Jess and Josh
Photograph: Alicia Canter; Sarah Lee/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Jess and Josh

Shall we crack on? I’ve got some eggs I want to scramble within the hour.

Today, our hapless romantics – or people who want to be in a national newspaper but don’t fancy committing mortgage fraud or murder – are Jess and Josh.

Jess, is a 26-year-old PR account manager – a lot of clipboards – and Josh is 25 and a journalist. Amazing how, when you get maybe two or three same-sex couples in a row, “Loft Conversion, Planning a Third Baby” Twitter starts frothing over the threat of a supposed LGBTQ take-over of the Blind Date column, but when it’s two people working (vaguely) in the media, as it is pretty much week after week – seriously who is stepping in to fill those goodie bags and miss those deadlines when they’re away; it’s an epidemic  – nobody says a word.

Anyway, let’s stare at Jess and Josh full-length, get a sinking feeling as we eye their speech bubbles and, well, hope for the best. Read the full version of the date on the Guardian website (I always miss at least one question and the column’s continued existence ensures my reviews’ survival too) before I go in there and wreak havoc.

 

Jess and Josh
Photograph: Alicia Canter; Sarah Lee/The Guardian

Jess on Josh | Josh on Jess
What were you hoping for?
At worst, a funny story. At best, maybe I’d find love.

Once you’ve read on, “at worst, a funny story” sounds quite optimistic.

What were you hoping for?
Easy conversation, good food, maybe the prospect of a second date.

Easy conversation. Easy. I mean, yeah, I guess. Nobody really wants to engage in a battle of wills on a first date, do they? Some people – men, usually, go cry about it in the loos if you’re upset by this generalisation, boys – do actually enjoy this, though. A few times on dates I was tied up in knots – not in a good way – by men who seemed to think we should debate each other like sixth formers about all manner of stuff. I get there’s now a trend to eschew echo chambers in favour of subjecting yourself to every bad opinion that was spat out on Question Time by someone with a face like an anus, but there is a lot to be said for quiet contentment and polite agreement. You want a challenge? Take a Rubik Cube out with you.

First impressions?
I’ll be honest, my heart didn’t skip a beat – he wasn’t my typical type, but I’m open-minded.

“I’ll be honest” is never the fanfare to alert you that good news is about to follow it, is it? But at least she says she was willing to give it a go. In a way it can be good if you don’t feel an instant attraction or connection because it removes that headrush, that urgency you feel to please them, and make them like you, and want you. You can just… see how you get on and, if they’re not a raging arsehole, maybe grow to like them some other way. That said, some people live for that headrush, and to start anything with anyone without it would be unthinkable. And that’s fine – but the Venn diagram of people who act like this and also, at some point in their lives over a glass of Pinot Grigio that has been watered down with their desperate tears, say that they “just love a bad boy”, is a complete circle.

First impressions?
Jessica is not someone I ever would have seen myself striking up a conversation with organically.

“Jessica.” “Organically.” We’re on a conference call with Marketing, guys, and it’s bad news from the components factory in Kuala Lumpur. I wonder what he means here. Why wouldn’t he? Does he mean he would have to be paid to talk to her, like interviewing her for a story? How do you strike up conversations organically these days, anyway? Walking a dog, perhaps. Or being a lit-bro and chatting on the Tube with someone reading a book? Do we even have organic conversations anymore? Can’t we all just… talk to each other on hookup apps or social media as God (Beyoncé) intended?

Anyway, Josh is hinting here that he wouldn’t cross the sticky carpet of his favourite “Spoons” (🤮) to talk to Jess so there we go.

What did you talk about?
We’d both spent some time in New York and live not too far from one another now, so local haunts.

The word “haunts” used in this context is one of my favourites because it is so Agatha Christie, conjuring up the image of gentlemen’s clubs with frayed curtains and smoky backrooms, frequented by syphilis-stricken playboys on the run from an arranged marriage with a horse-faced heiress, kicking up their heels round a roulette table with bright-eyed, dead-souled flappers who stow an emergency lethal dose of a sleeping draught in their bedside drawer just in case he gets them pregnant.

