When I was growing up, in my mum’s box-shaped council house in a town I’d happily drop napalm on, I used to dream of being middle-class. They had cars, holidays, spice racks, interesting pickles in the fridge, a ‘breakfast room’.
I would play with my Lego and act out what I assumed were scenes of perfect middle-class bliss. I built myself a ‘set’ of five or six houses, a supermarket, a police station converted into flats (people kept buying me Lego police stations in the hope it might stop me talking like a Barbie doll on a French exchange) and would write scripts, giving all my Lego figures names like Sacha and Monica and Felix and Jasmine. Their lives were very exciting – Felix had a helicopter which would crash every other week and Monica was having an affair with her bank manager. It was the perfect escape from my humdrum, working-class experience of the wrong socks, growing into grey school jumpers and enduring animated slices of ham with a face drawn on calling me “gaylord” on the bus.
I couldn’t wait to grow up and follow the middle-class dream myself, but of course I now realise their lives are just as dull as mine was – nobody has helicopters and all bank managers are not simmering sex gods, but acne-battling graduates who wear specs with smeared lenses. I would give anything to go back and play with my Lego.
As if proving my point that middle-class existences are just as boring, but with better kitchens and premium skincare, along come this week’s Guardian Blind Daters. India, 28, is an advertising account manager and connecting with her on LinkedIn this week is Mike, a 31-year-old digital producer, which means he gets paid £300 a day to colour in cells in an Excel spreadsheet, forward emails to web developers (“pls fix asap!!!!”) and tell clients “that’s not really possible within the limitations of your budget”.
This is exactly what I imagine harassed middle-class parents say to their children, leaning menacingly toward them in the backseat of their Renault Basique, before heading into the local pizzeria for a family reunion dinner.
“Do not mention the hair growing out of Grandad’s ears and, yes, Auntie Bea’s ‘special friend’ is a woman. Now get out of this car and don’t you dare get your phones out before the limoncello or you’re grounded. I just want to have a relaxed meal and it not to be awkward.”
Lumière from Beauty and the Beast, but in Louboutins? A Catherine wheel? No idea. Best strap a torch to your head, India.
‘Confident’ as a first impression always puzzles me. Perhaps Mike unicycled into the restaurant juggling toasters or was wearing really tight trousers and a saveloy stuffed down the front. We’ll never know.
And ‘tall’ as a first impression doesn’t really work. “What was your first impression of me?” “Oh, that you had two eyes and a nose. And hair.” No.
First a smile to light up the room, now warmth. Mike’s ideal woman is a gas fire or the halogen light above my hob that turns hotter than the sun if it’s on for longer than 20 minutes.
His friends? What about your friends?
“The difference between money and happiness.” Can you get a more middle-class, cheese-and-biscuits, ‘I make my own chutney, but just for friends; I’d never sell it’ response than that? It’s up there with ‘travelling’ which – ding ding ding! – is there too. I often find people who like to wax lyrical about money not making you happy, or whatever, tend to have more than enough of one or the other.
Being rich doesn’t make you happy? Bully for you, moneybags – but remember, being poor can make you really, really sad.
Dates used to congratulate me on my teeth. You see a lot of different ones when you’re dating and so I suppose mine used to come as a nice surprise.
Now that everyone is mortgaging their flats to get veneers, India can be forgiven for wondering whether Mike’s perfect gnashers (as far as I can see) were the result of nature or a jovial dentist with hairy fingers but perfectly manicured nails.
“No go on, try it, you’ll really like it.”
You get people like this. Mainly men, I have to say. It’s not enough for them to sit and enjoy whatever they’re eating or drinking; their pleasure has to go viral. They want you to feel it too, and tell others. Spread the word! I have tasted all manner of delicious and disgusting things under duress, because some bloke who didn’t really get the concept of tastebuds waggled their fork in front of me and insisted I would “really like it, honestly – you’ll never look back”. You’re right, I won’t look back, not for a second. And I’ll be leaving you with the bill.
Oh, and negronis are disgusting. I have at least two friends who get really evangelical about them and just can’t understand why I don’t like them. “But it’s such a lovely summery drink!” they trill. Yes, if you prefer to summer in the U-bend of a washbasin in a comprehensive school. No no no to negronis and every single tired, concept-heavy popup that serves them.
Table manners now. Pray for us all.
I see. Mike?
If someone spent, oh I don’t know, four hours of an evening with me – and they go on somewhere afterward so it may even be longer – and the best thing they could say about me was that I had a nice smile, I would plunge into crisis mode. The comfort eating would be ON.
Was I boring? Did I smell? “Nice smile”? Isn’t that what you say when you see a new mum in the street, lean into the pram for a gawk at the offspring only to find Yoda in a babygro? “Oh what a lovely smile!”
Nothing about my personality, or my looks (I am a shallow human) or even my bantz – just a “nice smile”. I’m a big mouth on a stick. Thanks for dropping by.
It’s back! ‘Chatty’! Yay.
Nothing makes my blood turn to ice quicker than the word ‘foodie’. Let me guess: like just about every straight man in the UK he makes a “mean spag bol”, and he enhances it with a secret ingredient which, on looking at Mike, probably isn’t the bog-standard ketchup or Lea & Perrins but anchovies or dessert wine or “this really amazing oil I picked up in an Argentinian deli in <insert NW postcode here>”.
Foodie. Yeah. Me too.
Hang on. Is India the cool girl? Spoiler: she tans Mike’s arse at what they insist on calling “fussball” a bit later on, so maybe she is. The dream!
Thanks Chandler and Joey, for making table football even more annoying than it already was. My favourite word for this most dreary of kidult pastimes is the French one: le baby-foot.
I’d rather share a taxi with a person whose face is a TV screen showing a video of gastric band surgery than relive the youth club agonies of pretending table football is in anyway a pleasurable experience, but each to their own.
Can you imagine Mike at Christmas, opening his presents and telling you “this is not the worst thing I have ever seen” or “these socks are the very opposite of a terrible gift choice”. You’d struggle to believe him, wouldn’t you? I’m a husk of a man, who could find misery in the most beautiful of sunrises, but even I can wheel out an actual compliment every now and again.
Oh, they boned. Cool. That’s what this means, right? This is code. Either that or you think you’re in a Jane Austen novel.
How funny that “I don’t kiss and tell” is in fact the biggest tell of all. If three people on the internet say you’ve banged, you’ve banged. I look forward to two further corroborations.
If they really did do the nasty, that’s come conservative scoring.
Perhaps they’re playing it cool. They shouldn’t. Playing it cool is the enemy that keeps us all from electrifying sex with strangers in rooms we shouldn’t be in, in unfamiliar houses that sit on bus routes we don’t know. Playing it cool says no to one more drink, pops open only one button at the neck; it vapes.
Screw playing it cool. Play it hot. You owe it to yourselves. Life can be a joyless tundra as it is – turn up the central heating and take a layer off. Live a little.
With that in mind, what do our devil-may-care daters think to the prospect of meeting again? Excited at the thought of another ‘fussball’ drubbing? Looking forward to necking another negroni. My lips are trembling in antici…
You guys stick to playing it cool then. Some of us prefer to stay a little closer to the grill.
Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian.
Note: My jokes about Mike’s job come from bitter experience and all the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal.