Impeccable Table Manners

Janelle and Joe

Sometimes I really get what Katy Perry meant in her hit song Firework when she trilled “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag? Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?” It’s usually when I turn to the Blind Date page.

Today we have Janelle, 28, who is a charity PR and 28-year-old Joe, who is a civil engineer. After all my billion years on Earth, I still don’t know what that job title means. If I were on a date with Joe, once I’d acclimatised to that beard, I’d probably ask. Anyway, read what happened on the date before I get my claws out.

Janelle | Joe
What were you hoping for?
Good conversation. Yummy food. No Ukip voters.

I have a theory that nobody answers this question honestly. I suppose you can’t say that you were hoping for “love at first sight” or “somebody to rip my clothes off by pudding”, but let’s face it, we don’t go on dates just so we have somebody to mow the lawn.

I wonder how many Ukip voters Janelle would expect to apply to go on the Guardian Blind Date column. Mind you, I suppose if she’d read the online comments underneath any story promoting feminism, the NHS or social inclusion before heading out to her date, you could forgive her for thinking a frothing bigot might turn up.

I’ll ignore the “yummy” coming from someone in their 20s because we’re pushed for time and Joe is waiting with a couple of zingers for us, I’m sure.

What were you hoping for?
Laughs and interesting conversation.

Well, I have read ahead, readers, and guess what? Joe may leave empty-handed when it comes to those two particular wants.

First impressions?
He was wearing a suit, which always gets a thumbs up.

Does it? A suit? Does this excite people? I suppose if they were coming straight from work, you could forgive a suit. Perhaps I’m just not the kind of guy who dates men who wear suits.

The thing about men who wear suits is that they usually only have two of them and certainly don’t get them dry cleaned enough, so when you lean in for that after-dinner smooch, your ardour is somewhat dampened by… well, that smell you get from a suit when it really needs to go to the cleaners. Still, Joe’s whistle has got Janelle holding her thumbs aloft like Sir Paul McCartney, so well done Joe.

First impressions?
 Lovely smile.

AKA what men say when they can’t say things like “cracking knockers” or “nice legs”. Poor besuited Joe, trapped in a prison of trying to look like a nice guy.

What did you talk about?
Travel, cooking, food, politics, the general election, what we would cook if we went on Dinner Date. There wasn’t any pause in conversation.

I used to dread being asked about travel. Not because I haven’t been anywhere or don’t like travelling, but because it usually meant I was about to hear a long speech about someone else’s travels and, honestly, I don’t care about that amazing private beach you found or how you patronised a load of Cambodian schoolchildren for your Instagram.

Janelle, I know you’re dying to know, so if I were on Dinner Date I would ring out for a Nando’s. Quirky, eccentric, or “doesn’t care about the format” always gets more screen time.

“There wasn’t a pause” is very telling. Somebody can’t shut up. Wonder who?

What did you talk about?
Travelling, food and culinary skills, voting tactics, chivalry, Brighton, our jobs, the benefits of not living in our home towns any more.

This is one of those rare moments in Blind Date when the daters’ conversation topics almost completely match. “Chivalry” is an interesting one, though. Or not.

Any awkward moments?
After several drinks, I made a joke about the name Barry. It’s his middle name.

Newsflash for Janelle: you are called Janelle. Janelle. Only Janelle Monae gets away with that one, really.

Hold on to your hats, it’s table manners time.

He was very gentlemanly when dishing out the tapas.

If you are scratching your head at this one – I’m not sure how gentlemanly you can be when eating opposite someone, unless you wait for them to take a forkful before you eat yours – the online version reveals Joe, or “Barry” as I’d like to call him from now on, was dishing out the tapas in a gentlemanly manner.

Tapas. One of the worst things you can get on a date. Why? Well, they usually come in sets of three. Three albondigas. Three great big prawns. Three arincini. This means you either have to cut the third one in half (cue “ooh, excuse fingers” hilarity etc) or allow the other person to have it to themselves.

I’m assuming the “gentlemanly” here comes from Joe offering Janelle the chance to have the extra one. I wonder how many times she said yes.

Good table manners?
No issues here. We shared pretty much everything on the table quite easily.

Ah, he offered, then sliced “pretty much” everything. This pass-agg “pretty much” tells me that he really wanted that extra meatball all to himself. Shy boys get nowt, Joe.

Describe Joe in three words
A nice guy.

Joe: “Excuse me, could you tell me if this train goes all the way to the friend zone?”
Universe: “Why, yes, it does. It’s an express service. And you have a one-way ticket.”


I’m sure Janelle is all of these things, but if this answer were any more basic it would be you.

There’s a really boring bit about dessert that I can’t believe either of them thought would sound interesting, so let’s press on.

Joe seems to realise halfway through his answers that he’s going to have to pull back his unbridled ‘enthusiasm’  somehow, so when we move on to the scores, it gets interesting. Janelle first, though.

Marks out of 10?
7.5. A fun evening, but no romantic sparks flew.

I don’t usually get the “point five” angle. Just say 7. However, in Guardian Blind Date lore, if you score somebody an 8, you are suggesting you are open to seeing them again. Janelle wants there to be no misunderstanding. You were a nice guy, I had fun, you’re not just some 7 loser who I’m being polite to because we’re in a magazine. However, the window of opportunity is closed and the curtains are pulled. Seven. Point. Five.

Okay, Janelle, I hear you. Joe, then, would probably score similar, right? He seems to know he’s not her type, but she made him laugh a lot, apparently. So:

6. It was a smooth-running, slightly above-average date with good company.

I had to go to the online version to get the full details – in the mag it just says “6”, which as regular readers know, is in fact a zero.

So even though Joe had a good time, laughed a lot etc, by the time we get to the end, Janelle has been downgraded to “slightly above-average”. I can’t really imagine what stellar heights of scintillating you’d have to reach to score an “very much above-average” from Joe, but I’m sure there are lots of women out there dying to find out.

In short: this was the very worst example of face-saving I have ever seen – about on a par with his face-shaving. Needs work.

Let’s lumber to the end with all the enthusiasm of Marie Antoinette on her way to the guillotine.

Would you meet again?
If he invited me to one of his dinner parties: apparently he’s been known to get a round of applause.

This is nice. Janelle’s a good egg. I take back what I said about your name – although I’m leaving it in. You don’t have to be nice about it, as you probably won’t see him again, but you were. Hats off.


We didn’t exchange numbers, so I doubt it.


Janelle, you’re far too good for Barry anyway.

Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaria, James Drew Turner, both for the Guardian






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