In this case, however, “haunts” probably refers to the same three terrible pubs within a dog’s bark of Victoria Park.

What did you talk about?
It was very hairdresser-level chat.

Anna from This Life looking like she's about to murder you

I am going to be very charitable here and assume that when Josh says “hairdresser-level” he means the chat was very polite, impersonal, “where are you going on your holidays” kind of thing. That’s clearly what he means. I would have phrased it “going to the hairdressers-level” but maybe The Guardian cut the line for space – and why wouldn’t you? You certainly wouldn’t want to miss any of the gold coming later, would you? If he meant something else, however, then yuck.

Any awkward moments?
I nearly choked on a mussel at one point but I think – hope – I managed to conceal that all right.

Again, I’ve read ahead and maybe a night in A&E having fruits de mer removed from your windpipe might have been a better way to spend the evening?!

Any awkward moments?
When she excused herself after six minutes, presumably to text her friends.

Kimberley Walsh going "ugh"

Oh I dunno. I don’t know whether Josh has any evidence she actually did this, but, yeah, I’m not massively into breaking off to text your mates during a date, but if you’re going to the loo anyway and happen to text them, that is fine as long as you’re quick. I can’t really imagine Jess texting anything much other than “NO” and offloading a few emojis – I’ll let you decide which ones – so I’m sure she wasn’t away long.

Maybe she just needed to go and stand in a cubicle for a few minutes and take some very deep breaths or listen to a mindfulness podcast.

Good table manners?
No complaints.
No complaints.

janet Jackson giving side-eye

Literally the only thing they can agree on. Truly this question is the great unifier.

Best thing about Josh?
He seemed driven and comfortable within himself. Plus he was able to sustain a conversation with a stranger for a couple of hours.

If this praise were any fainter, it would make the Turin Shroud look like a Pucci print scarf.

Best thing about Jess?
We agreed about which restaurants are good in south London and had both lived in New York.

“She agreed with me.” There’s the bar, ladies. I guess this was the only thing they had in common, so Josh is clinging to it as a positive, like you might be cheered by the fact that your serially unfaithful husband had shagged everyone BUT your sister.

Would you introduce them to your friends?
I’m having a hard time envisioning Josh caring much for my friends.

Jess’s friends, reading Weekend magazine this morning:

Gillian Anderson saying "bearded piece of fucking shit" in Sex Education

I often wonder what the WhatsApp chats are like once a friend has appeared in this column. I mean, even if they have been an absolute arsehole, you HAVE to side with your pal, don’t you? Although some weeks I’ve seen would test even the most devoted of blood brothers.

Would you introduce them to your friends?
I don’t think she’d like them very much.

Josh’s friends, reading Weekend magazine this morning:

Popstars: The Rivals finalists crying

Usually I’m, like, “ooh sure they would be fine, your friends aren’t monsters, and if they are, you shouldn’t hang around with them” but I think in this case this is fairly on the money.

Describe Josh in three words
Potential secret Tory, not for me, or a little dry.

No harm to Jess, but this is way more than three words – she has instead given us three options to pick from, like we’re building a burger in TGI Friday’s in 1997.

Potential secret Tory: In these days where everyone wears their political affiliation like it’s a slogan T-shirt, can you be a secret Tory? They’ve certainly not been backward in coming forward, have they? It’s the worst kept secret since Charles and Camilla doing sanitary protection role-play on their brick-sized mobile phones finally “revealed” they were at it.

My take on this? Maybe Josh said the word “woke” and either did it in a middle sarcastic voice or did inverted comma air quotes. I’ve talked about this before, but what the word was and what it meant – all too briefly enjoying its time in the sun – has now gone, and it has been appropriated by people desperate to lay their hands on another stick to beat others with. Like “politically correct” and “right-on” before it, any slogan you can think of that has originated from a need to see the world in a more open, enlightened, and truthful way has been quickly repurposed by those who want to keep us all in closed, dark, mendacious times. The second those in power feel even a flicker of change, notice even the tiniest shift in angle of the (steep, treacherous) playing field, they gaslight you into thinking you were the problem all along.

(Edit: I have no evidence this actually happened.)

Not for me: Negronis, but make it human.

A little dry: I’m guessing rather than dry wit, she means eating Ryvita without butter, on the hottest day of the year.

Describe Jess in three words
Polite, quirky, articulate.

Polite: like an excuse, or a cough in a theatre to let someone know they’re eating their Revels too loudly, so you can’t hear Anne-Marie Duff emoting properly.

Quirky: like someone who has sex with only one sock on, instead of the usual two.

Articulate: like this is a slightly weird thing to say if you’re clamming, as you do above, that the conversation was “hairdresser-level” and, as you do a little later on, that the conversation had no “substance”. What does this mean? That she talked about piffling things way beneath you, but well – perhaps with a subjunctive or two chucked in?

What do you think Josh made of you?
I have a feeling he thought I was a hipster.

HIPSTER.

A Simpsons characters pressing a red button saying "cringe"

I didn’t think people in their 20s even said that! It’s like this week’s date actually a work of fiction “penned” by a Telegraph columnist who once drank a craft beer out of a paper cup at Cornbury while watching David Cameron eat a macaron – which he pronounced “macaroon” to make a point.

If a 25-year-old thinks, you, 26, are a hipster, I would demand to see both of your birth certificates. You’ll be saying he called you a rapscallion or a jezebel next. Anyway, hipsters don’t exist anymore. Almost everyone with a Netflix account wears trainers, is vegan, has a book deal, and is plucking up the courage to say “polyamorous” out loud to their unsuspecting partner – it’s not a huge thing anymore. Half the middle classes are hipsters now.

What do you think Jess made of you?
I wouldn’t be surprised if she thought I was basic and lame. She probably thought of me the way I think about people who live in Clapham.

Lame and basic! Someone’s swallowed an ancient entry from Urban Dictionary before leaving the house!

Oh, and the anti-Clapham sentiment:

Sharon and Shirley from EastEnders looking disgusted

Too easy! We’ve been making that joke since you were having your lunch money stolen from you at school. Clapham is now beyond parody. What is even the point? What’s left to say?

I had a look back through old dates and FIVE years ago I said that it felt a bit passé to be down on Clapham – although I have gone back and forth on this over the years.

From 2015:
“I like to think we are post-Clapham and that it’s OK to like Clapham again. It’s even OK to live there, if you’re on a graduate scheme at an evil bank or something and had a horse when you were a child. I’m not sure it’s OK to “think about moving” there, though. Not yet.”

But then again, from 2017, from a date with another Jess:
“I’m not sure I have time to count the ways in which Clapham, south London, is one of the most devastatingly unspecial places in the country. Yes, it has a common, and, yes, it has a Sainsbury’s that looks like a spaceship, and, yes, for some reason every gay man who lives there wears a uniform of “never skips leg day and uses tooth-whitening strips” but I have never seen the big deal. As nights out go, it is super-average; the restaurants are no better than anywhere else in London; it’s on the Northern line FFS. And yet youngish people are DESPERATE to get themselves down there, especially white middle-class ones with floppy hair and gym memberships that cost more than a designer handbag. I just don’t get it. (I lived in Balham for two years in the “Noughties”, which was WAY better but is now pretty much Clapham’s very own loft conversion.)”

Anyway, it feels to me Josh is just absolutely desperate to get DRAGGED so let’s not bother. I don’t take requests.

Did you go on somewhere?
|He headed off in a cab and I sneaked in a pint with a colleague up the road to debrief.

Hahahaha.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
It would have been nice to meet someone I wanted to flirt with.

Bad luck, Jess. At least she’s not throwing him under the bus. Yet.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Just one? That’s not a fair question. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never in the course of human events has so much conversation had so little substance.

Sybil Fawlty thinking "for god's sake"

Marks out of 10?
5.
5.5

Fives.

Seriously? Again?

