We’re still virtual, for obvious reasons, and this week the Guardian takes advantage of that fact by going truly global, with Harry, a 32-year-old TV producer from London (left) and Jayson, a 25-year-old journalist from Hong Kong (right).
This week’s blog comes to you soundtracked by the noise of construction work from one of the three building projects surrounding my flat, so please be patient if the jokes seem told through gritted teeth.
Read the full account of the date (it’s drunken, but not without charm) before I take an angle grinder to the whole thing and cut tiles infinitesimally slowly in someone’s back garden. Oh no hang on that’s just the builders. Anyway:
Harry on Jayson | Jayson on Harry
What were you hoping for?
A fun chat that didn’t involve a quiz.
Lockdown has been tough on those who don’t have an innate need to show how knowledgeable they are, or don’t see life as just one big handbag or spare room that needs reorganising. Before coronavirus we may have ambled quite satisfactorily through a FaceTime or a Skype call with friends. Now we are robbed of regular, dull social interactions like regular, half-arsed flirting with “cute guy in Pret” or mid-commute scowling at a Metro-spreader, everything has to count. We are searching for meaning via the route of online trivia. Maybe this is because the conversations we all want to have are too terrifying, too open-ended. We cannot be definitive about what is happening because the unknown is so muddy and huge and all-consuming, so we resort to being amateur Jim Bowens posing questions to our clueless friends about Netflix shows we *know* they haven’t watched yet. Basically, Patty Simcox from Grease is in charge of our social life now and we will just have to get through it until the vaccine (Rizzo) comes along and deals with it.
(Please don’t be afraid to just talk to people; not everyone wants to be on a gameshow.)
What were you hoping for?
A new connection. Social distancing gets you to think about how important it is to have human connection.
It does, doesn’t it? We are all missing those warm hugs from our godmother, or the pudgy fingers of our friends’ children travelling straight for their nose to our face. And yet as soon as we see more than four people out on the streets we scream ourselves hoarse in fear and call for the plague doctor to take away these flouters of the rules. The thing I miss most about ‘normal life’ is being able to leave my house when I like, to escape the noise of builders who are definitely not social distancing.
Is this a person being held against their will? He was sitting in a dimly lit room that looked a bit like a scene in Homeland. Once he turned on the light, I could see he was handsome.
He seemed nervous, which I thought was cute. He had framed his screen so he had a cool film poster and a picture of London behind him, so I knew he had an aesthetic.
Background checks. Spare a moment for those who didn’t realise that bookshelves would become your new vital statistic. It has long been a ‘thing’ that your bookshelves would be scrutinised by any potential romantic interests – by which I mean bits of trade dragged home on aa Saturday night because everyone else has copped off but you hadn’t. It’s a conversation starter that keeps momentum going between the cup of coffee being made and the condom wrapper being torn open.
John Waters once said, “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!” However John has, to the best of my knowledge, never been invited over Michael Gove’s threshold for a Mellow Birds and a hand-job. So maybe he would have a different take on this if he had.
Anyway, we have our first ‘handsome’ of the evening and a ‘cute’ to go alongside, and we’re only two questions in so perhaps the night is not a dead loss after all – oh hang on, they are thousands of miles apart.
Any awkward moments?
When I insistently asked to see the pie he had made, of which there was only one slice left, and it came out of a small Tupperware box. Second, when I started singing a song – was it Let It Be? I can’t remember.
I can exclusively reveal – from looking ahead a few questions – that the pie being discussed was a lemon meringue pie which, famously, is the first thing I can ever remember making me puke, when I was 4 or 5, in the dining hall at school. The smell of it, the consistency, the taste – I have never eaten anything meringue-based since and even the word meringue makes me feel queasy. On a happier note, I have reconciled with lemon, and had lemon and mascarpone cheesecake for pudding last night.
If you haven’t guessed from Harry’s confession that he sang a song, he has begun the date quite ‘lubricated’ and is a few drinks ahead of Jayson. Ordinarily, in a restaurant situation, this might not be a huge problem – not that it is a huge problem anyway – and they could have laughed about it, but over Zoom, well… something is lost, isn’t it? Eye contact through pixellation is not the same as pupils enlarging face to face, over a strategically placed tea light. This date was actually recorded for the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast so you can actually assess for yourself how drunk Harry was (not very, tbh, he sounds okay). They also talk about other stuff not mentioned here. Anyway Harry is mashed on pre-drinks and he’s got a Cher song in his head – we have all been there.
Any awkward moments?
He started singing I Got You Babe. There was a five-second lag – it was pretty drawn out.
There is no much thing as a Cher song being “pretty drawn out”, Jayson. Trust me, if she sees this, she’ll come after you. (Cher once threatened to beat me up on Twitter because of a tweet I sent from my old work account once.)
Good table manners?
His Greek takeaway never arrived, but generally he was very polite.
So this is the trouble with the virtual date. The formalities all go skewing. This is the second virtual date where one of them hasn’t actually eaten anything. I am all for not eating on a first date – you don’t need to see someone slurp through ramen on first meeting, thanks – but when one of you is and the other isn’t… no.
Good table manners?
He poured his drinks with finesse.
