge to draw in sphnicter-tight whenever an interloper is identified. However, this is usually done in very dreary ways, saying things like “Let’s not do rounds, we might only stay for one”, or “We’re still in touch with his ex”, or perhaps just sitting there on their phone playing a Polly Pocket simulator while you try to ask them questions about their recent kitchen extension because for some reason you want to impress these horrible, dull berks so your new man likes you more.

It never works.

Describe Bryan in three words
Funny, charming, interesting.

Funny and interesting are nice enough, but charming is the winner here. Do we not all love to be charmed – unless it’s a really obvious attempt at being charmed by someone who could NEVER be charming, the kind of person who keeps breath mints in his glove compartment and borrows friends’ toddlers for a walk in the park because he read once that it means women will talk to you.

Describe Gustavo in three words?
Attentive, ambitious, accomplished.

Bryan has gone off-script and plumped for alliteration here. First we had “present in conversation” and now we have “attentive”. I have a feeling that many of Bryan’s previous dates have been with men who don’t listen, take too long in the loo posing for selfies, and call him “babe” and grab his bottom when it’s not really appropriate. The kind of guy who “lives for drama” but only the very basic kind: arguing in IKEA; putting an aubergine to his crotch in Tesco and getting thrown out by security; crying because Bryan forgot Valentine’s Day. You know the type.

Neither of them used any of their adjectives to talk about looks. I know they said “handsome” earlier but we usually need confirmation here if anything is to progress… does this mean we’re losing hope?

A cake which says, in icing, "sorry you didn't get a boner

What do you think he made of you?
I have no idea. Probably that I talk a lot, which is true.

*QI klaxon goes off*

What do you think he made of you?
A tall, scatterbrained geek who has a hard time shutting up.

*And again*

Did you go on somewhere?
We went to a pub near the restaurant, and had a couple of drinks before getting the tube home.
We went to a nearby pub for some beers and whisky.

Oh, hang on. This is a good sign.

Someone takes some cream from a bottle entitled "Real man"

And… did you kiss?
A gentleman never tells.

Oh here we go.

Man polishes bed knob

And… did you kiss?
No – just two big hugs on the Victoria line. I misheard which stop was his, and clumsily went in for the hug early. Ah well.

Oh. It’s just… GBD convention says that if a dater says “A gentleman never tells”, he usually has something to… tell. Wishful thinking, maybe. Two big hugs, though – that wouldn’t happen “nowadays”

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
That I’d planned better and didn’t have to panic-buy date clothes because I didn’t have time to go to the flat and get dressed.

GREAT jumper.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Nothing. I had a great night.

Parlez-vous Friendzone?

Marks out of 10?
9, I had a really nice time.
8.

Liam Gallagher being asked if he would like to explain and saying "no"

Would you meet again?
We swapped numbers (and Twitter handles). I’d be up for seeing him again, definitely.
As friends, 100%. I don’t think there was a romantic spark for either of us.

Maybe a gentleman should’ve told after all. Whatever happens next, good luck!

Peggy from EastEnders saying "I hope you enjoyed all the fireworks, good night"

 


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My second novel THE MAGNIFICENT SONS is out May 28 and available to preorder. Please do so, as it makes a huge difference to authors and, as  you can see from the news and the outlook and… well, everything, really, this is going to be a challenging time. Look at the cover! This book is really good.

The cover of The Magnificent Sons


About the review and the daters: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most of the things I say are merely riffing on the answers given and not judgements about the daters themselves, so please be kind to them in comments and replies. Please do not tweet horrible things about them. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. And please get in touch abut that jumper. (EDIT: Thank you, Gustavo.)

Gustavo and Bryan ate at Granary Square Brasserie, London N1. Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com. If you’re looking to meet someone like‑minded, visit soulmates.theguardian.com

 

8 Comments

  1. Well, it seems like these two had a pleasant evening and that they might genuinely be friends. Let us be grateful for small mercies in times such as these.

    I’m sorry you have to tell people not to tweet horrible things about the daters. I won’t lie: In the days when I had someone to read the column with, I made a few throwaway bitchy comments about a dater’s answers or sartorial choices. The opportunity to do so is, like it or not, part of the lure of the column, along with the hope, joy or awkwardness we all feel vicariously as we place ourselves in the daters’ shoes.

    I hope I never said anything truly horrible, but I’m glad my comments remained private jokes. I know for certain my friends have little private jokes at my expense – being a social animal is sometimes hard and we need these small opportunities to let off steam. But to have these things said in public, permanently recorded and without context, seems a net loss to me. I may just be getting old, but I struggle to see what Twitter has done for the world accept make it a lot easier to revel in our nastier side.

    1. It’s more a precaution after a few experiences where people have gone a bit too far. Obviously I’ve said some mean things myself in the review on many an occasion, but I think we’re all (rightly) moving in a different direction now and, like you say, context is key.

    2. My local garden centre’s cafe is called “the bothy”. I have no idea what a bothy is but it sounds like it fits your book-selling paradigm. Can it?

      Two very nice polite gentlemen this week, I struggled to detect any spark between them whatsoever

      1. Ooh! A bothy is like a very basic cottage, often with no electricity – unless it’s been bought by an investment banker from Surrey. Usually find them in Scotland.

  2. A bothy is a hut in the Scottish Highlands. Do people still go bothying-hiking from bothy to bothy?

    They used to range from 5 star – weatherproof and perhaps even a few sticks of furniture – all the way to 1 star – a couple of walls more or less intact to give you some protection from the prevailing weather.

  3. I came across these reviews through the Blind Date anniversary special a few months back. The Blind Date column is the first thing I read on a Saturday morning and this site is the perfect accompaniment I didn’t know I was missing! Now I do a Guardian/Guyliner Combo! There’s always something that makes me laugh out loud and I appreciate the way that you keep it classy and only poke fun at the answers, not the people. Thank you!

  4. From the photo I wouldn’t have said it was a *great* jumper. Which means it must feel really lovely. There’s a lot to be said for cosy knitwear.

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