2020 is the year when barely concealed loathing casts aside that last, thin veneer of doubt and says, “No, we fucking hated each other”

Would you meet again?
I’d be very surprised if our paths crossed again.
Lucy from Homes under the Hammer looking like she just sucked a lemon
@daytimesnaps
Would you meet again?
We live pretty near each other so maybe I’ll bump into her, but not intentionally.

man being thrown into a huge dumpster

Jess and Josh ate at Bistro Union, London SW4. Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com. If you’re looking to meet someone likeminded, visit soulmates.theguardian.com


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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 or replies. 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. Please do tell me WHY you are like this. x


Happy birthday Nana. Will be slicing a Mars bar in your honour later. x

15 Comments

  1. Don’t blame the daters or the 2020! I, as a devout reader of the column for a few years now, blame your matchmakers. You yourself noticed that working streight couples don’t fit lately, as opposed to those who are LGBT. Don’t take me as a populist, nothing against LGBT, but everything against those who don’t do their job well! Deploy some robots, the column should get automated if we all want it to survive!

    1. The actual issue is that fewer straight men apply – so the matches may not be as successful because there is a smaller pool to choose from. The Guardian matchmaker(s) work very hard and can only do so much – it is almost always down to how people behave on the date. It is *pretty* clear why these two didn’t get on.

      1. Yeh, I went on it a couple of years ago and was really speedy to get a date – though still a fairly good match considering. You’d think they’d realise these two were unlikely to get on however. Funny – I’ve still never had the guts to read your review of mine…

        1. I think they don’t want people to be hanging around too long – and sometimes they do put people together if they think it will at least be an entertaining read. They never make any promises about romance or what the column is actually for! As for your date, I don’t think I reviewed it – you don’t seem to be among the Jonathans on the site, unless you went on under a pseudonym!

  2. I love the Blind Date column but it was always a disappointment if the date was bland, until I found your blog! Love it, the highlight of Saturday morning

  3. I’m not sure “potential secret Tory” means anything more than “he seems very conventional”. Once again it just feels like these people are utterly unmatched.

    You’re right about the weird preponderance of media workers on the column too. Yet ironically they often don’t have much to say.

    1. Back when I was on OkCupid, its massive questionnaire often showed the men in my then age group (mid 20s) who put ‘Centrist’ under political leaning would usually have solely right wing views when asked about specifics… Perhaps Jess has come across this in the wild and this date showed signs.

      The only Blind Dater that I’ve known was working for The Guardian at the time (albeit in accounts). Perhaps staff and their network get to jump the queue?

  4. I suppose if you are in certain bits of what remains of the media an appearance in the column might be good for a few extra Twitter followers if all goes well, perhaps followers of the right kind. I mean, Morgan was interviewed on national radio.

    On ‘hipster’, given that ‘Being a Dickhead’s Cool’ will be ten years old later this year and your local purveyor of horrible pasties now sells a vegan version, Josh’s use of the term is really quite jarring.

    The hipster of Williamsburg and Shoreditch was very much a creature of the world before the 2008 crash, a world in which it really did seem to some people that coffee was all that mattered. ‘Woke’ (or at least its slow adoption by white subcultures) came later and in some respects represents an attempted break with the individualist, image-conscious consumerism of hipsterism, which has spread into the mainstream, off blogs where all the cool kids were and on to Instagram.

    But Josh is so young that even he’s probably heard ‘woke’ more often from the lips of Rod Liddle than from genuine activists.

    Thinking about all this, this date does actually seem very 2020: the counterculture is so splintered and buried that Josh thinks a PR is a ‘hipster’ about fifteen years too late and Jess takes one look at a probably perfectly harmless young man and decides he’s a Tory.

  5. The author of this article is horribly biased against Josh.
    I assume they’ve been hurt a lot by men or are friends of Jess.
    Either way, a very disappointing read.

  6. Yet another example of the similarity between reviews of restaurants and commentaries about blind dates: The closer each comes to a train wreck, the higher the readers’ entertainment levels. And, I suppose, a rave review of either yields a desire to give it a go (*never acted upon, of course).

  7. This is my favourite dissection in a long time! Especially loved the Pucci scarf reference and the clever use of emojis. Thanks a lot, made my morning!

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