Impeccable Table Manners

Jahangir and David

The fag-end of summer seems finally to have been stubbed out. The air no longer smarts with the acrid pong of over-barbecued sausages; posters for a long-gone “street festival” flap, frayed and weathered, in the increasingly autumnal breeze; our legs breathe a sigh of relief to be hidden under trousers again. And, of course, in my cupboard under the eaves, the light scratch against the wood of bristles from my very realistic-looking-thank-you-very-much Christmas tree tells me that soon it will be time to deck the halls.

But while we wait for everything to get interesting again, we have to endure the woozy, “what season am I” of September. Coat on or off? Too early for jumpers? Should I ask for a pumpkin spice latte or will I be laughed out of Starbucks by a crowd of incognito internet tastemakers for being basic and stupid? Can I will autumn into existence simply by wearing lots of orange and pointing at the solitary crimson/brown leaf my nearest tree has deigned to shed?

First, we need to get to Jahangir and David, our first cabs off the rank in quite a while.

Gay men on the first day back. It’s like they knew.

Jahangir, 39, is a lawyer and David, 38, is a public-sector director so I’m already imagining the fascinating mornings in COS in Westfield and weekends away in Whitstable these two could be having as a couple, but let’s see how they get on on the date shall we? Read the Guardian’s write-up before I get busy with the fizzy.

Jahangir on David | David on Jahangir
What were you hoping for?
No awkward silences and maybe some chemistry.
Someone educated, with an interest in current affairs.

Oh God, really? Oh, mate. I know “current affairs” is a big business and there are people falling over themselves to give you opinions on them, but on a date? Don’t you want to keep it light? I guess you can learn a lot about a person from their thoughts on the state of the world today. But what if they’re clued in about all the stuff you ignore – like a highbrow, really interesting-sounding version of one of you watching Strictly while the other prefers X Factor? With opinions and beliefs increasingly weaponised, my long-held view remains that politics should absolutely be banned from a first date unless you are  in a semi-dull romantic comedy about two spunky reporters breaking a big story who fall in love or whatever. I mean, I like Twitter, but I wouldn’t want to date it, live.

First impressions?
Tall, smiley, handsome.

Haha I do love how “was smiling as we shook hands” becomes “smiley” in these quick first impression roundups. Like anyone would arrive scowling, or crying, or gurning, or rolling their eyes.

Handsome, though. We’ll have that, won’t we lads?

Articulate, pleasant and considered, with strong beliefs.

I hate it when they get this wrong and tell us their overall first impression. David, we are building up to something here; you have shouted out “HE’S DEAD” 18 seconds into The Sixth Sense (which I still haven’t seen so sorry to my self for the spoilers there). Mind you, I have read ahead and it’s very possible Jahangir arrived wearing a Jeremy Corbyn T-shirt so perhaps this *is* a first impression.

Either way, “articulate” is what a teacher who can’t stand you but has to allow for the fact you are a beautiful brainbox would put on your school report.

What did you talk about?
Jetskiing, jury service, Jeremy Corbyn.
Family life, careers, Brexit.

I wonder if Jahangir is one of those people who really likes the letter J. I am also one of those people. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s the first letter of my name – but that’s as good a reason as any – or because it’s relatively rare, but J is a great letter. Looks good; has quite a few variants to keep things “spicy”; can be written with a flourish. I’m a sucker for alliteration – as my book’s copy editor is no doubt about to wearily point out to me very soon – so while Jahangir’s summary ticks a lot of boxes for me, it also sounds very very BORING.

How can David top that? Why, he pulls out the big guns, of course. The ultimate arsenal for sending someone off into the land of nod. The H-bomb of dreary pomposity, clueless reasoning and purely hypothetical and borderline redundant rhetoric that goes round and round in circles like a demented dog chasing a crumb of cracker stuck to its incessant wagging tail. BREXIT.

I leave rooms when Brexit is mentioned. I even put my hand up like I’m hearing unwelcome results of a paternity test on Ricki Lake. I close my eyes in silent mortification and pray for an eagle of some kind to swoop down from above and tear my head clean off with its precise, murdering talons, just so I don’t have to hear people bore on about it. It makes me hate everyone, whatever side they’re on. I… I just can’t anymore. No, you can’t make me. I’m ignoring this like I disregarded This Life +10 or Mutya leaving Sugababes. Bringing up Brexit over a meal on a first date would be the ultimate lusticide. No.

Any awkward moments?
None with David, who was amazingly good company. But it was awkward when the waiter brought prosciutto neither of us was going to eat.

“Oh neither of us is going to eat that. Would you mind taking it away?”


“Please, it’s my son. He is sick. Eat the prosciutto. For him. Please.”

We didn’t always agree about politics. It didn’t spoil things.


Are you sure? It’s just… that you’re mentioning it under “awkward moments”. So… um.

Describe them in three words
Thoughtful, chatty, considerate.

THOUGHTFUL like the smiley, helpful lad who stays late at college to help set up for tomorrow’s charity fun day, pops in on his aged grandpa to drop off the evening paper and make him a cuppa, nips home to give his siblings their tea, slips a tenner he made from his Saturday job into his mum’s purse because he knows she’s a bit skint, skips up to bed and says his prayers and thanks for all his blessings, before climbing into bed and falling into sweet slumber, dreaming of cocks in every single hole.

CHATTY like someone who talks a lot. I am running out of things to say about this most basic of adjectives. Please, if you are in this column in the future, stop saying this.

CONSIDERATE like the smiley helpful lad above but with straighter teeth.

Articulate, well-mannered, thoughtful.

ARTICULATE like a French teacher asks you to do when you do conversation role-play and slur “pour aller à la gare” into one unintelligible drone.

WELL-MANNERED like Prince George. I mean, seriously, “well-mannered” as a plus point when you’re on a date with them? How sexless does this have to be? Did you bring any knitting with you, just to really set the evening off?

THOUGHTFUL like holy hell this milquetoast compliment is being kept very busy tonight, isn’t it?

What do you think he made of you?
Probably a bit too leftwing. I got on my soap box about Jeremy – twice.

Oh, Jahangir. J-Man. Is it because Jeremy’s name begins with J? I have a best friend who is quite tall and she IMMEDIATELY defends the honour of any other tall woman in the public eye. Is it like that? I don’t have much in the way of strong opinions about Jeremy Corbyn (“YOU FILTHY CENTRIST!!!!” – Twitter) but I do have a fairly strong view he should not be the subject of any convo where you are, eventually, hoping to slip your hand up the shirt of the guy you’re on as date with. So I can only assume Jahangir was trying to friend-zone David at a G-force that would tear your skin off or he thought that Dave was hot for Jezza’s manifesto. Who can say?

I’d like to think he enjoyed our discussions.

“Notice I’m not saying whether I did.”

Did you go on somewhere?
We stayed at the restaurant past closing. The wait staff turning the lights off in the main dining area was a big hint that it was time to leave – which we both missed.

Everyone reading this that ever worked in a restaurant has, I am willing to bet, just felt a surge of rage and fury they didn’t know they were still capable of emoting. GET OUT OF THE RESTAURANT. IT IS SHUT. Look, waiters have got cleaning up to do, things to empty, tables to clear. They’re meeting their other hospitality mates down the one pub that stays open locally in, like, 25 minutes. They’re on a promise with French Hector from La Poncerie. He’s really hot. Don’t fuck this up for them. Yeah, you want to sit and chat about Corbyn and Brexit and all manner of fascinations, but your waiting staff want you out or they want you dead – you decide.

Unsurprisingly, they did not kiss. Next.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Maybe less politics and more of the personal stuff.

According to Kylie Jenner (it might have been Kendall, forgive me) 2016 was “the year of realising stuff”, Jahangir, so you are late to this particular party. There’s a really good way to avoid feeling this particular esprit d’escalier, which I imagine most red wine-fuelled politico-bores feel at some point or another – just don’t start talking about politics at all. Seriously, date 3 is fine for all that stuff, but date 1? Nope.

I’d have arrived slightly earlier to avoid appearing rushed.

One thing you can say about Jahangir is you can feel the honesty in his replies. David’s all sound like they were run past a media team or workshopped in a windowless room with a focus group aimed at ensuring any quantum of controversy was airbrushed out. I suppose what David is trying to say here is he arrived at the date sweating like a heifer on a treadmill because he was running late.


I believe these marks. They’re just dull, yet positive, enough to be true.  David marked down Jahangir for that “not awkward at all polities stuff, no it was fine we had lovely conversations really” and Jahangir’s 8 is probably compensation for the very same.

The sexual chemistry has been akin to that of two Ryvitas with a night to themselves at the bottom of a cake tin, but will they converge again to give Article 50 the time and attention it so richly deserves in the romantic arena?

Would you meet again?
I would, if David wanted to.

As friends.

It’s good to be back. Isn’t it?

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian

Note: No Impeccable next week. I am at a wedding. Blame the happy couple, not me.

Note 2: I have a new mailout, The Truth About Everything*, which goes out occasionally. If you’d like the next one, you can sign up here. No news or tastemaker stuff – lots of other people do that much better than I would – it’s just some of my writing, first.

Disclaimer: The comments I make about the couples 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. But no more Brexit on dates. It’s the anti-boner. Seriously.

No Comment

  1. Great stuff. My two favourite parts:

    “I can only assume Jahangir was trying to friend-zone David at a G-force that would tear your skin off”


    “The sexual chemistry has been akin to that of two Ryvitas with a night to themselves at the bottom of a cake tin”

    The Ryvita one feels particularly Victoria Wood-esque. Brilliant.

  2. So happy to see your return, you’ve been missed! Hope your summer was lovely.

    Hilarious review. I’m mystified by the prosciutto thing though. I love prosciutto and would probably have eaten the whole plate. Both of them don’t care for prosciutto? And how did it arrive at the table if they didn’t order it? It’s a slightly pricey thing for a restaurant to give out willy-nilly for free. Hm. Anyway, thanks!

  3. This article made me LOL. I loved the ‘Ryvita’ comment at the end. Especially well done since you didn’t (and never would, from these columns) have much to work with.

    I know talking politics amounts to theft of chat from date 3, but if someone is going to dis the Absolute Boy, I’m going to do my solemn duty and rush to his aid.

Leave a Response