“He was drunk, but didn’t spill any.”
Best thing about Jayson?
He was up for having a bit of fun.
Fun has often been redefined over the years. What does fun means to us now, when the world is so bleak? Coronavirus means we’re appreciating the things we took for granted, like sunsets, birdsong, Grandma – and chicken selects. Can you believe how many people are suggesting they will actually DIE if McDonald’s doesn’t reopen soon? Truly the co-opting of McDonald’s as a personality – and not the plastic, strip-lit hell full of divorced dads and their bored offspring enduing fortnightly access visits that I remember working in as a student – is a sight to behold. Anyway, in early Tens gay-code, ‘fun’ was slang for anonymous, no-strings sex, organised over an app and usually executed within an hour. Can you imagine this now? No, me neither. I doubt this is what these two are referring to as fun, given they’re miles apart anyway, so even a sudden urge to break lockdown and frot themselves mad through the letterbox of a closed front door is unavailable to them. Perhaps one of them popped a nipple.
Best thing about Harry?
He seemed to care about obscure details of my life. For example, how I’d successfully baked a lemon meringue pie.
I think “care” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. Zoom chats are different from real face-to-face chats aren’t they? You feel less inclined to talk about the wider world – celebrities, music, news, people you hate on Instagram – and are more focused on yourselves, or the person right in front of you. Perhaps it’s because time is limited – unless you’ve upgraded to a paid Zoom – or because in the absence of any distractions other than a Guess Who grid of people you know wrestling with bad angles, worse lighting, and a complete collection of Dan Browns on the bookshelves behind them, you just have to say what you see, to whomever you’re looking at.
Describe Jayson in three words
Cute, smart and fun.
Cute, like the puppy you got to help you through lockdown. It’s definitely working – you’re spending so much time trying to tease out puppy-diarrhoea from between the gaps in your laminate flooring, you’ve barely any time to think about the thousands of people a day still being infected with coronavirus. (Not that anyone is still talking about this, sadly.)
Smart, like the clothes you used to wear when you still left the house. Oh, you’ve tried. You wore your lace-ups for the first week, slip-ons for the second, comfier slip-ons for the third, trainers for the fourth. But now you’re in your Shrek slippers and a onesie with a strawberry daiquiri stain down it. You have never even drunk a strawberry daiquiri.
Fun, like… oh I kind of did this earlier. No repeats.
Describe Harry in three words
A tipsy intellectual.
TIPSY. What you mother would say (assuming you were born and raised in an eighties middle-class sitcom and not the real world) she was after drinking three glasses of Dubonnet and Appletise at the village fete.
At least he called him intellectual, I guess. (If you listen to the podcast, Jayson said this very warmly, so I doing think we need be concerned that he was shooting off a pass-agg barb.)
What do you think he made of you?
I wonder, especially because I’d had quite a lot to drink and broke into song.
It has occurred to me that maybe they should put this question before the “three words” one, so you get to see what they *actually* thought straight after. Anyway, it sounds like Harry may have slight next-day regret. Luckily it has all been recorded for posterity in this column, my blog, and a podcast.
What do you think he made of you?
Agreeable, open-minded and radio-friendly. And cute, obviously.
Radio-friendly. I miss radio mixes of songs, where record companies used to beef up a track for single release so it would sound better on the radio. These mixes are usually hard to find now in the Spotify era because all we get are album versions. Madonna’s singles right up to the Erotica album always had a different single mix (sometimes vastly different and/or inferior or better). They’re all on YouTube. Treat yourself.
And… did you swap numbers?
How did the date end?
It officially ended on the Zoom call, then we had a WhatsApp call and Jayson took me up on to the roof of his building in Hong Kong.
We realised that, sadly, the date had run its course. I went to bed.
“Run its course” makes the end sound more brutal than it was, if Harry is telling the truth about Jayson “taking him up on the roof” [leaves gap for inevitable innuendo from some of our less sophisticated viewers] and didn’t just dream about it in a post-cocktail hallucinogenic fug.
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Probably the pie. I also wonder whether spending the money the Guardian gave me for a takeaway on cocktails was the best idea.
Harry, all things considered, I think it was probably the BEST idea.
Marks out of 10?
A solid eight.
A solid eight.
“Solid.” I never love it when “solid” crops up. It smacks of order, and focus, and determination not to waver at any point. Is there no opportunity for leeway, np hope it could, in retrospect, be a 9? Or maybe even, once the hangover has relieved you of a few neurones, a 7? Solid. Dependable. Stubborn. Resolute. You know what else is solid? A turd on day 46 of quarantine after weeks and weeks of zero fibre.
Would you meet again in person?
Obviously, Jayson lives in Asia, which isn’t the easiest place to get to. We’ll have to see how things virtually pan out.
We’d still have to contend with the distance, but if our paths should cross at some point, why not?
I’m not sure the physical distance is the only issue here , but you never know. (I think we do know.)
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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, replies, and generally on social media. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments. 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. As a wise woman once said, “Kim, there’s people that are dying”. 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.
• To hear more of Harry and Jayson’s date, listen to the Blind Date column’s collaboration with the Today in Focus podcast.